In the buildup to Facebook's news feed announcement later today, Google has done some of its own updating yesterday. Alongside an updated locals tab, it's made a significant change to its design and to the About page
. While you mightn't pay much attention to the locals tab, it's the visual redesign that will certainly catch your eye.
While its update isn't something that's going to trouble Facebook announcement today, if you're a regular user of Google+ business pages, there are a few things worth keeping in mind about this update.
The Importance of Imagery
Getting the obvious change out of the way first, Google's cover photo has gotten larger, *much* larger. Originally it was 940 x 180, but now Google has increased it to 2120 x 1192, which is a pretty significant jump. This is a move that follows what Facebook and Twitter already do and taking it one step further, meaning that it's by far the most noticeable aspect of the page when you first visit. Marketing Land goes into a lot more detail about the comparisons between the cover photos and how it effects the layout of each site.
But back to Google+. What you will realise is that while the cover photo has increased in size, it is really the only thing you're going to see when you first upload the page. Here's how it looks on our own page on full screen
(resolution 1440 x 900):
And a few other examples of brands updating like Red Bull, Android and Cadbury UK.
Pretty large, huh? While that may come across as massive, it's not as bad as you would expect. For one, when you load up a page, it will show roughly four fifths of your cover photo so you won't have to worry about your latest posts being hidden by it. This is similar to what Facebook does, but on a business page, you will be able to see the latest post without having to scroll down.
However, while it's significantly large, there is one very important advantage to having it this size. Unlike Facebook, Google has no strict rules or regulations in regards to placing a call to action on your cover photo so the extra real estate gives you a perfect opportunity to do this.
Unless you have a designer on hand on a regular basis, you're not going to be able to change it regularly so you will need your call to action to be a medium or long-term call to action like 'circle us' or even list what you can offer. Also, it's better to assume that people will only see four fifths of the cover photo and won't scroll up the screen so adjust your profile picture with this in mind. Although with the large size, you don't want to overload it with different call to actions so keep them to a minimum.
The profile photo will now be a circle instead of a square. You can format the cover photo to take advantage of this, but the one thing to keep in mind is that the bottom part of it is shaded so your profile photo will stand out more. You will need to adjust your profile photo if you want to achieve a similar effect like what you would get on Facebook, but you will have to take the shading into consideration before you create one that combines both cover and profile photos.
If you're thinking of redesigning your cover photo and you don't have a working knowledge of Photoshop, we put together a cover photo tutorial for you to reference. While the tutorial is designed to help you create a Facebook profile photo, the same principles apply to Google+.
A minor, but nice change is if you're managing multiple accounts, you can open a dashboard section on pages. Here you can see the number of followers you have, when you posted last and the ability to switch pages.
The other major change to Google+ is the introduction of About cards. If you've ever used Google Now, you will understand the principle behind this change. Instead of just having a normal layout, each section of your About page is broken up into colour coded sections. This mightn't sound particularly impressive, but it ties in with the visual aspect Google+ is pushing, both with the cover photo change and the most recent updates to its mobile app.
For personal profiles, there are a lot of different sections to update, but for business pages, it is simplified into five sections: People, Story, Contact Information, Links, and Community. By colour coding these sections, users can easily find the sections that they're looking for once they learn which colour corresponds to which section.
Editing sections has also been modified so it provides a more intuitive experience. When you open the edit window, you can change section by clicking on the tabs at the top of the page, ensuring that you can review each section without having to exit. Don't forget you can place hyperlinks in the Story section to help with your SEO efforts
Overall Google+ users should be pretty happy with the changes that have been introduced. The cover photo expansion could have easily taken the focus away from the content posted, but the decision to only show most of it while fitting in the latest post was a wise one. Also, page managers will find that the interface is more user friendly. For those already using Google+, there's a lot to like with this new update, and with 135 million active users in the Google+ stream, that's a lot of people.
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