Aiming to compete more directly with Facebook, Google+ announced this week it will now support Pages. This means brands (and other non-people entities like businesses, teams, places, plays/movies) will be able to create a profile on Google’s social network with many of the same built-in features as a typical Google+ profile. Plus – and this is very cool – page owners will be able to upload media and participate with users in live events and video chats, or ‘Hangouts’, on Google+. For now, Facebook still rules the roost with features like contests and promotions, games and applications, but it’s inevitable that Google will follow along shortly.

What is most interesting is the integration with Google search. Since everyone is Googling everything, it makes perfect sense. Using what Google is calling Direct Connect, when you Google by adding + before a word you now get the brand page option (like in Facebook) and will be asked if you want to add that page to your circle. For example, if I were to write in +Motorola, Google would say ask me if I want to add +Motorola to one of my Google+ circles. What this could lead to is brands using ‘+’ as commonly as they do ‘www.’ or ‘facebook.com/’ in marketing materials (ie +MuppetsMovie or facebook.com/Muppets).

Also consider what the addition of Google+ Pages can do for advertising and paid search. As Sarah Sikowitz points out in AdAge, the launch catapults the importance of the +1 button across Google properties by creating a hub for cross-channel marketing and a place for brands to create content to fuel the +1 fire. When Google starts to factor in +1 data into its search algorithm you can bet its importance will be noticed. Case in point, in its Google+ Pages user guide, Google is saying that brands with a +1 link on their website will rank higher in search than those that don’t have it.

While some brands dove right in today, others have just claimed their page and will be watching and moving a bit slower. Regardless of how each brand decides to move right now, Google+ Pages is something for all communicators to keep their eye on.

For more info:

TechCrunch

Google+ Pages Video on YouTube

AdAge

Kathryn Hanley is a digital specialist at Hill+Knowlton Canada.