You might not think of Google+ when considering the top social media networks, but that would be a serious oversight for restaurateurs because Google’s marketing power and domination of search marketing deliver solid results for restaurants across numerous areas. Google+ connects effortlessly with new technologies and promotes better search engine visibility like no single platform can — even social behemoth Facebook depends on using Google when promoting its Web traffic, and no business can thrive in today’s economy without optimizing its site for Google’s search algorithms.
Every benefit that Google the search engine offers is immediately and intrinsically available to a restaurant that has a Google+ business page. Google has even begun dropping the requirements that businesses have a dedicated Google+ account to benefit from services like posting and commenting on YouTube videos. Google+ has more than 540 million active monthly users because every gmail account automatically qualifies, but business owners might want to separate their businesses from their personal accounts.
Google+ Profile and Business History
Google+ and Facebook advertising reach large local audiences without question, so it’s important to craft your paid advertising strategy carefully based on demographics, marketing goals and your budget. Google hasn’t had much success with getting a social network off the ground. The company tried but failed to buy Twitter and has also tried several ideas for social networking, such as Google Friend Connect, Google Buzz and Orkut, an independent platform operated by Google Brazil and retired in 2014. Google+ was launched in June of 2011, and the social platform now has about 2.2 billion profiles but far fewer active users because only 4–6 million people make public posts from their Google+ accounts. Google+ claims 540 million active monthly users, which compares to Facebook’s 1.2 billion active users. Regardless of the stats, it appears that Google+ needs growth to challenge Facebook’s social domination.
However, that doesn’t mean that restaurants can ignore Google+ with impunity. Google+ increasingly professes to not be worried about its number of commercial users because it applies a social layer across its searches and other initiatives. Restaurants can optimize their websites, social pages and marketing initiatives better by maintaining an active presence on Google+.
When active Google+ restaurants search for their names in keyword searches, they’re more likely to find reviews, photos, maps and rich text answers to keyword questions than restaurants without an active Google+ presence. Four out of five people use their phones to find information about local restaurants and place orders or make reservations directly after searching. Google continues to exert an incredible influence on generic searches and local searches for restaurants.
Future Development Plans for Google+
Google recently divided its Google+ platform into Photos and Streams to counter increased influence from sites like Twitter and Instagram. Future plans also include better integrations with searches, direct ordering from search engine return lists and more advanced cloud storage options that will make Google+ Photos and Streams ideal platforms to store vast backlogs of social material. Google decided on the changes in early 2015.
The Google+ platform, while ubiquitous, never seemed to inspire the same passion that other social sites have gotten from their members. The most popular of Google+ features have been Hangouts and Circles, which should easily transfer to Streams. Photos have long been social media staples and marketing drivers, so Google Photos will offer advanced features and products for editing, sharing and storing photos online.
How Google+ Works for Restaurants
It shouldn’t surprise restaurant owners that Google is again changing its social platform by dividing Google+ into Google Photos and Streams. The new division will be headed by Bradley Horowitz, a Google VP and one of the key players in Google+. No product changes have yet been released, but in the meantime, restaurateurs can continue marketing on Google+ and use Google’s resources to post photos, reviews, videos and other promotional material.
One of the biggest benefits of claiming a Google+ business page is expanding your Google SEO ranking and profile. Food bloggers and reviewers don’t like to talk about SEO and marketing because it seems to go against the concept of sharing unbiased reviews and creative recipes. However, if people don’t know about an article or post, they can’t read it. That’s where SEO comes in to promote your post so that your targeted audience can find it. Google+ offers more SEO benefits than any other social platform, and your Google+ page can get your restaurant and its recipes, reviews, photos and blog posts noticed by local audiences who search on their phones’ small screens.
Is Google+ Effective for Restaurant Marketing?
Google+ offers an advantage that no other social platform can match — increased SEO rankings and Google-related marketing benefits like maps and longer descriptions in generic search results. Your Google+ account — even with minimal maintenance and activity — can generate solid marketing benefits by connecting with your posts, links, restaurant profile for generic search returns and other Internet interactions. Google typically collects more data on your customers than any other social platform because users often have Gmail accounts, search the Web using Google and use Google services like YouTube. Facebook has an edge on collecting more intimate details like your customers’ favorite books, movies and broadcast shows, but Google’ products.
Paid click-through rates for Google ads offer you many advertising options for your Google+ account, such as geotargeting and retargeting. You can also market your restaurant through a range of Google partner sites, but ads in other social sites only show up on those networks. Google ads enjoy click-through rates that are as much as 1,000 times higher than Facebook ads.
Comparing Google+ to Other Social Platforms
Google+ faces stiff competition from all the major social networks –especially Facebook, which has similar vast resources, name recognition and vast numbers of regular users. All the social networks seem to have more active memberships than Google+, possibly because having a YouTube, Gmail or other Google account automatically creates a Google+ profile.
Facebook gives its members an intimate and favorable space for all types of nontraditional marketing while Google+ seems to favor more traditional marketing like PPC advertising and other kinds of Web advertising. Restaurants can use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram to promote photos, short text messages, brand awareness and a restaurant’s cuisine and concept while using Google to target generic searchers, visitors and local searchers for specific types of foods and venues.
Cost-Benefit Study of Google+ Marketing
Google+ seems to offer more benefits for generic marketing, paid advertising and brand-building efforts than it does for fostering desire among social members, championing causes or promoting trends. Google is broad-based, so marketing on Google+ takes a proactive strategy. Best practices for maximizing your Google+ marketing efforts include:
- Sharing your Google+ profile and page link on other social sites
- Linking your profile to your website and other marketing efforts
- Setting up authorship of content so that SEO articles and blog posts show up in searches even when people aren’t using Google+
- Posting on and linking to YouTube
- Using Google features like Google Drive to handle extended conversations
- Taking advantage of Google+ analytics tools like Circle Count and Sum All
Engagement across social platforms is the key to modern marketing success for restaurants, and using Google+ (whether formally with a business page or informally through Google’s other programs for business owners) is important for restaurants that want to optimize their social profiles and Internet visibility.
What We Like
We love how simple it is to connect various Google accounts — such as email, business pages, circles and hangouts. Google focuses effectively on connecting people, businesses and their customers and marketing efforts with descriptive keywords. You can build a stronger SEO presence by maintaining your Google+ account, and restaurants stand to gain other preferential advantages from Google+ accounts, such as reviews, maps, directions and richer descriptions in generic searches. Google Circles and Hangouts are also highly effective ways to communicate and collaborate with restaurant customers and employees. You can use content hashtags to build relationships to popular trends and align your restaurant to broader issues in the community.
What We Don’t Like
We don’t like that Google+ users don’t seem as committed to the platform as members of other social networks. We think that’s because Google has a history of abandoning underperforming initiatives or incorporating them into future developments, which Google frequently introduces regardless of whether they’re specific to Google+ the platform or Google the search engine. Another drawback is that Google uses trusted websites (such as those belonging to Google+ members) to answer questions and queries with rich answers to search queries but often without providing attribution or links to the content. Google+ also has some administrative challenges, such as less efficient dashboards, cluttered news feeds and dashboards that don’t integrate well with social resources like Hootsuite. We’ll wait to see what changes Photos and Streams generate.
If you’re in the restaurant business, optimizing your business with Google+ seems to be an essential first step if you want to maximize your Internet presence and improve your search rankings. We don’t know how long Google will keep Google+ as a separate function, but the search giant will surely roll-over any profile benefits into the overall social layer that apply to all Google products, maps, local marketing and other initiatives.