Of late it seems I can barely go a day without bad mouthing Google+
Not only does G+ fail to blow my skirt up, furthermore I rather enjoy poking fun at it and on occasion* being out and out nasty about it.*These ‘occasions’ are actually pretty frequent.
Want to know what my problem is?
Hold on to your
Google are making you their bitch.
Google are using a pretty common marketing tactic – engaging with influencers in order to gain traction.
They’ve given us SEOs a bunch of reasons to care about Google+, stuff like enhanced rankings for content with ‘+1s’ via personalised search; all of which are of course very exciting; but is any of this stuff really benefiting sites?
Problem is there’s no one there but us…
Not a single one of my friends outside the industry are there. Most are on Facey, many are on Twitter, but not a single solitary one of them has even thought about heading to Google+. And even if they did venture there, given that none of their friends are there they’d leave pretty darn quickly…
And therein lies the problem.
This is a quote from Why I Left Google, a post by James Whittaker – his teenage daughter explains the situation really very eloquently:
I couldn’t even get my own teenage daughter to look at Google+ twice, “social isn’t a product,” she told me after I gave her a demo, “social is people and the people are on Facebook.”
And there’s the rub.
If ‘normal’ people’s friends aren’t on Google+ not only is it useless as a social network; but also the SEO benefits also disappear… If ‘normal’ people aren’t +1-ing stuff, then other normal people aren’t going to see results influenced.
Furthermore, even Google themselves seem to be pulling back on Google+’s influence on search results.
Remember January and ‘search plus your world‘? (is it just me that struggles to write that and keep my gag reflex in check?). Remember what Rand was seeing when he Googled stuff back then? His Google+ profile used to outrank everything else.
Remember how Google were criticised?
Here’s what I and my colleagues are seeing for logged in searches for Rand Fishkin in the UK right now:
And here’s what the Kate Morris sees in the US:
Yep, it’s different. Kate’s seeing a knowledge graph box which links to his Google+ which I’m not seeing right now. I do see that knowledge graph box if I elect to click on ‘see results about Rand Fishkin’ – but not otherwise. Boxes aside, both Kate and I see Rand’s Google+ profile on page 2 of the regular SERP.
Overall it seems to me they’ve been dialling back on Google+ – the pervasiveness we once saw isn’t as, well, pervasive.
Well firstly because they totally over-egged the pudding (this is British for over did it). But secondly (perhaps) because it wasn’t the great user-experience they’d hoped it would be. Which leads me nicely to my next point.
If it’s not good for users this stuff disappears…
I remember when universal search launched in the UK – for a while you could rank for ridiculously competitive terms like ‘car insurance’ with video or news. Even if you didn’t deserve to. Trouble was, Google quickly realised that people searching for ‘car insurance’ wanted to just bloody buy car insurance not watch videos or read news. As a result that SERP no longer has video or news results.
I wonder if something similar might happen for other transactional queries in the future. Right now should one of your network +1 a transactional page, you might see it artificially rank higher when you search. But if that doesn’t positively influence CTR then it’s conceivable that +1 annotations might disappear for transactional queries.
Now that might be just fine with you. But if you were hoping to influence transactional SERPs then it might be bad news.
Like I said, Google is making you their bitch.
I think that they are playing you.
Google need Google+ and they’re pulling your strings.
Now of course we all know that Google+ exists only for Google’s benefit – frankly who else is it likely to benefit? Google are a corporation not a charity. Whilst I don’t have an issue with this in and of itself it kind of pisses me off that Google are seemingly relying on the likes of me and you, dear readers to promote their craphat social network for them.
Are Google paying you for that service? Nuh uh.
Am I saying you should ignore the whole damn thing?
What are you saying then?
When I talk to companies about social media strategy, my advice is always the same. Figure out where your audience already are and to go engage with them there.
If your audience aren’t already on Google+ should you be pushing them there? Probably not. Not because you’re making yourself Google’s bitch (although you shouldn’t be loving that anyway) – mainly because you’ll fail.
If your audience don’t want to play on Google+ that’s cool. Go hang out with them where they do want to play. Get yourself on Google+ and maintain a presence for sure; but split your time sensibly. Spend the majority of your time on the social networks your customers / prospects use already.
Of course if your target audience are already on Google+, then great. But if they’re not don’t make it your mission to convert them to a platform they don’t care about.
A final thought for you…
It seems that even Google’s employees aren’t feeling Google+ one third of Google Employees haven’t posted to Google+ in the past month – maybe they’re too busy on Facebook, huh?
And so dear readers over to you; I’d love to hear what you think.
PS – the irony of the call to action to come hang out with me on Google+ at the bottom of this post has not escaped me. It’s totally fine with me if you don’t want to do that.