Notes on Google+

Terminological confusion

; Edited:


23 December 2013 — When I shared this article yesterday, I did not make it very clear that the terminologies of various Google+ entities are causing confusion, and not the concept of distinct types of Google+ entities: please read this clarificatory note for further explanation.

One of the most confusing things about Google+ currently is the nomenclature. I have encountered a huge diversity of names, among others: Google+ profiles, Google+ pages, Google+ profile pages, Google+ page profiles, brand Google+ pages, local Google+ pages, Google+ Local, Google+ local listings, those Google+ thingies. To the uninitiated and the unfamiliar, this situation must be thoroughly intimidating and confusing. It’s confusing to me, even though I would count myself as one of the initiated and I am reasonably familiar with the product.

Essentially there are two broad types of entities on Google+: Google+ profiles representing individuals, and Google+ pages representing things. As Google+ profiles represent individuals, the name on a Google+ profile must be that of an individual person, and not that of a business or an organization. There are a few exceptional cases with regard to some YouTube channel owners, who can create a Google+ profile in the name of the channel, but otherwise using a name that doesn’t look like an individual personal name is a violation of Google+ policies, and as such the profile may be suspended by Google. Furthermore, it is not possible to transform a Google+ profile to a Google+ page, and vice versa.

If some users attempt to use Google+ profiles in instances where they ought to have been using Google+ pages, out of confusion than design, that confusion further deepens with Google+ pages, as they are divided into two sub-types. Incidentally, I would argue they constitute different types of their own. One way to put the the difference is thus: there are types of Google+ pages that represent things without reference to a particular location, and there are Google+ pages, referred to as local Google+ pages or Google+ Local among others, that represent physical locations or areas and the businesses, organizations, and landmarks on those particular locations. If a business serves customers at a fixed abode, and customers visit that premises, then it is almost in all cases better to create a local Google+ page / Google+ Local: such Google+ entities can be reviewed by their customers, and also they are likely to appear on local searches, as well as on the right-hand side column – referred to as the knowledge infopanel – for certain queries.

One of the main issues with regard to these two types of Google+ pages is that they cannot be merged (unless in the case of merging a Google+ page that was created in the local business category on the Google+ landscape and a local Google+ page / Google+ Local that is a listing in Google Maps / Places) or be transformed from one sub-type of Google+ pages to another at the moment, rather like it is impossible to transform a Google+ profile into either of these two types of Google+ pages. It is often the case that a business or an organization had created a brand, non-local Google+ page, when it would have been better served by a local Google+ page / Google+ Local for the increased exposure in certain search results. Businesses and organizations may end up with two Google+ entities, when they only wanted one.

Starting with Google+ is a daunting task, and terminological confusions certainly don’t help. I wish there were a clearer way to distinguish these fundamental types of Google+ entities. Taxonomically I would divide them into three types, since they are incompatible with each other in the sense that they cannot be transformed to another and they have clear differences: Google+ profile representing individuals, Google+ page representing things, and Google+ local representing places and things at those places.