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Google+ had major changes. Are they for the better?

Google+ had major changes. Are they for the better?

If you haven't checked up on your Google+ account lately, things have changed radically in the last couple weeks. Apparently acknowledging that their original vision for G+ hadn't come to pass, Google has given the service a major revamp and, in the process, decoupled it from just about every other service on the system.

The result is a Google+ that's now almost wholly focused on Communities and Collections, the two most popular areas among users. Or, as as PopSci put it, G+ is now basically a combination of Reddit and Pinterest. Accompanying this is a sleek, steamlined new GUI that's consistent across all platforms.

Google, obviously, is focused on the users here. The service has always been seen as shaky, and so it makes sense that they'd focus on the areas which are most likely to draw in new members. But what does it look like from a marketing standpoint?

Let's take a look at some of the biggest changes.

The New Google+ And What It Means For Your Marketing

I. The Local Review Problem

OK, let's get the biggest change -and the biggest hassle- out of the way. Google+ is now completely untethered from Google Local. Your Google Local listing and your Google Business listing are now basically the same thing.

Unfortunately, this includes your reviews. Simply put, it's now harder to give your users stable links to review your business. As things stand -and we're really hoping Google fixes this- you have to give out highly specific URLs that point directly to your business in the search engine.

Currently, the best "fix" for this is to utilize a third-party tool, the excellent Google Review Link Generator from Grade.us. It's extremely easy to use - put in a few details about your business, then it constructs links directly to the Google Search Page. And that's the new link for "Leave Us A Review".

If you want to get fancy, it also gives you links for Google Maps on browsers, iOS, or Android.

II. Other Features Gone Missing

Two of the stranger changes to Google+ is that both Events and Hangouts are no longer part of the system. The loss of the Events feature could be an issue if you already have a community of customers on G+, since you'll now have to notify them of events via email.

Likewise, Hangouts was a useful communication tool to have in G+, but now you pretty much have to use a separate app. This is annoying, but probably not going to affect your marketing much.

Finally -and a bit annoyingly- Google AdWords no longer uses the Google+ Follower Count Extension. So you can't include live follower counts in your ads any more.

III. The New Stream

If there's one word that describes the new UI, it's flat. The entire interface reminds us significantly of the direction Microsoft has been taking their UIs, just with more color. It's clean, simple, easy to navigate with sidebars on the top and left, and it displays content in boxes of varying sizes. It'll fit right in on Windows 10 devices.

The streamlining has resulted in a news stream that loads quickly and keeps a steady flow of material from Friends, people in your Circles, and Collections you're following. Posting new updates, or pulling in photos from your uploaded collection, is simple and self-explanatory.

For users who think services like Facebook are starting to suffer from feature creep and GUI overload, the new G+ may be just what they're looking for.

IV. OK, So What About Marketing?

Whether this will make G+ more or less attractive for marketers is a good question, and time will tell.

For those who used G+ primarily as a hub and discussion page for their Local listing, it may now be nearly useless. By decoupling it from Local, only the most devoted fans will be likely to seek out your Google+ page without being specifically prompted.

And while it's too early to be certain, there's little reason to think your G+ interactions will have much effect on your SEO.

So at this point, Google+ would need to be approached in basically the same way you would other social networks. As an outreach tool, it could be useful in bringing you to the attention of interested leads, but the only way to impress will be through good content posts and enlightened discussion.

What Do You Think?

As users we're basically liking the new slimmed-down look and how the Stream mixes pictures and commentary. As marketers we're disappointed that G+ is now so detached from everything else in their system, especially the whole review problem.

Do you think you'll find uses for this new Google+ in your own online outreach?

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