Is Google Plus Still Relevant?
Written by Top Draw guest contributor Dan Taylor
When Google+ launched in 2011, it did so with great expectations that it would compete with Facebook. It quickly reached a million users, and within a month had grown to a user base of 25 million.
It wasn’t just the social aspect that saw businesses and marketers quickly adopting the platform, it was once proclaimed in most circles that ‘Google+ was the best social network to be on, and being on it could give your SEO a boost’.
By 2014, Google+ was boasting 540 million MAU (monthly active users), but rather than users spending time on Google+, the active users were on other Google products (such as YouTube, in which a Google+ profile was needed in order to contribute to the YouTube community). This relationship between the two was eventually severed in 2015.
2015 was also an interesting year for Google+ before it’s facelift and redesign in November, G+ entered a period of ambiguity. Facebook and Twitter were going from strength to strength, enhancing their user interfaces, improving their video offerings and analytics. The only thing that G+ gained was doubt and questions about the platform’s long-term validity. Google went about trying to answer these doubts and split the platform into two separate parts: photos and streams. From these announcements, speculation mounted as to whether or not it would be discontinued, much like Google’s previous forays into social media.
So the question is: should marketers and brands continue to spend time and effort sharing content and being active on Google+, or should they focus on other channels such as Facebook, Twitter and the other main platforms?
The answer is yes, yes to Google+. It still has 20 million unique MAU, which isn’t to be sniffed at, but there are many reasons why you should keep Google+ part of your social media marketing.
Google+ & SERP Presence
It’s a well known fact that Google integrates Google+ content into its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It’s common to find a brand’s Google+ page within SERPs. If you’re logged into your Google+ when you search, you’ll see additional G+ posts from accounts that you follow (if their post relates to your search query). The key takeaway from this is that G+ has some influence on the results that it presents users.
This is a relatively new feature to G+, and it allows users to create a page within a page. Customise it with a name and header image, and from here you can post content about specific topics in one place — very similar to how on Pinterest, you can have different boards for different topics.
This is a great way to segment your content rather than sharing to a wide, un-targeted audience. Collections also enable you to save posts for future reading, similar to Facebook. This opens up a layer of social sharing — users have the ability to create private communities that only they, and other select members, can share posts within.
Hangouts is a very popular communication platform that enables brands and content producers to record and stream webinars (despite the fact that it too was decoupled from Google+). If video and vlogs are a part of your marketing strategy then this feature should not be ignored. Producers are able to promote planned hangouts using their G+ page along with other platforms.
Publishing your content on G+ with links back to your site is a good way to drive traffic to your site. One reason being that Google+ posts appear in the search results. Now there is the argument of whether or not Google actually favours G+ posts over Facebook and other social platforms. Well, my stance on this comes down to a statement made by Luke McKend of Google South Africa in 2012:
“It’s not that we favor Google+, it’s just that we are unable to get data out of other social media sites such as Facebook. It is a commercial issue between Google and those social sites. If we can’t see the data, we can’t use it as part of the search rankings.”
Google Local Reviews
Google My Business/Local Pages are an integral marketing tool for any business that wants to acquire customers online, especially if it has one or more physical retail stores or service centres. These pages are fully integrated into Google search results and can often appear in position one as a call out box. Strengthening your G+ profile will also strengthen your authority, which again will further assist your organic visibility.
2016 will be an interesting year for the platform, after the decoupling of G+ and other Google products in 2015, most marketers have been left feeling anxious and unsure as to what the future holds. However, the fact that Google invested in revamping the platform in November 2015 makes me think that it still has a long-term future.
Dan Taylor is a UK based digital marketer and blogger with a strong background in social media, email marketing and SEO. Currently working as an account manager within an SEO agency, Dan has a real passion for digital communications and the latest trends, practices, opinions and tech.