Google+ Business, Google+ Local, Google Places — these are all platforms launched by Google in the past few years to help customers find local businesses. The tech giant hasn’t made it easy for business owners to distinguish between each platform.
So, before we get to the nitty-gritty of using Google+ for promotion, a little explanation is needed.
Google+ launched in 2011 as a social media platform for individual users, with personal profiles that function just like Facebook profiles. Later, Google launched Google+ Business, which let businesses and brands get their own Google+ profile — just like Facebook Pages for businesses.
Google+ Business users can share status updates, photos, videos and more, just as business owners can do on their brand’s Facebook page.
Around the same time, Google launched another service called Google Places, which consists of pages displaying your business’s location, contact information and consumer reviews. If you want your business to be listed in Google’s Web search results and to show up on Google Maps, sign up for Google Places.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
Google Places still exists in name, but it was integrated with Google+ Business this fall under a new name: Google+ Local.
You can still sign up for Google Places. Doing so (and verifying that you are actually the owner) will still allow you to create a basic local listing for your business. When users search for local businesses on Google or Google Maps, they can still navigate to your business’s Places page, which now appears as a basic Google+ page — even if you never signed up for Google+.
But signing up for Google+ Business can have big benefits. Doing so will activate social functionality on your business’s profile, allowing you to share updates, deals, photos and videos. It’s also the only way to customize your profile with personal touches, like a custom banner image.
Google recommends that you sign up for Google Places first to create a basic local listing for your business. Once the listing is up, you can easily activate Google+ social features in your account settings.
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