Some of the biggest company/brand accounts on Google+ have now — finally, some might say — been removed.
The Google Plus pages for Mashable, Ford and Sesame Street are all gone. Our own Search Engine Land page has also been removed. Mashable was, according to SocialStatistics.com, the No. 4 most popular account on Google+ with more than 103,000 followers.
All of those accounts have been replaced by a 404 error message. (Update: see postscript at the end of this article.)
Google has been removing business/brand accounts for more than a week now, but some users were unhappy with the random nature of the process. Some accounts were zapped early on while others seemed to get special treatment, or at least were ignored, and continued to increase their following.
It’s been a rocky few weeks for companies and brands wanting to have a presence on Google+. Within a week of Plus’ launch, Google announced that business pages would be coming soon, but days later had to ask brands to stop making new accounts. Google eventually invited businesses to apply to be part of a test program and accepted applications through last Friday.
The most recent news about Google+ for businesses was this message last week from Google’s Christian Oestlien, who said that Google would be “selecting a diverse set of business partners for the test period” and notifying them this week. Here at Search Engine Land, we did get a notification that our Google Plus account has been suspended, but there’s no invitation to a test program.
After reviewing your profile, we determined that some of the content (e.g. text, images, name) violates our Community Standards or our Names Policy. Please remember that we are currently limiting profiles to real people and will be launching a profile for businesses and other entities later this year.
If you believe that your profile has been suspended in error, or you have recently edited your profile to comply with our Community Standards or Names Policy please submit your profile for reconsideration. Your profile will be reviewed again and unblocked if it complies with our Community Standards.
We’ve reached out to Google for more information and will update this post if/when we have a reply.
As of 2:00 pm PT, the Mashable and Ford accounts have been restored, while Sesame Street (and Search Engine Land) is still returning a 404 message. Mashable founder Pete Cashmore has just posted that he’s been talking to Google today and that he will use the Mashable account personally, and Mashable will wait for Google to formally launch business profiles to have an official presence on Google Plus:
We chatted with the Google+ team today about their plans for branded accounts, and we’ve both agreed that while the Mashable community is very engaged on Google+ and we all have great fun joining discussions here, it would be better for Mashable to wait for branded profiles to launch officially before having a company presence on here.
We’ve still not heard back from Google on our earlier information request.
Postscript 2, From Danny Sullivan:
In the case of Mashable, it’s technically not back. Rather, founder Pete Cashmore — who already had an account with 40,000 followers on Google+, has said on that account that he’s “winding down” and instead now going to be posting from the former Mashable account that currently has 100,000 followers, as he said on that account. So it’s not really Mashable back, see? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It’s Pete.
That’s clearly a workaround that lets Mashable maintain its heavily followed accoun. Ford is using no such workaround, so it’s unclear why it has been restored.
Postscript 3, From Danny Sullivan:
Google has now said that brand pages are going, and the test program that people applied for to have brand pages appears dead in the water. Instead, the company will allow a “tiny” number of businesses to keep their profiles. It’s also encouraging businesses to find real people willing to take over the business profiles that have already been maintained.
From Google’s Christian Oestlien post on the matter:
A few weeks ago we mentioned we would be doing a test of business profiles and asked people interested to apply. Believe it or not we actually had tens of thousands of businesses, charities, and other organizations apply to take part from all over the world. Many of you have reached out to me personally through Google+, e-mail, chat, and even other Googlers. Thank you. Your response has been humbling.
With so many qualified candidates expressing intense interest in business profiles, we’ve been thinking hard about how to handle this process. Your enthusiasm obligates us to do more to get businesses involved in Google+ in the right way, and we have to do it faster. As a result, we have refocused a few priorities and we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for EVERYONE in the next few months. There may be a tiny handful business profiles that will remain in the meantime solely for the purpose of testing how businesses interact with consumers.
In the meantime, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google+. The platform at the moment is not built for the business use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles. We recommend you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google+ using a real profile as him-or-herself.
Frankly, the entire thing is a mess. Google Profiles allowed for non-human use long before Google+ existed. Search Engine Land, for example, had a profile with Google Buzz (and still does) before this change happened.
Those profiles all now need to be axed, because Google either didn’t think clearly about the obvious need for businesses to be on Google+ or didn’t devote the resources to make it happen? Crazy.