Search giant Google has launched business and brand based Google+ Pages on the firm's social networking service.
Until now Google+ has been limited to individuals although many wishing to set up brand or company-based profiles flouted the rules and set up individual profiles, falling foul of Google's real name policy.
"Google+ pages help you connect with the customers and fans who love you," Google engineering chief Vic Gundotra told would-be Google+ page operators.
"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," he continued.
The company highlighted the ability to hold public video conferencing meetings with fans or customers with a live Google+ 'Hangout' with Miss Piggy and Kermit from the Muppets. Google also produced a YouTube video showing how a local bike shop Zen Bikes planned to use the service.
Companies wishing to set up a new Google+ page can do so on this page where the first step is to choose a category from Local Business or Product or Brand. Other categories include one for larger organisations and Arts, Entertainment or Sports.
Vitally, Google+ Pages will now appear in Google search such as this search for Zen Bikes. Google's search engine then turns into a virtual information directory for the given business, featuring everything from a map with store location, inside pictures, store hours, reviews and even sub pages for specific products being sold.
Google also unveiled a tweak to the Google search engine called Direct Connect. Users will be able to type a plus symbol in front of a search query in order to be taken directly to a suitable Google+ Page such as a search for +Angry Birds.
However at the time of writing this feature doesn't yet appear to be live, despite Google suggesting that +Angry Birds should result in such a page but a search for +Google shows how the feature will work.
The ramifications for Direct Connect are considerable with the internet giant having transformed the world's largest internet search engine into a dual search engine/business brand directory which is firmly aimed at driving users towards the firm's own social networking and search advertising services.
Will you be setting up a Google+ Page for your business?