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Google today announced the long-awaited debut of pages for businesses on Google+, looking to boost the functionality of its fledgling social network and rival the utility of Facebook and Twitter for companies and brands.

“So far Google+ has focused on connecting people with other people. But we want to make sure you can build relationships with all the things you care about—from local businesses to global brands—so today we’re rolling out Google+ Pages worldwide,” said Vic Gundotra, Google senior vice president of engineering.

See his post for more details, including how companies will be able to set up their own Google+ pages.

The company also introduced a new feature called Direct Connect that will let searchers connect quickly to a Google+ page by typing a “+” in front of the name of the company or brand when they conduct a Google search.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has instead been tightly incorporating Facebook data into its search results, based on Microsoft’s partnership with Facebook.

Here’s a video showing how the Google Direct Connect feature works.

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