An Alternative to Google Plus ‘Custom’ URLs

google-plus-240pxGoogle Plus offers local businesses with a verified listing the option of adding what Google calls a custom URL for their local Plus page. My suggestion: Don’t use Google’s custom URL. If you need a memorable URL for your Plus page, create your own.

One objective of online marketing is to control and increase the equity and visibility of those web assets that you do control. While Google Plus custom URLs increase Google’s visibility and brand equity they do little to enhance yours and more importantly might at some point become a liability for your business.

Google Plus custom URLS really are not custom at all. Google assigns these URLs in an arbitrary fashion and offers little in the way of customization. You essentially have two choices: Accept what they offer or don’t.

These URLS are often longer then they need to be and while you can make alternative suggestions to Google, you may or may not receive alternative URL choices. If you do accept the URL and give it out to clients, you are essentially promoting Google every time you do so rather than your own business.

OK, so that isn’t so bad. What is bad is that once you have accepted the custom URL, you can’t change it. Ever. You are essentially stuck with it. Google currently offers no way to rebrand your custom URL, and if you decide to change business names you are stuck with the “custom” URL referring to your old business name like this business.

This all may change in the future, but there is a safer strategy that is more consistent with your long-term branding needs and provides you with complete control, forever, over what URL you give out to your clients: redirect a vanity URL from your domain to your Google Plus page.

A Better Solution For Sharing Your Google+ Url

If you have WordPress there is a simple to use plug-in that easily allows you to create a permanent redirect called Redirection. If you are not using WordPress, you can add a permanent redirect to your site by adding a line of code to your .htaccess file. Here are instructions, but if you are not technical, your web developer or host should be able to help with the process.

Thus, you would give your clients a URL like localu.org/plus that would automatically send users to https://plus.google.com/112455008110221879139. Even if you already have a custom URL, it still makes sense to give your clients the redirected URL rather than Google’s.

Going forward, you will be able to hand out a URL like yourdomain.com/plus or yourdomain.com/google that takes a user to your Google Plus page.

You will always “own” that URL and, when you give it to clients, not only is your web brand reinforced (rather than Google’s), but if your name were to ever change you will have complete control over the redirected URL and can simply create a new redirect if needed.

Marketing on the web can be a complicated process, but if you keep in mind the principle that you always want to build and control your web equity rather than the equity of others, you can come up with tactics that will provide long term and ongoing benefits and avoid future pitfalls.

14 Responses to “An Alternative to Google Plus ‘Custom’ URLs”

  1. Great workaround, Mike.

    But it begs a two-part question:

    Besides when requesting a review, when would a business owner really be sending a customer to his/her Places/Plus page? And when is it wise to do so?

    Sure, I can think of odd occasions. But if business owners have their customers’ attention, I’d say generally it’s a waste to send them anywhere but to the website.

  2. @Phil
    Certainly a legitimate top level question: Why should you ever send anyone to your Plus page outside the context of a planned campaign, particularly reviews?

    I agree the use cases are limited. The problem is that Google seems to have convinced folks that they need a custom URL. Perhaps the post title should have been titled: You don’t need no stinking custom URL. In my “defense” I suppose I was thinking of it along the lines of the visit us on Facebook signage that folks seem to be in love with (why I have no clue).

  3. Yeah, I agree that Google is leading people down a rabbit hole. A business’s rebranding could make for a very crappy UX, if the website and Google Places name say one thing and the “custom” URL says another.

  4. This is a great idea! Just an FYI the link to localu.org/plus in your post takes you to a 404 page because you forgot to include the last s in “plus”.

  5. Mike Blumenthal May 21, 2014 at 7:43 am Reply

    @Danielle
    Good catch. Thanks!

  6. I was under the impression that giving patients/clients a direct link to a Google+ listing could trigger the review to be filtered and not display. Google likes to see someone search organically to find the listing and then review it. Does anyone know if this is still the case?

  7. @Mike That is great news then! Thank you!

  8. This comment isn’t about Google Plus but a question about the Redirection plugin. I set up some redirects on my server with Godaddy. Does anybody know if I add a plugin on top of that what will happen?

    I feel like a year ago I put up a redirect plugin (but with other plugins) and I had this weird loop my website got stuck in. I disabled all the new plugins I added to quickly fix it. I don’t know what caused it and didn’t know if anybody else had this problem.

    Thanks ahead of time.

    Pamela Ravenwood
  9. Mike Blumenthal May 22, 2014 at 1:38 pm Reply

    @Pamela
    I do not know how GoDaddy handles redirects but it is certainly possible to have conflicts between one system and another that leads to going in circles. You should do one or the other but not both.

  10. I’m noticing this first hand myself…

    I built up everything as Social Listings (Internet Marketing) but for numerous reasons have started re-branding as Cartography Marketing (same service, address, phone).

    However, now I’m stuck with plus.google.com/+SocialListingsClearwater, YouTube.com/user/sociallistings, Facebook.com/sociallistings; because I wanted to optimize everything…

    Thanks for the WP tip Mike! I think I’ll avoid creating service provider custom URLs for a while.

    Tony Leary
  11. “can’t change it ever” is not really that important IMHO. Consider the speed which these platforms are typically developed, this is the sort of thing that I expect to change.

    • Mike Blumenthal May 29, 2014 at 5:04 am Reply

      @Mark
      “Can’t change ever” may not be important to you but lack of control is important to me and should be to others. Given that there is so little value, there is so much frustration and better ways…why do it at all?

  12. Hi,

    I’m having this trouble now, when I wanted to create a custom url, it said that I would choose a url like http://plus.google.com/+ChrisThomas add some characters here ]

    so I suppose it’s thinking I should create a url similar to +ChrisThomas1978….but I don’t want that…even if I don’t care about the branding issue since it’s a personal plus account, I could worry about my antimatter studios account, but I would like to use /chrisalexthomas instead, that would be nice, but I really really really dislike this christhomas123 type names, they are so ugly.

    So great!? I’m one person of 123 others….I don’t want to be one in a group of similar people, I want people to know I’m unique and separate.

    right now, I’m not given that choice….so I’m not creating a unique url… and I find it also very very odd, because I’m a programmer I understand these issues very clearly, that I can’t change said url, I don’t see any technical reason why not, so once more, google is intruding in my personal business and telling me what I can or cannot do, when they have no right to do so, giving me an “our way or the highway” doesn’t inspire confidence in future interactions.

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