What Does the End of Google+ Mean for Local Businesses?
Well, you’ve no doubt already heard the news that Google is shutting down its beleaguered social network, Google+ in August April 2019. For many of us, this comes as no surprise. The platform has seen fading traffic and, and beyond the activity of a scant few forums, there have been very few reasons to use it.
What has come as a surprise to many is the fact that shuttering Google+’s doors is due not to stagnating use but the revelation that the platform suffered an until-now hidden data leak that potentially affected up to 500,000 accounts.
The other shocker isn’t that it had that many users (b’dum tish) but that it’s the exact same API weakness that allowed Cambridge Analytica to misuse Facebook data. No wonder they tried to keep it hidden!
Google has a chequered history of trying to force the influence of Google+ on other parts of its service, from putting search weight behind content authors’ G+ profiles via the ‘rel=author’ tag and encouraging people to ask questions on G+ to highlighting ‘Latest Posts’ in SERPs. The failure of these attempts at forcing people to use Google+ should be an encouraging reminder to all that even monopolies can have their bad days.
As with any big update The Big G makes, it’s important to take a look at your local business operations and adjust as necessary. While its closure shouldn’t technically affect your local SEO, Google+’s claws were in many places (remember when they forced YouTube and Google+ together?), so I’d recommend taking a look at the below.
What should local businesses do now that Google+ is closing?
Breathe a sigh of relief
Well, that’s one less thing to worry about. Google+ was part of a wave of new social networks that all positioned themselves as pretenders to the twin crowns of Facebook and Twitter, and for a time every local business owner was swimming in apps, wondering which platform was going to be the next breakthrough hit.
With the exception of image-based networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, the new frontier of social media never really materialized. They hung around, sure (Google+ longer than most), but today we focus our sights on the few social media platforms that are truly right for our businesses.
However, this sudden shuttering is a reminder that everything online is transient, temporary. It’s unlikely that you’ve been saving your best content for Google+, but it’s just good practice to place it on your website, which you have total control of, first and foremost. Then you can push it out to social networks.
Put more effort into Google Posts
Google+ may be going, but Google My Business Posts is just getting started. It may not be a social network but it does present a great opportunity to use the kind of content you might have been posting to Google+ in a way that captures people’s attention right there in the SERPs, as part of your GMB profile.
With a 1,500 character limit per GMB Post, there are big opportunities for a variety of announcement and content types here.
Don’t worry: this won’t affect your local SEO
Although there once was a time when Google Places (now Google My Business) was integrated heavily with Google+, with the introduction of Google+ Local, that was six long years ago and the relevance of G+ on local SEO in recent years has been pretty much nil. So take heart in the fact that this is one Google update you won’t have to tear your hair out over.
Delete your account?
As for your Google+ personal and business profiles, I’d recommend downloading or saving everything you’d like to keep from them before the platform closes its doors for good. You can do this using an official Google tool called Google Takeout.
Whether you delete your profiles entirely or let Google remove them when the time comes is up to you, but personally I’m a bit too organized to leave a thread like that dangling (that’s if I can find my password, of course). Plus if the platform is susceptible to data leaks it might make sense to take that data out of their hands sooner rather than later.
Ditch the social sharing buttons from your site
Ah, there’s nothing like getting rid of fluff from your site. You’ve probably long squinted at the minimal interactions your G+ sharing buttons have been getting compared to others, and will celebrate the fact that you can now get shot of them.
Make sure you take stock of all the places Google+ is linked to throughout your site and beyond, such as:
- Social sharing buttons
- Icon links to social networks in website header/footer
- Company and personal email signatures
- In-store signage
- ‘Write a G+ review’ links
- Printed marketing collateral
Find new local search communities
Back in February, we asked you what your favorite local search communities were, and Google+ took up a surprising three of the top ten spots. As a part of these communities myself, I’ll be sad to see them go, but the word on the virtual street is that they’re already seeking new homes on Facebook.
Look out for the following communities on Facebook, or join them today to learn when/if they move home:
I’d personally recommend checking out the other communities on that list of twenty, and I’d like to give a particular shout-out to the one-of-a-kind Local Search Forum, recently acquired by Joy Hawkins and Sterling Sky. We’re always sharing insights and news over there, so why not come and say ‘hi’?
A professional perspective
I admit I wasn’t an avid user of Google+, so I wanted to get the opinion of someone who used it a lot. Here’s SteadyDemand’s Ben Fisher with his eulogy:
“Google+ helped nearly 1,000 of our customers connect with their current and future customers in a meaningful way for the past six years. Having the ability to boost local rankings based on interactions with semantically relevant content that people actually read was a silver bullet for many of our agency clients.
“Our clients and team enjoyed using the platform tremendously and are very sad that it’s closing in August of next year. We understand the platform will still be available for enterprise use beyond August, but can’t profess loudly enough that today’s version of Google+ is loved by those who use it and will be sorely missed. We encourage everyone to use Google+ while it’s still available; we certainly will!”
What do you think?
As we say adieu to Google+, it just remains for me to see what you all thought of the platform. Did you find some use with it, or was it just another thing to keep track of?