Disclaimer: This article is valid as of December 21, 2012. As with all things that surround the web and web marketing, this information is subject to change. The information in this article will be updated as Google adjusts its Google+ platform.
As the social media guy here at Foster Web Marketing I get a lot of questions ranging from “Should I use my logo or a bio picture for my business’ Facebook Page” (almost always go with the logo for branding purposes) to “What can social media do for me REALLY” (short answer: it’s a phenomenal client retention tool) and everything in between. The most common question I’ve received lately, however, is “What are the differences between a Google+ Profile, a Google+ Page and Google+ Local.”
The First Head: The Google+ Profile
The Google+ Profile is practically the same as a Facebook Personal Profile in that it is meant exclusively for individuals, NOT businesses. It has the same basic features as a Facebook Personal Profile such as the profile picture (which should be a picture of you), a cover photo (get creative and have fun with this space), and a wall where you can post updates, videos and photos.
A Google+ Profile is now mandatory in order to use Google products such as YouTube and is the only way that you can create and manage the second head of the Google+ beast, the Google+ Business Page.
The Second Head: The Google+ Business Page
This is where most people begin to get confused when talking about Google+. The Google+ Business page is the equivalent of the Facebook Business page and is the area for you to post firm news, videos and blogs that link back to your site. While the layout of the Google+ Business Page is the same, the profile picture and cover photo should differ from your personal page. For your Business Page’s profile picture use your practice’s logo and a best practice for the cover photo is a panoramic shot of your staff or office building.
The Third Head: Google+ Local
Finally, you have Google+ Local. Google+ Local burst onto the scene when Google decided to roll its popular Google Places product into Google+ and rebrand it as Google+ Local.
Google+ Local is by far the trickiest to understand of the three, but has the biggest impact on search. A business that has claimed its Google+ Local profile, has optimized it correctly and has gotten good reviews is more likely to show up in search results, while a business that has not is less likely to show up.
You should look at your Google+ Local page as you would any site where you review a business (think Yelp or Angie’s List) with the added bonus that if used correctly a Google+ Local profile can help you to get noticed when people do a search for your particular area of law or medicine.
So What Does All of This Mean For You…
To put it simply, Google has gone all in on Google+ and you need to be using all three of its platforms, the Google+ Profile, the Google+ Business Page and Google+ Local, in order to maximize your business’ online potential. If you need help setting up your Google+ Business Page check out our two part video series on How to Make a Google+ Business Page and How to Add Information to Google+ Business Pages. You can also learn more about Google+ by downloading our report What to Do When Worlds Collide: The Rise of Social and Search With Google+.