June 3, 2015
This has become a common question: Is Google+ dying as a social network? You’ve heard the pundits say, “Google+ is a dead network. Google + is on the way out. Google is dismantling Google +. No one is using it. It’s a ghost town.” Today the naysayers are pointing out that Google is dismantling parts of Google+ by removing key elements of its social network. Well, there is good news, bad news and ugly news coming and in this blog, I will explore and prognosticate on Google’s latest changes as it evolves into something new to fit Google’s overall Internet strategy.
The Good News
Google+ is indeed undergoing major changes, but it is not going away any time soon. The pundits were wrong before when they said Google+ was a ghost town (unless you believe 300+ million active users constitutes one) and they will be wrong again here ― see my previous article, “The Ghost Says Boo.” Actually, I believe many of the pundits are missing the point with Google+. At Working the Web to Win, we pay attention to any social network that has over 250 million subscribers. We believe in fishing in ponds that have lots of fish, or in this case a large number of subscribers. Google has a different strategy altogether than Facebook, Twitter or any of the other large social networks. Google is the giant Leviathan of the internet and has their tentacles in everything. Google’s main money maker is paid position search and ad networks. Having many web properties provides allows them to leverage network advertising as a value add for their advertisers. Besides, like all large companies, they can and will change things often. This is because the corporate power structure shifts, ushering in a different direction and new mindset.
Often, we at Working the Web to Win compare our marketing system with that of Ulysses S. Grant. General Grant won by overwhelming his adversaries by bringing a greater number of soldiers, weapons, munitions and supplies to the battle. In other words, he beat them with superior numbers. Google has done this as well by having as many web properties in the battle for online dominance.
Business is War
Effective Internet marketing can be like warfare. Although as marketers, we are striving to make the search engines happy by providing them high quality content that is relevant, timely, useful and entertaining. We also know that this in turn creates ranking based on backlinks, “Likes”, shares and comments provided by web surfers. Winning (i.e., getting on Page One and converting prospects into customers) is based on providing superior amounts of great content.
But to get back to Google+ and why Google is removing functions from the social network, it still has access to all of Google’s properties, via a single profile log in. This includes Google Local and maps, except it now goes through Google Search. Google Search is Google’s main focal point, their hub of the World Wide Web. This makes having all their eggs in the Google+ basket not as important to the overall scheme of things. (If you’ll recall, Google folded Local into G+ a couple of years back.) As every chef knows, the only way to create something special is to play with the recipe. Besides, Google is hardly the only online entity that constantly plays with the mix. Facebook, Twitter and virtually every other social network on the planet continually play with their mix as well. The big difference is that while most social networks only have so a limited number of ingredients to work with, Google has control over many.
The Bad news
It appears Google has abandoned its fight to be the dominant social media player. Even though it has grown its user profile database to over 2.2 billion subscribers, its Google+ active user base is stagnant. In late 2013, Google+ seemed poised to go head to head with Facebook, as reports came out that the Google+ subscription rate had hit 1.01 billion. Today that number is 2.2 billion subscribers. However, it was quickly pointed out that this subscriber list had nothing to do with people using Google+. In 2013. Google had released numbers that substantiated that the active user base was between 300 and 500 million active users, depending on what constituted active. Fast forward to 2015 and these numbers are being viewed in an entirely different light. In an article by Joshua Barrie, he reports numbers from self-professed“Plusologists Edward Morbius”, that Google+’s real usage numbers are tiny compared to other networks. Here is an excerpt from the Business Insider.com article showing Edwards Morbius numbers:
- There are about 2.2 billion Google+ profiles.
- Of these, about nine percent have any publicly posted content.
- Of those, about 37 percent have comments on YouTube videos as their most recent activity, and another eight percent have profile-photo changes.
- Only six percent of active profiles have any posted activity in 2015 (18 days so far).
- Only about half of those, three percent of active profiles, are not YouTube posts.
What it comes down to it, 0.2-0.3 percent of all G+ profiles, about four to six million users, have made public posts in 2015.” Now Edward Morbiuos doesn’t provide any data for other social networks by comparing their active versus inactive users. And there are many Google+ followers that feel this is just a hatchet job on Google+. Either way, these numbers and the recent changes in Google+ cast doubt on what Google’s direction is with regard to social media. Read more: BusinessInsider.com
Now the Ugly
My business partner and I recently went onto Google+ (see we are one of the 300+ million active user who actually use this social net) to enter a Google Local review on a company page that we had just used. To our surprise Google Local was gone. The way it disappeared was even more troubling. When we clicked on the tab, it vanished. After about an hour’s worth of searching, I found that Google had moved Google Local reviews to Google Maps. Google also created “Google My Business” for businesses to create, verify and market their establishments on Google Search, Maps and Google+. This has added a new layer of confusion to business of adopting Google Local. The main reason I consider this an ugly move on Google’s part is because they gave little or no warning that this was about to happen. Our firm operates with the credo – communication with our clients is paramount. Obviously Google (and most of the other giant web companies) do not. We currently know that Google reviews are an important ranking factor in Google Search. We also know that getting a lot of positive reviews produces those wonderful “rating stars”, that show up next to your listing in Google Search. These stars can really help a search user decide to click on your listing, especially if you have a rating of 4 or 5 stars. Moving the cheese (Google Reviews) so to speak and adding another cheese (Google My Business) to the mix, doesn’t help get businesses to adopt the Google model. More importantly, it’s just another example of how Google’s monopoly allows them to do whatever they want without the courtesy of even a note to its business subscribers.
Worthwhile Google+ Facts
I am still a supporter of Google+. Having 300 million plus active users is still a big number. I am sure the 100,000 cats on Facebook would agree. There are other good reasons to be on Google+ and the first and foremost is that it is owned by the company that currently dictates most of the playing rules on the World Wide Web. Here are some current stats, about Google+ as provided by DMR Digital Marketing .
- 300 million monthly active users
- 13 percent of U.S. businesses use Google+
- Seven minutes is the average monthly time spent on Google+
- The average Google visit is three minutes and 46 seconds
- 22 percent of online adults visit Google+ at least once a month
- Ideal length of a Google+ headline for maximum engagement is 60 characters or less
Whether Google has all of its properties shared in Google+ or not won’t make the social media site go away. Google+ still has all the pieces in place to allow you to connect to Google’s many other properties like Search, Google+ Communities, Gmail, Calendar, Photos and Hangout’s. Google Search also includes feeds from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social nets. Your profiles (one of 2.2 billion today) still connects you to the multitude of Google Web properties (including Gmail, Picasa, Blogger, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Office etc….). Google + has already taken full advantage of Google search. It’s integral to its function. So are many of the other pieces we’ve grown to use to with Google+. The fact that Google has removed Google Local and moved it to Google Maps is not a surprise. This is where it was before it was incorporated into Google +.
The key to Google+’s growth and functionality is directly tied to Google’s profile accounts. This is Google’s control and tracking center. Google+ will continue to be Googles primary social communications medium like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Anyone who thinks Google is going to kill Google+ as a social network, is just not thinking Big Picture.
Hector Cisneros is the president and COO for W Squared Media Group LLC. A digital Marketing Agency in the N.E. Florida Area. He is also the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio Show Working The Web To Win. W Squared Media also does Business as Working The Web To Win online and in Florida.