Google announced at Google I/O this month that it’s introducing a number of changes to Google+, which mainly affect the site design as well as usability.
The two most noticeable changes were probably the cover photo for pages and profiles, which has been enlarged greatly, and the redesigned gchat, which Google has rebranded as Google Hangout (to tie in with the existing Google Hangout video chat).
The revised chat layout, which feels a lot more modern than the existing gchat, is also now being slowly rolled out for users to use in Gmail. User profiles in Google Hangout directly link to their Google+ profiles, showing that Google is now, more than ever, invested in creating a cross-promotional platform for all their product offerings.
For individuals who manage profiles and company pages, there are a number of changes that can enrich the way others see and interact with your page.
The previous dimensions for a Google+ cover photo was 940 x 180 pixels. The updated layout now allows for 2120 x 1192 pixels for a graphic. This gives companies a lot more creative freedom because they have more space to play around in and can promote something specific for their brand.
While many of the popular pages on Google+ are opting to use the bigger size to make a modern, bold statement instead of including several pockets of text or photos, there isn’t a right or wrong way to display your most important information.
For local businesses, adding your address and phone number to the image might be your best bet. For product companies, using the space to promote a sale or your newest product could be a good way to get users’ attention on your latest developments first. Either way, spend time on your cover photo to create one that stands out.
This is a feature on individual users’ profiles that allow them to display reviews of local businesses. Some company pages have this tab as well, and it is assumed that this tab feature will eventually be rolled out to all pages and profiles.
This means that it is important to start asking your customers for reviews on Google+, as well as Yelp or other review sites, when they have the time. Having a good mixture of reviews that are realistic and cover all ends of the spectrum will help your potential customers get a good idea of what your company culture and customer service is like.
Because Google+ has already started rolling this out, it is important to begin asking for reviews as soon as your page has the tab available. In addition, Google has continued to partner with sites like Groupon for its Google Offers page; and, many companies are now offering exclusive offline and online discounts, which can be redeemed in person using the Google Offers app. These offers could soon be a permanent part of every company page, as well.
Column Layout & Information Cards
To go with the wider format for the cover photos, Google is also rolling out a 3-column format for your stream, which is filled with updates from pages you’ve liked or users that are in your circles. Debra Donston-Miller of Information Week claims that the layout looks a lot like Pinterest, and is being rolled out to all users gradually, much like the rest of the major updates.
Besides the column layout, profile information is now laid out in “cards,” which are sections of information broken up into blocks with colorful headers:
Editing each of these cards individually is much easier than the previous profile editing process. Just click “Edit” at the bottom of each card to change or add some of that card’s information.
Vanity URLs, which will allow you to get a URL such as <https://www.google.com/+KelseyJones> instead of https://plus.google.com/u/0/117843425664226400381/ is still being gradually rolled out to all pages and profiles.
Some SEOs and avid users of Google+ have claimed that more popular or prolific pages and users are getting them first. The rollout has been happening since late 2012. This is still an important update for businesses and individuals to keep in mind, as claiming your vanity URL should continue to be a top priority, whenever it becomes available.
Google has been notifying people via email or an alert when they sign into their profile. Be sure to use your company name or full name when registering your vanity URL. Make it professional and easy to understand.
No matter which of these updates is important to you, it is critical to be cognizant of updates as they occur so your pages and profiles are taking advantage of what Google+ has to offer. A pixelated cover photo or a blank About section will only drive users away, costing you potential connections and customers.
Image sources: all screenshots taken May 28, 2013.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.