Why Google+ Fails to Blow my Skirt up

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 skirts hats :)


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?


You should totally do the Google+ Local thing, the Authorship thing and what not.


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.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ludiecochrane/6314300160/sizes/m/


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.

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16 Responses to “Why Google+ Fails to Blow my Skirt up”

  1. Great article Hannah, I have shared it on Google+ to my followers for you haha!

    I agree that Google+ is very far away from actually being a ‘social network’, however I do think that it can work great for the likes of building relationships with industry relevant people. I think I could count the number of friends that are on Google+ on one hand, but the number of influential people from within the search industry is much larger. Having said that, it really depends on who you are targeting with your content.

    I wrote an article yesterday that looked at building relationships as long-term link building strategy and Google+ came in really handy there.

    Overall, great article so thanks :) I’ll ping it across to my social followers as well!

  2. Al Blurt says:

    As is the tradition, when they fail to make it a success they’ll buy another one that is already a success. (Google Video failed & bought Youtube for example)

    I have to admit it does get on my nerves a little that they persevere with it when it’s such an obvious copy at ‘trying to get in on social’ – but it is business I suppose.

    I don’t know if it was you, but someone said the other day on Twitter that they ‘didn’t want anyone to speak to them at a fancy dress party’ – so they ‘went as Google+’. Very good.

  3. Gareth says:

    Fully agree – but one extra thing, this is Google’s big data grab. They don’t know how to market a social network (or much else, for that matter), but they know how to grab as much personal data as possible (search preferences, age, likes, dislikes) and then tailor adwords even more (and charge even more for targeting demographics in adwords).
    Google+ has no visible impact on anyone’s lives outside the SEO industry – but so long as people have a profile, Google has your data & will use it

  4. Jane Cragg says:

    Interesting reading Hannah, thanks!

    When Google+ first launched, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to have the nice steady organic growth much like Facebook, however it still had potential to be a more (dare I say it) grown up social space? Potential to be more business/company orientated, so that people could interact with brands in a different way there. There was naturally all the hype of how social signals in search were going to be closely linked to Google+ and how wonderful circles were for organising your connections.

    That said, in my opinion it’s still really a playground for companies and marketing professionals. Sure there are a few other people out there on it, but like you said, none of my friends (outside of work) are there and Google don’t appear to have done anything to try and rectify this.

    Ultimately Google+ is trying to occupy a spot between Facebook and LinkedIn, and I’m not sure the space was big enough to need filling in the first place…

  5. Julie Joyce says:

    Since I enjoy talking trash about all Google properties whilst using them all nonstop I’ll say that I do like it better than I initially did but your point about who is NOT on there is a really valid one. I tend to almost only push out SEO content on G+ because that’s the audience for me there, but I’ll tweet a link to a post about music or science or talk about that on FB.

  6. Sean says:

    Google still hasn’t realized that the party that they were hyping wasn’t cool, and no one showed up. I personally can’t stand having to set up Google+ and explain to clients how and why to use it. I barely use it myself and my industry is (as you said) one of the only industries on it!

    The only good thing I see from G+ that I really think is needed (and worth it’s time) is the Google Authorship, Google+ Local, & the free followed links in the profile section. I wish it could be better but it just wasn’t executed properly. They could have instead taken that time to improve upon all of their Apps and made something from that. They didn’t need to try to create the next Facebook or Twitter, but rather create a business social work environment inside of their already used apps.

  7. Hannah says:

    Perhaps Google+ IS too complicated for the average Facebook user, but not understanding something is not justification for constantly bashing it.

    Who benefits from Google+?
    I do!
    So what many of my friends are not on it. If I want to ask them something, I can call, text, email..

    What gives Google+ the edge is being able to connect with people you don’t know, people who share your interests, your passions, and also those with completely opposing views but who you can learn from.
    Circles ensure you are only sharing with the people you want to.

    I post a lot of religious posts, pictures, discussions and so on, but only to approved circles, so when you look at my profile, it only shows a few posts this week publicly, but there are many more you can’t see.

    If you want help to learn how to use Googleplus, then give me a shout there.

  8. Hannah Smith says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m not bashing Google+ because I don’t understand it; I’m bashing it because I don’t think it’s where most companies primary audiences are and, as such those companies’ time could be better spent elsewhere :)


  9. There are plenty of gamers on Google+ – I’ve more gamer contacts there than people in the industry.

    I’m not sure there’s such a thing as “mainstream”. I think there are thousands of different niche communities out there. Facebook is “mainstream” in that it appeals to a high percentage of those communities. Google+ only appeals to some but that’s one of the reasons I like it. Less clutter. Fewer baby pictures.

    You might like Matt Ridout’s recent analysis of the top ten brands on Google+ (here). It shows brands with millions, tens of thousands, of followers. They’re not all from the digital marketing industry.

  10. Shaad Hamid says:

    As much as I agree with you, I also have to disagree with you :) My 5 bestest and closest friends are spread across 4 different timezones and therefore, are dependent on FB to keep in touch. Recently we decided to use Google hangouts and it was amazing! These 5 are now on G+ all the time and they tell me how awesome it is in terms of usability and value (no nagging friends complaining about how miserable their life is). I agree there’s not many on there (yet) compared to FB. But don’t completely discount it. It still should be a vital part of your SEO strategy. This is just the first step in Google’s quest to become a proper ‘Star Trek computer’ (in Amit Singhal’s own words).

  11. Hannah Smith says:


    Thanks for sharing that link – really interesting. I’ve certainly looked at some of the bigger brands on Google+ and whilst it looks like they’re getting engagement, as Matt’s highlighted some of it looks a bit fake.

    Totally take your point re it not just being digital marketing people there – as you say gamers, and I’d guess tech are also well represented.

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  13. Felix says:

    I’ll have to disagree with you in some aspects. First of all:

    1. If you were the owner of G+, you would have needed some ” bitches ” to promote your network for free (the SEO’s). That’s the right move they should do, and they are doing that.

    2. I have seen pages with lots of +1′s on Google plus, and i’ll give you just a few examples.


    Sure, you might say that those are huge magazines… but that proves that there are million of active users on G+. And those are just 2 examples.

  14. Barry Adams says:

    I’m with you 100% on this one, Hannah. Can’t remember the last time I used Google+ for anything else than the State of Search editorial hangouts. And even that was after Bas threatened to kick me out if I didn’t join. ;)

  15. Hannah Smith says:

    @Felix – you are of course entitled to your opinion, I just don’t fancy being anyone’s bitch, particularly not Google’s.

    To answer your second point – TechCrunch is Tech (naturally) and the Tech industry are fairly well represented on Google+. Seventeen Magazine might be a better example as I’m guessing that’s not Tech oriented.

    Nevertheless I’m not convinced the examples you gave ‘prove’ there are millions of active users on Google+. Assuming there isn’t much crossover (and I’d assume not given the diversity of the sites in question) that totals a little over 1.5 million (ok I’m being picky) – but more importantly how many of those are ‘active’? Or even real accounts?

    Lady Gaga is in 4.6 million ‘circles’ yet her ‘best’ post this month yielded only 1700 odd +1s – which is great, but again doesn’t scream millions of active users to me.

    @Barry – Ruh roh. Hope Bas doesn’t read this and kick me off the State of Search team :)

  16. Ti Roberts says:

    Lol! Oh my, I loved this article, Hannah. I definitely agree with you. I see no real use for Google+ at all really. I’m actually a self proclaimed SEO rebel, so to the supposed Google ranking benefits wouldn’t do me any good. I drive all of my traffic through social media and other alternative outlets. Yeah, I do occasionally post there and share some content I come across, but I don’t really engage on it because quite frankly I find the platform to be bland, boring, and not user friendly.

    You make SUCH a valid point about your friends not being on Google+. Why would they? It really holds not benefit for them. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome post with our BizSugar community. I really enjoyed reading it and I appreciate your insights!


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