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The Continued Mediocrity of Google+

exclusive-social-bGoogle may be the mother of all search engines, but when it comes to social skills, the company is still sorely lacking. If success in the social network stratosphere is measured by page views, time spent, and overall activity, Google+ can’t hold a candle to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

But while traditional metrics may not currently be kind to Google’s two-year-old social offering, there just might be a silver lining. With over 500 million profiles, there’s no shortage of sign-ups and data; just frequency and overall time spent. Smart businesses, however, see Google+ not as a social mecca, but a SEO must-have. Since data on the social network is directly tied into Google’s uber-popular search engine, there’s plenty of big reasons every business should have at least a modest presence. But what will the future bring for Google+? Will it turn Facebook into the next MySpace, or will the SEO boon be its only true touted success?

The Cracks in the Armor

While it’s fair to say the Google+ rollout has been slow and steady, two years is a long time to operate a massive social network without seeing any substantial successes. Signs that things are not as rosy as they could be lie in the staleness of content across the network. A look through the Google+ pages for major US brands shows a veritable graveyard of content. As an example, this last Cinco de Mayo, pizza giant Dominos launched a full scale marketing event on its Facebook page, complete with guacamole-themed pizza. A quick peek at their Google+ page showed content that hadn’t been updated since October of 2012. You could almost hear the crickets chirping.

Without the support of major brands, it’s difficult to see how Google+ can survive the long haul. 40 percent of brands on the site have posted little to no content, and 17 of the top brands have updated their pages just once in 7 days (examples include Nike and Pepsi). The McDonalds Google+ page has never been updated. That’s right, no McContent on Google+. That alone says volumes.

To complicate matters, competition is fierce, and it comes from plenty of not-so-obvious sources. Rivals like Amazon are becoming even more adept at luring corporate marketing budgets, even as Facebook continues to gobble the lion’s share. Google+ just isn’t seeing a big piece of the pie. That has to change if they expect to be a major player long term.

Looking for Silver Linings

Ever the optimists, various spokespeople for Google+ have spun a more positive tale. Gretchen Howard, director of global social solutions for the company, accurately points out that the network has been used by millions of brands and businesses, and emphasizes the social offerings that enhance the effectiveness of other Google products.

There are plenty of success stories. Howard showcases examples like automobile maker Fiat’s public launch of the new Panda model, brought to the world through a “Hangout” video. Then there’s the 40,000+ member baking community page created by Cadbury that keeps seeing nice increases in activity. Google states that the top 100 brands have amassed over 1 million followers. While that can’t begin to touch Facebook’s numbers, it still tells a pretty impressive tale.

The big draw to Google+ is, of course, their behemoth search engine. Businesses who register on Google’s social network often receive added visibility in search results, with a section of the results page showcasing Google+ profile information from the company.

Furthermore, search ads that incorporate Google+ details, like the number of users who follow a given brand, often see 5 to 10 percent increases in click-through rates. The news is clearly not all bad, but is it good enough to propel continued forward movement?

Give the People What They Want

Google+ would stand a far better chance at giving Facebook a good run for their money if they actually had a feature-rich site. One of the major complaints about Google+, besides lack of traffic, lies in the myriad technical failures. They have had no shortage of issues with the site, and many simply prefer the more flexible experiences available on Facebook.

Users feel Google+ is just too restrictive. Profile pages, as an example, are far more limited than on other social networks, because they do not support iFrame, which is a standard web tool that allows multiple pages to be embedded with a main page. Google+ is more controlling. Earlier this year, they finally rolled out a sign-in feature like Facebook Connect, with the hope that major brands would implement and encourage more traffic and connectivity to the site. Those needles have yet to move significantly, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Google does promise that issues are being addressed, and slowly but surely, that does seem to be true. Howard states that the company is tackling a “wish list” from businesses, with plans to roll out many new features in the coming months.

Is the Future Bright for Google+?

About a year ago, Mashable ranked the ‘10 Brands Making the Most of Google+. The good news for Google is that every last one of those brands still has a strong presence, with content updated daily. It stands to reason that these companies have seen ROIs, or why would they continue to maintain their efforts? So what do they know that others don’t? That remains to be seen, but it is at least a sign that all is not lost.

That said, Nielsen Media Research reports that the average US visitor on Google+ spent 6 minutes and 47 seconds on the site during the month of March. Facebook’s stats? Over 6 hours.

Greg Finn, director of marketing at Cypress North, an SEO firm, has an excellent grip on the current value of Google+. “Right now,” states Finn, “the value isn’t in the network itself, it’s in what it can do for the search results.” And that’s the moral of the story for today’s businesses. Yes, you need to have a presence on Google+, for the sole reason of increasing your SEO stock. But do you need to launch full scale campaigns that match your Facebook efforts? Likely not, unless you’re a visionary who can see beyond the current fog. If that’s the case, please enlighten the rest of us, because the view right now just doesn’t look bright.

Tell us about your experience with, and views on, Google+ in the Comments section.


Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.

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Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile

31 Comments

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  • I am from Lebanon Middle East and very satisfied from my Google plus. And am getting a lot from it: such TV interview and article in a mag and more…

  • Hi,
    Just a short background note first, it may help to understand my point. I am not a Social Network fan and simply hate the idea of it and especially the frivolous and silly comments one can find on Facebook. I do try to breed Facebook (& G+) pages for my websites but only with SEO as target. My opinion may thus be different.

    I think G+ is a better solution for many businesses who are “forced into” social media. Its restrictions you mentioned in the article are a + as they limit competition and the huge resources businesses cannot always afford to invest into.

    G+ is better for some businesses, namely hospitality / travel because of its “merging” with local / places (in place of Foursquare & Pinterest,) YouTube, and comments (in place of Tripadvisor), giving hope to businesses that in the future G+ would be the single platform to feed and dedicate resources to.

    Also better for industries addressing the higher age groups. Users of G+ are preserved from the childish “niiiiicccees” of the Facebook pages.

    What G+ made better than others is in “verifying” businesses and people which makes G+ profiles and pages more reliable and of better quality.

    I am not happy about G ruling the world but I must say they do things pretty well and although your article is all true, I believe G+ is the place in which to invest time and resources.

    Regards

    Bernard

  • google plus with its features is truly sophisticated and very useful for big companies, but in some countries which have hundred million people like Indonesia where the internet infrastructure still in 3G HSDPA .. it is hard to access .

    with the feature G+ Button .. many web owners just click it and many Android users just do the same .. no wonder that the average use on facebook is 6 hours and 6 minutes on google plus.

  • I couldn’t agree more, Tina. G+ is good for webmasters such as myself. I can improve search for my clients with authorship but as far as the common user goes, what is the incentive?

    Sure the platform is gaining ground in some areas but let’s be honest,there are forums for webmasters to discuss this and that. G+ ironically feels like a place to add social links. Erm isn’t this what Google wants users to stop doing ?

  • Great article!
    Here is the REAL truth. When a website gets a penalty and millions have them the Google local results are not affected because they are the Google+ results you speak about in this article. If your site is bad why let you have top placement in Local? because the real intention is to keep trying to push everyone on to the platform. If it were not for the fact that SEO is so important it would have died long ago like 95% of Google’s other poor attempts to steal market share from others.

    It always comes back to one thing in the end. Google always uses ranking factor in its organic search to bully users into using its inferior services. This generally means the creation of worthless content or spam to fill a need because we all know too few people are looking at it for anyone to care.

    Google has burnt to many bridges with the early adopters of their products over the years and those are the people that will make or break it.

    The mass majority of people that still see a good side to the way Google conducts its business are their searchers that love their free service and do not own a blog/website etc.. They will not be the people that adopt a new service like Google+ as it is complicated and offers them no real social value.

    Google is very good at spouting out things like “if your site offers no real value then why should it get high positions in organic search” I agree, but they do not see how that same statement relates to their own products. Instead they violate their own rules and force it upon people by making it and SEO factor.

    Most people would not associate Google local with Google+ also Google forced all its Gmail users to become Google+ users just to give the impression they are growing.

    Google also purposely shows you the “Sign IN” button when you are signed in many times to give the impression you are NOT signed in because so many people want to be signed out of Google when not checking emails.

    Google is sneaky, they lie and they fail on almost everything they do because they do not have the business communities support anymore. People want diversity to lessen the potential risk that Google can make a quick algorithmic change and without notice destroy your business overnight forcing you to use adwords the only thing that actually makes them any money.

    It will not be long before Google+ local listings are monetised for enhancements etc.. then overtime everything above the fold will be paid for. That will see the end to the internet that we all used to know and love where anyone with an idea could make it with just an idea and no budget. It impacts the entry levels of all new companies challenging existing current ones and forces higher prices on everything we buy online. Every product that you buy online that is found through Google will have incurred an additional marketing cost of Google Adwords. thus driving up prices all over world in times of economic issues.

    If you Google did not control a staggering share of the search market many would have focused their efforts on other marketing opportunities. Until there is a shift Google will continue to churn out crap services that we don’t want and force them on us via SEO benefits.

    Lets hope Bing, Yahoo, Blekko, DuckDuckGo can actually make some strong market moves, only when Google has a real danger will it start to behave as a company or suffer its fate.

    Google+ LOL! No Thanks.

    • That’s why I have and will continue to file anti-trust complaints agains these Google and so should you!

  • I Find Google+ a valuable marketing tool and having been using it since its inception. I find anything I post on there quickly shows up in search. Also Linking my website with the google authorship as well its all good and can only get better. As i always say Google loves Google if you know what i mean?

  • Google+ doesn’t grab me. I was an enthusiastic early user, but hardly bother with it now. Unless you have a dedicated social media person on your team there is no chance of of keeping Google+ and Facebook, not to mention Twitter, updated. I have Google+ and Twitter for SEO reasons, but find Google+ rather cumbersome compared to Facebook and simply haven’t got the time!

  • Good, insightful post, Tina. I think comparing G+ to Facebook is difficult because they don’t have the same audiences. Everyone is on Facebook making it good platform for huge B2C brands, while G+ has a much higher presence of people into technology, marketing and business making it a better platform for B2B brands at the moment.

    In that sense, I think G+ is more comparable to LinkedIn. And while LinkedIn and G+ are both smaller than Facebook, people are on LinkedIn and G+ to make connections and money, and not to play Candy Crush and post pictures of their cats, which makes the value per user and value per time spent per user more valuable.

  • Google plus is aiming at building communities and what’s more it is building some great ones where likeminded individuals can share content for learning. The ,world doesn’t need another vapid “fun” site whjere people share pointless memes.

    From and SEO point of view G+ is proving to be invaluable for business owners who are pro-active. those who create content and link to the google plus profile will actually end up winning out in terms of search. Those who don’t embrace could, in time see their offerings slide in favour of sites who put their users in touch with the author.

  • When will google make a business authorship available? I can get a photo to appear in the search results if it contains a face. But if I try to use a logo for a business, it doesnt appear.

    As a business owner, I signed up for google+ for any search advantage.

  • I agree with everybody.
    Google+ is a late comer in the game. And, mediocre or not, is mostly a place for SEO/webmasters/business owners. Is not a fair game…but who says Google is anything but fair these days?

    And maybe you read about the Carousel, which comes in 2 versions: knowledge graph or places. It started to be rolled out in the last week in US.

    On top of the paid ads and map results is the Carousel! In which, of course, you have a chance to show up only if you have a good Plus page. And for some type of businesses, a Plus page with good reviews.

    So, Plus might be mediocre, but the push for it is anything but that!

  • Google + is a sad joke. I use it for SEO because I must. In fact, I use Google only out of necessity. Google has fallen prey to ALL the bad impulses and habits of Robber Barons and will sooner or later lose an Anti-Trust defense–and the sooner the better. Bing is my search provider of choice and I pray for Google’s comeuppance daily.

    I have filed anti-trust complaints against Google and so should you!

  • Google+ is not a social network, it’s an identity system. Any social network activity is a bonus

  • I agree with Paul, plus add those fake accounts that was made by service providers selling FB likes and shares.

  • I think it is there for the long haul and in no hurry. People will have to keep coming to Google+ to take advantage of other Google features. Eventually, it will gain momentum, but has nothing to lose and no reason to hurry.

  • Google’s attitude sucks. They have evolved into a fascist company. Trying to monopolize all aspects, of the internet. Invading privacy, selling info to the liberal administration, hiding profits and not paying their fair share of taxes. Over paying their gaggle of employees to adopt their leftist ideology. All the while these nimrods are trying to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks with little or no thought of repercussions to the little guy.Their petty war with SEO has caused thousands if not millions of small businesses to lose money or go out of business with their idiotic Panda and Penguin. They are drunk on their own power.They only way you can even talk to Google is when you are giving them money to add to the billions they are hiding offshore.

  • Well its true that G+ is not really getting hot as other social network as at now but i sure know that the future is bright for this social network because i strongly believe that with the help of webmasters utilizing this google social network they will make it come to limelight without knowing.

    Considering facebook as at now, i dont think that network is really slacking because they tend to bring in more and genuine things which we dont see yet at other networks and also recently they introduced the hash tag features.

    My conclusion is that if G+ wants to meet and win the race it should come out with a scarce but demanding features that will attract everyone.

  • One problem is that Google won’t let Hootsuite and similar apps post updates. It’s a pain to update it separately.
    I tried to use a Google hangout to introduce a new product and it crashed horribly. Big embarrassment. It worked great in testing.

    • Kevin, excellent point, I should have included that in the article. I am very annoyed by that decision as well – it smacks of elitism (the kind that hurt Apple in the beginning as well.) Thanks for the comment!
      Tina

    • I find it annoying that G+ doesn’t allow posting through 3rd party tools, but in their defense, that is a big part of the reason why Google is succeeding where they failed in the past. Google Buzz allowed 3rd party posting and virtually everyone routed their tweets to Buzz. Nobody went to Buzz to listen or engaged, and that led to its downfall. By forcing users to go to G+ to post, G+ is fostering the engagement their previous social media products lacked.

  • As part of our social media marketing for IntellegoJobs, I am immersed heavily into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Many followers, friends, and connections on all of these. The intellectual level of users of Google+ seems to be higher then the others. It should also be noted that the number of Facebook users is steadily dropping, while the number of Google+ users is increasing. So the whole premise to the article here to me does not make sense. I do not see the mediocrity of Google+, and for me, it is the preferred social media platform.

  • I like to use Google to do promotion, to do foreign trade promotion, the Google gave me the benefits are greatest.

  • I think Google in many places are simpler than some other software, and this is the main reason I would choose it.

  • Each social media has its own peculiar characteristics. It is only when businesses understand the characteristic of each network can they maximize to their benefits. Google+ is no Facebook where people post status updates. Google + is more of business networking than posting of updates. We don’t expect every network to be like Facebook

  • I think g+ is great for new and small businesses. The best thing in g+ is communities, you can easily grab attention of relevant audience from communities. Facebook also has communities but they are not as good as g+ communities.

  • Google Plus is an excellent social network and excellent feature from Google. Really loved:-)

  • Looking at present conditions,
    could Google+ can compete with
    facebook?

  • Google plus is one of the best social networking site in this moment. It is really handy to have google plus business or personal page for branding.
    According to me, Google plus can be best social platform compare to Facebook.

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