Why Google+ Is Essential for Your Business

This story has been updated from when it was originally published Dec. 19, 2011.

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Google ( GOOG) is setting in motion big changes to its search functionality, after announcing Tuesday that one of the primary influencers to its search will be Google+.

For businesses -- even local business -- this means all the more reason to get on Google+ now.
Google+ hasn't exactly caught on with users. You should be on it anyway, digital media expert Jason Hennessey warns.

At first glance, setting up a business profile on Google's social media site, which is sort of a combination of Facebook and Twitter, seems unnecessary, since the site hasn't gotten much traction with users so far. But experts say now is the time for businesses to get comfortable with using Google+, because it will become a increasingly n important piece of the search puzzle.

Last month we spoke with Jason Hennessey, CEO of Everspark Interactive, a digital marketing agency, who predicted that Google+ would become a primary influence to Google searches. He said that the more a local business engaged with Google+ (both by posting and allowing users to "check in"), the more likely Google is to pull up that business during a user's searches.

What's so great about Google+?

Hennessey: Six months ago Google had an exclusive contract with Twitter, which was providing them with a real-time feed. That was a big deal.

So say you search for Kim Kardashian. You're not seeing all the real-time buzz that's happening about Kim Kardashian like you used to see when Twitter had the contract with Google. Google+ has its own real-time news feed to replace the real-time search feature. They haven't actually brought it in the search pages yet ... this is something that is right around the corner. They will implement a real-time news feed almost like a Twitter feed that will be part of the search.

So why should businesses care?

Hennessey: As a journalist, at the end of the day the whole reason why you're posting on a social media site is so that you can be the first to break different stories. When you're talking about small business or local restaurant, it provides you a larger audience without a whole lot of effort. So essentially you can follow something that is buzzing and you as a small business have the ability to compete with the mega-companies and large brands out there and get followers and fans. You're basically maximizing the same audience.

But not a lot of consumers are even on it yet. Why should a small business be so proactive now?

Hennessey: On a business level, the whole reason why businesses are even using Google is so they can get targeted customers to find their business when they search. Google accounts for 80% of that search market share. For the people that are saying "Ha, I don't need to do this," the longer you wait, the slower you will be able to gain that market share in the future. Because this is the future.

>>Why Google+ Is A Big Step for Google

Google+ will be used in actually indexing pages on the Web. The pages that have more engagement -- stories, for instance, that get more "+1" clicks -- those are the pages that are going to be considered authoritative to Google compared to somebody that is just sitting and waiting. The people don't like change -- those are the people that are at a disadvantage.

How can businesses most effectively use Google+?

Hennessey: Sometimes when you start to use all of these different tools and platforms or networks -- at the end of the day you're not making money but wasting resources on technology. I would highly encourage that when you create your Google+ page that the message is consistent with your Web site and Facebook pages. Addresses and phone numbers are identical. And make sure you're using it. Post at least a couple times a week to show that it's active.

I would also encourage business owners to look on the Web and start clicking "+1" on articles relevant to your industry, because what happens is that Google looks at every finite detail as a signal.

At the same time, continue to publish content on your company's Web sites, post content on your Google+ linking back to your page. Again it's so that your company is engaging in your industry, but you're also becoming an authority in your community and sharing it with the Google+ community.

How will the use of Google+ affect local businesses?

Hennessey: For example, if I do a search for a good place to eat, historically Google would probably post articles about the top 10 restaurants within the U.S. and good luck sifting through that, but now what happens is they're tying in the Google places, which is tied into Google+.

It comes back to how Google can't detect one restaurant from the other -- they've got to have signals to detect which one is better, like "+1" and people leaving comments. It's going to have a profound effect on the future of local businesses.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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