Has Google finally given up on its social network aspirations? Is the search engine giant ready to concede Facebook once and for all? Based on a recent string of announcements and changes to Google+, there is still a social media mission to be carried out by certain teams from the company’s expansive Mountain View campus, but this will be accomplished with a different look and feel.
The initial set of major changes to Google+ were rolled out in mid-November when the company announced a relaunch of its social network. The new focus moves away from personal social network activities to communities and collections, where users gather to discuss interests and carry out activities around them.
A more significant change was applied to Google+ Local, which is a major element of SEO. Up until September 2015, Google+ Local pages were the SEO starting point for small business owners because Google search results pulled data from these pages and linked to them, but that is no longer the case.
Naturally, Google still believes that local business results are still crucial regarding providing an adequate online search experience; however, the company no longer wants to make Google+ Local the main repository of this data. The dashboard that business owners should be paying attention to is Google My Business, which feeds data to Google search components such as Desktop and Mobile Search, Maps, and others.
In the past, a Google+ business page displayed a wealth of information; from hours of operation to maps and from reviews to directions, everything could be found at a glance and by scrolling down. Now that Google is dialing back its social media goals, the new Google+ Local page does not display a lot of data about the business; in fact, clicking on a small “Info” icon barely returns contact information.
Google My Business is the New Local
Just because Google has dialed back on Google+ Local does not mean that localized SEO strategies should be abandoned. Google My Business must be given its due attention as the place where crucial information can be updated for the benefit of Internet searchers.
At a time when local queries dominate the search engine landscape, the new Google+ layout is not as relevant to make sure that information on Google My Business is accurate and up-to-date. Business owners who have been active on Google+ should not abandon their efforts. Engaging followers and being active on photos, collections and communities is still a solid Internet marketing strategy.
If anything, many SEO analysts always feel that forcing businesses to establish a social media presence through Google+ Local was a heavy-handed approach. The latest Google+ update makes sense insofar as shifting attention to Google My Business as an important SEO component for brick-and-mortar businesses that can benefit from local search.
Mark Long is a researcher and blogger with experience writing on multiple topics including SEO, AdWords, PPC and more. He is currently writing for Saba SEO.