This week in Google we took a look at the highly anticipated release of Google+ Pages for businesses, as well as Larry's Page's questionable strategy for success and Matt Cutts' plan to cut more spam. 

Google+ Pages: Now Open For Business 

Since the Plus release, Google has held off on allowing brands and businesses to create profiles. But this week, the Internet giant finally opened up its doors for businesses, organizations and special interest groups to have their very own Page, Circles and all.

For end-users, the feature can be used to connect with other like-minded individuals by adding Pages to one's Circles. For businesses and brands, Pages can be used to reach out and connect to one's audience.

Google SVP of engineering, Vic Gundotra, elaborates:

For you and me, this means we can now hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favorite clothing line, or follow a band on tour. Google+ pages give life to everything we find in the real world. And by adding them to circles, we can create lasting bonds with the pages (and people) that matter most.

For businesses and brands, Google+ pages help you connect with the customers and fans who love you. Not only can they recommend you with a +1, or add you to a circle to listen long-term. They can actually spend time with your team, face-to-face-to-face. All you need to do is start sharing, and you'll soon find the super fans and loyal customers that want to say hello. 

Create a Google Page

Pages act like any Google+ individual account, including share photos, share videos, share links and conduct hangouts. Users can also add businesses to a Circle.

To Write Off or Not Write Off Google+

If you're a Google Plus naysayer, you're keeping company with Steve Rubel of Edelman, who says he's given up on it, and Robert Scoble, who says that Google brand pages are a mess. 

"Google+ is great. I wish them luck. Really I do. But I have to make choices about where I spend my time and for me that's Twitter, Facebook and soon Tumblr..." reads Rubel's final G+ post. "It's where I get the most value for the time invested. So, adios for now. See you on one of those networks. I may change my mind one day, but right now this is my plan. See you online."

On the other side of the fence, O'Reilly's Edd Dumbill says Google+ isn't just another Facebook clone: 

Google+ is the rapidly growing seed of a web-wide social backbone, and the catalyst for the ultimate uniting of the social graph. All it will take on Google's part is a step of openness to bring about such a commoditization of the social layer. This would not only be egalitarian, but would also be the most effective competitive measure against Facebook.

As no single network has ever been touted as the most amazing thing since sliced bread right from the beginning -- except for maybe Google Wave, and we all saw how well that turned out -- the back and forth is expected.

What I think is worth keeping an eye on here now that Google+ Pages for businesses is officially out, is that whole unity thing. While Facebook started social and is working diligently to add extras, Google is everything but social. If it can successfully compete on a networking level and integrate that feature into all of its established offerings, that's a significant amount of security, wouldn't you say? 

Trimming (Too Much) Fat

Since Larry Page took the CEO seat at Google, several changes have been happening to the company's cogs-- most notably, the number of squashed projects. This September, for example, Page shut the door/changed the packaging on 10 initiatives: 

  • Aardvark: A Q&A social search startup acquired for US$ 50 million in 2010
  • Desktop: Launched in October 2004. All associated APIs, services, plugins, gadgets, and support for the desktop search software were discontinued Sept. 14. 
  • Fast Flip: Launched in September 2009. The visual browser’s approach will live on in Google’s “other display and delivery tools.” 
  • Google Maps API for Flash: Launched in May 2008. Ability for developers to add Google Maps functionality is being “deprecated”; Google will focus on JavaScript Maps API v3. 
  • Google Pack: Launched January 2006. Software bundling and updating system was discontinued Sept. 2. 
  • Google Web Security: Launched 2007. Offered enterprise security; Google will discontinue new sales but support existing customers.
  • Image Labeler: Launched in August 2006. A game that let users label random images. 
  • Notebook: Launched in May 2006. Combined notes plus clip and save URL, text, and images.
  • Sidewiki:  Launched in September 2009. In order to focus on Google’s “broader social initiatives,” Sidewiki, which allowed users to read and comment on every website, is being discontinued.
  • Subscribed Links: Launched in May 2006. The custom search results stopped appearing for subscribers as of September 15.  

A number of projects were shut down before this set as well, including Slide, Google Friends, APIs, Firefox Toolbar, Google Directory, Google Health and PowerMeter. And most recently, Google Buzz faced the chopping block. 

"We’ve never been afraid to try big, bold things, and that won’t change," insists Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President. "We’ll continue to take risks on interesting new technologies with a lot of potential. But by targeting our resources more effectively, we can focus on building world-changing products with a truly beautiful user experience."

One former Google exec -- who insisted on remaining anonymous -- said Google now operates in a Steve Jobs fashion, rather than "the three-headed monster that Google was." He/she added, “When Eric was there, you’d walk into a product meeting or a senior staff meeting, and everyone got to weigh in on every decision. Larry is much more willing to make an O.K. decision and make it now, rather than a perfect decision later.”

Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen. On one hand, Google risks losing its next business before it has time to grow. Gmail, for instance, supposedly grew out the 20 percent time slot Google gives employees to experiment with new ideas. On the other hand, Google's co-founder Sergey Brin says that the risk is worth it, and signals a more mature Google.

What do you think?

Google to Re-target Content Farms?

At this week's Pubcon conference in Las Vegas, Google’s top Spam cop Matt Cutts reported that the company is getting out the knife again. He said Google is looking to discern “…what are the things that really matter, how much content is above the fold.”

In the official blog from Google on the topic of antispam last January, Cutts said, “We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites."

As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content.

Google also addressed the notion that the company is giving preference to spammy content that also serves Google Ads. “To be crystal clear,” Cuts wrote, “Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google; Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google and buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.”

As for now, we’ll have to wait for clarification on whether Cutts is readying yet another technology to work along side Panda, or simply an update.