Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google+ Adds Pages for Brands and Businesses — And Will Feature Them in Search

Google+ today launches a much-anticipated feature for brands, companies and other organizations to create accounts. The new Google+ Pages are for anything “non-human,” as Google VP Product Bradley Horowitz put it in an interview in advance of the launch.

Pages brings Google+ into line with Facebook and Twitter, which have become essential marketing tools for many businesses. “Brands have been pounding on the door waiting for this,” Horowitz said (in fact, quite a few brands had already created Google+ accounts and had them shut down because the tools weren’t ready).

The Big Twist: Direct Connect

Google is adding a bit of special Googley sauce that other social networks can’t: It will feature qualified brand pages in a new command that users can type directly into Google search.

Here’s how this will work: when users, for instance, type +Pepsi into Google, they can opt to automatically follow the Pepsi Google+ page. Brands can get this special linkage — called Direct Connect — and be determined eligible based on a formula that measures their relevancy and popularity.

Search operator syntax isn’t a new thing — Google has long supported various commands to help make searches more focused. (In fact, the + sign had recently been discontinued from use as an obscure way to specify that results must include a certain word.) But “a tiny fraction of one percent of usage” of Google search incorporates any of these advanced operators, Horowitz said.

Direct Connect is different: Google is establishing approved relationships with brands to drive traffic to their pages and establish lasting relationships with users of its social network. It’s like a powerful shortcut version of the old AOL keywords or the increasingly ubiquitous “Like us on Facebook/Follow us on Twitter.”

Horowitz predicted: “You will see +Pepsi [and other Direct Connect pages] emerge as a meme — shorthand in commercials and billboards.”

It’s possible that very few people will want to treat the search field as a command line interface, but it’s still highly significant that Google will be actively promoting approved Google+ pages out front of its hotly contested search results pages.

Pages Nuts and Bolts

Brand pages don’t quite schematically fit into the way Google+ is organized, where users decide who they want to publish content to by grouping people into Circles. So Google+ is inverting that relationship for Pages, which will have to wait until a user adds them to start showing content.

(The reasoning is pretty clear — none of us want random advertising showing up directly in our streams because some brand has decided we’re in their target market.)

Horowitz indicated that, ultimately, Google wants to give companies one integrated interface for dealing with Google — and of course he’d like it to be Google+! — but for now local businesses will have to maintain their Google Place Pages separately. However, they can link Place Pages to Google+ Pages, and they can connect their Google+ Pages to their AdWords accounts, so all user +1 votes on both are aggregated.

Pages will have basically the same functionality as Google+ accounts for regular users, though they will be defaulted to public.

Google+ still hasn’t released much in the way of platform tools, which will make it harder for social media manager types to include Google+ Pages in their normal routines. But there will now be a little Google+ icon for people to put on their Web sites, with more fleshed-out badges coming soon. “We realize deeper API-level access is likely something these brands are going to want,” Horowitz said.

Also coming soon for Pages: Support for multiple administrators, analytics and better Circle functionality to manage millions of people.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google