When Dorian Gray looks in the mirror every day he sees behind the illusion of beauty and gazes upon the horror that is his true face. You might have similar feelings when you look behind the curtain at the inner-workings of Google+. Long touted as the next big thing in social media, Google has continually pressed the web faring public into creating an account, and in many cases doing it for them. However, like our fantastical friend Dorian, Google+ has received numerous aesthetic upgrades, but on the inside it’s still somewhat of a monster. If you operate a small business and have had to navigate through the UI and various pages of Google+, then you’ll likely know what I’m talking about. I’ve recently had to optimize the presence of several clients on the big plus. What I’ve learned I’ll share with you in the hopes that you’ll be able to save yourself from similar anguish.
This post is an introduction to the different dashboards found throughout Google+ along with some brief tips for diagnosing if your Google+ is setup properly.
While the main dashboard you see via Google+ is attractive and allows you to search through circles, place posts and more, it offers very little in the way of options for managing the page, even via the Settings tab. Before we begin, let’s first quickly cover the different types and formats of Google+ pages and clear up some common confusions.
The overarching social media platform of Google+ is simply referred to as Google+. This is where you’ll find your circles and news feed. On Google+ you can edit your profile (think Facebook Business Page), share images and posts, publish reviews and share videos from your YouTube account.
The basic dashboard for editing business information for Google to use when listing a business in it’s mapping database and Google+ Local. This data may be partially auto-generated by Google w/o input from the business owner. The listing and accompanying data can then be claimed by the business owner and edited once verified.
While not a dashboard, Google+ Local is often confused with some of the other elements of Google+. The Local platform is used by Google for matching business information to locational data. On Google+ this is a separate section that provides users with recommendations and info on nearby businesses and attractions. Another way to think of Local is as the layer of data that overlays Google Maps. For some searches, Google will display a map with markers on it representing location relevant results for the search query. These results are referred to as Google+ Local Results, or in marketing lingo as a ‘map pack’. Google+ Local is also it’s own section within Google+ and is searchable within that interface as well (see image). Obviously, appearing in these results is very important for businesses operating out of physical locations.
Google Places for Business
To get into the real management of your Google+ properties, you’ll want to have access to the Google Places for Business dashboard. This dashboard allows you to manage your listing information (address, hours, etc.), customer reviews, AdWords account and Insights, where you can view impressions, actions, queries and direction requests. When properly set up, Google Places for Business provides a central place to manage your Google+ properties for your business and ensures that your Google+ profile will display optimally (Latest Posts, Map, Image, Business Information) for a branded search.
Now here is where frustration and confusion can set in. The Google Places for Business dashboard is not available to everyone with a Google Places profile. In fact, this dashboard is automatically generated by Google and there is currently no way to opt into it. If you are seeing this page, then you have setup your business listings and Google+ pages correctly. If not, then read on to learn about how to diagnose the setup of your Google properties.
Many people have complained about issues related to their Google + accounts not merging properly or not upgrading to the new Google Places for Business dashboard. This seems to be a greater problem for those who’ve set up their Google + in the platform’s earlier days (pre-2013). A common symptom seems to be the inability to request a new verification code to approve edits. See the conversation below this post for more details on merge errors. While I won’t get into the specifics of finding a solution to specific problems here (we’ll save those for later posts in this series), I’ll do my best to help you diagnose the issue.
The first thing you’ll want to know is how your pages are currently setup and connected. There are several ways to tell whether you have a Google Places setup or a Google Places for Business setup.
The first is by looking at the tab listings displayed on the public facing side of your Pages:
- If you see tabs for About, Posts, Photos and YouTube you are viewing a Google+ Profile Page.
- If you see tabs for About and Photos with a large map image in the header you are viewing a basic Google Places Page.
- If you see tabs for About, Posts, Photos, Videos and Reviews you are viewing a Google Places for Business Page, which is the two above pages merged together
The second way to see is by visiting the Pages tab on your main Google+ profile and looking at the pages listed. However, this does not always seem to be accurate and may not display all pages.
The third and, in my opinion, best way is via the AdWords Express dashboard. You can access this dashboard by visiting http://www.google.com/adwords/express/. If you have set up AdWords in the past, you should see a display of any Google+ properties (excluding your personal, non-business Google+ profile) connected to your Gmail account. If not, fill out the form for creating your first business ad (you don’t actually need to create an ad). The form will ask for your business website URL and business name and then ask you to select your timezone and currency preferences. The AdWords Express dashboard allows you to see what type of pages you have, including potential duplicates and whether they are eligible for AdWords (currently, only local businesses are eligible). If Pages are not eligible, and you are a local business, there may be a problem with how that Page was setup (likely it was not setup as a ‘local business page’). Ideally, only one property will display in the AdWords Express dashboard – a Google Places for Business page.
If you’re still having problems with your account and you’re not sure why, submit an email request via this help form from Google (click on ‘contact us via phone or email’). You will be given the option of selecting whether you have an issue with Places or AdWords. Google should respond back to you with more information on what is wrong with your pages.
Sidenote: I was able to get quick feedback on my Places account through the option for AdWords. While I have no proof to back it up, my assumption was that if I professed a desire to have my pages set up properly in order to run an AdWords campaign efficiently I would receive a response back faster (as AdWords is Google’s top revenue source).
If your Google+ accounts are eligible for an AdWords Express campaign, they most likely will be applicable for automatic merging of the Google Places Page and the Google+ Page within the Google Places for Business dashboard.
Sidenote: If the apocalyptic option seems like the best solution (i.e. removing your presence on Google+ and creating new Pages), be warned that Google will need you to disconnect or delete any associated YouTube accounts. However, as of this writing, it seems that Google has removed the ability to disconnect the two profiles, meaning your only options are to completely delete your YouTube profile or to do a workaround by connecting the YouTube profile with a dummy Google+ account. Thanks, Google.
If you’ve determined that you’ll need to merge Google+ accounts (not Pages) or, as may unfortunately be the case, remove your Google+ profile and start from scratch, you’ll likely want to save some of the data associated with your account. You can download photos you’ve shared via the Google+ Photos section, located under the primary Google+ dropdown menu. Photos for your Locals listing can be accessed via your Places settings. The same goes for videos.
If you want to save your circles, your only option is Google Takeout. This interface supposedly allows you to save your Circles data along with other Google+ elements such as +1’s and messages. I say supposedly, however, because while I’ve been able to get this data for my personal G+ account, I was unable to pull it for a business account (my theory is that it will pull only the data from the account that set up the Google+ profile, which means you may be downloading data for a personal profile rather than the actual business page). In addition I’ve also been stuck in a perpetual login loop while trying to share circles with another account. If Google Takeout works for you, consider using it to regularly backup your data (applicable for Gmail as well as Google+).
Hopefully this introduction to the various Google+ dashboards will help you better manage your presence on the Big G. Google+ is still going through some growing pains and with time I think we can expect the platform, unlike our friend Dorian, to be just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Until that time we’ll just have to deal with the wrinkles and scars as Google further incorporates the platform into its overarching services.
If you have any questions (or frustrations!) please comment below and I’ll try my best to help or at least point you in the right direction.