It can't be smart to ignore the search giant's network
If you're ignoring Google+ as a business, you're ignoring Google. Google+ is Google, according to Google. Google+ also provides Google Search a window into our social activity on the web, providing a view that it does not have access to via Facebook or even Twitter. Facebook may have the social network users, but Google+ is growing, and its importance to business goes beyond that.
Social and authorship are two big elements in ranking success these days, and Google+ plays to both of these. The +1 button, which we know influences rankings, is obviously a big part of the Google+ feature set. This is a signal that helps Google determine how good people think a piece of content or a website is, and now, perhaps even a business in general (it's not a perfect signal, but it's a signal).
Now, with the launch of Google+ Pages, businesses get totie the +1's on their Pages to the +1's on their site (though this doesn't seem to be working fully just yet), which should send a stronger signal of brand reputation to Google search. If only you could tie your Facebook page likes to it too, that would probably be a much better indicator, but Google does what it can. This is in effect why Google has to have its own social ecosystem - so it can have access to this kind of data. It needs that kind of data to remain relevant and deliver relevant results in an increasingly social world. That's not to say Google can't see when people like your page on Facebook. That is public data. I'm guessing Google's not ignoring that.
On that search note, Google is also giving searchers easy ways to add brands to their circles. You can add from the search result itself, when a Page is returned, or with the "Direct Connect" feature, you can enter a "+" with the Page you're looking for, as your query:
Businesses can also link their Pages to their AdWords accounts. +1's there count too.
"The new +1 aggregation may also affect the auction on the display network," says Pamela Parker, an editor at Search Engine Land. "Google has said it would use +1 data to better target ads on its display network, serving advertisers' ads more often to friends of those who +1ed the ad or the landing page URL. Presumably, this new way of aggregating +1s for the brand as a whole will make this affect all the more powerful."
Set up a Page. Local Pages have a little more.
To set up your page, simply sign into your Google+ profile, click "create a Google+ page" on the side of your stream, pick the category of page you want to create, and click "create". Categories include: Product/brand, Company/institution/organization, local business/place, arts/entertainment/sports, or other.
"Don't stress out about choosing the perfect category," Google says. "Use the 'Other' category if none of the others seem to be a good fit. The core functionality and discoverability of a page isn't affected by its category. Right now, only pages that use the Local business or Place category have different features. Local pages are designed to help people locate the business using its physical address."
Local pages include a map of the business's location, and include address, phone number/address, and hours of operation.
Do you think Google should have done more with Google+ Pages before launch? What ways do you use Google+ for business? Join the conversation in the comments.