Hi! My name is Kelly and I’m relatively new here at The Content Factory. After a few weeks of getting my feet wet (literally) with research and writing assignments, our owner, Kari DePhillips, plunged me into the deep end with the following challenge: write the end-all, be-all guide to Google+ marketing for business.
Now, I’m always up for a good challenge, and being new around here, I definitely wanted to knock this one out of the park. However, I had some concerns. First of all, despite having a few years of basic social media management under my belt, I’d never really done much with Google+. It was largely new to me. And second of all, the vast majority of what I’d been hearing about Google+ over the past couple of years had not been particularly positive.
Launched with much fanfare in 2011, Google+ was expected to challenge Facebook and disrupt social sharing by creating, not just a new social media platform, but one profile to integrate Google’s other products from Youtube to Gmail to Hang Outs. Four years later, among backlash from users, a litany of setbacks and missteps, and abysmal user rates, there is a growing consensus in the industry that Google+ is proving to be a failed experiment. Over the last couple of months, Forbes, Tech Crunch, and Business Insider have all declared Google+ to be dead — or at least on life support.
I found myself in an interesting position. I wanted to do a good job, but I was worried that it didn’t make sense to write the ultimate how-to guide to Google+ for business when the rest of the industry seemed ready to write its post mortem. If I was going to proceed, I was going to need to see some proof of life. I had to start with the obvious question:
Is Google+ Dead?
As I began my research, things were looking pretty grim. The unavoidable fact is that, when it comes to what Google was hoping that Google+ would be, Google+ has failed on almost every imaginable level. Although Google continues to downplay these failures, the rolling back and elimination of key functionality as well as the shuffling of large chunks of the Google+ team to other projects seems to tell a different story. Let’s look at the evidence:
1. Google+ is Now Decoupled from other Google Products. One of the major miscalculations that Google made in the launching of Google+ was the extent to which people actually want to have an integrated identity across all the Google platforms. It’s convenient to be able to log into all of Google’s products with one account, but for a lot of people not being able to compartmentalize their personal and professional profiles was less than ideal.
Nowhere was this more evident than on Youtube. In 2013, Google introduced Google+ comments in an attempt to mitigate the trolling that goes on in the comments section. Youtube users overwhelmingly disliked this change and in July of 2015 Google announced that users will no longer need a Google+ account to comment and share content on Youtube.
Youtube isn’t the only Google product that is getting some distance from Google+. Over the last few months Google has quietly decoupled Google+ from its other platforms and new Google accounts no longer require users to sign up for a Google+ account. For a platform that was intended to integrate the Google suite of products, this is a massive failure.
2. Google Authorship Eliminated. In 2011, the industry was abuzz about Google Authorship, a feature that made it possible for users to claim the content they had created by tying it to their Google+ accounts. The basic idea behind this was that, while the Google algorithm is very good at recognizing which websites are trustworthy sources, it had no way of recognizing which individual content creators were trustworthy. By allowing users to claim their content, writers would hypothetically be able to build credibility with Google in much the same way that websites do.
The keyword here is “hypothetically.” By late 2013, despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that Authorship contributed little in terms of Google rank, the experts were breathlessly predicting that Authorship was about to become THE next big thing in SEO. However, low adoption rates, low value add to searchers, as well as some mobile compatibility issues quickly spelled the end for Google Authorship. By August of the next year, it was dead.
3. Stunningly Low User Rates. In April of 2015, the results from the largest ever study of Google+ profiles were released and the numbers were sobering. While Google’s policy of automatically setting up a Google+ profile for users resulted in 2.2 billion user profiles, the overwhelming majority of those users never filled out their profile. In fact, the study showed that a shocking 90.1% of valid profiles have no content at all. Even more revealing was that of the 111 million profiles that were active, only 6.7 million accounts had 50 posts total and only 3.5 million had 50 posts in the last 30 days. After four years of setbacks and missteps, the social media platform that was supposed to challenge the Facebook juggernaut was a relative ghost town.
Why Google+ Marketing is Still Important
But wait! Didn’t I just get done saying that Google+ was dead? Well, yes and no. For business owners and marketers, whether or not Google has succeeded in realizing its initial vision for Google+ is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether or not Google+ marketing can be leveraged to grow your business –and the answer is still a resounding “yes!” Here’s why:
1. High Google Rankings are Critical to Any Successful Marketing Strategy. If you want to grow your business, the importance of Google SERP Rank for any marketing strategy really can’t be overstated. Google owns a staggering 65%-75% of all search engine market shares. When we’re talking about search, we might as well just be talking about Google, and search traffic is key when it comes to building a digital marketing strategy.
This is because search engine queries are the main source of traffic to content sites, beating social media by 300%. Your social media game can be on point, but if you aren’t highly ranked by Google for some carefully targeted keywords, your business is missing out on an enormous amount of traffic — and money. In fact, leads that find a business through search have a close rate of 14.6%, compared to a close rate of 1.7% for outbound leads, so making sure that the right people are finding your business through search is crucial.
To make sure that your business is being seen, you have to nab a top spot. 75% of search engine users never scroll past the first page of search results and the vast majority of clicks go to the sites in the top three spots. 18% of clicks go to the first result, 10% go to the second result, and 7% go to the third result. With an enormous amount of businesses all vying for a high ranking for a limited amount of relevant keywords, business owners and marketers need to take advantage of every and any tool that can give them the edge. Google+ marketing is exactly the powerful tool you’ve been looking for.
2. Social Sharing is Positively Correlated with High Google Rank. Google is notoriously tight-lipped about the specifics of their ranking algorithm, and every year the major SEO houses release lengthy reports analyzing the data to try to determine which factors contribute most to a website’s ranking. The current evidence shows that while social sharing counts are probably not directly included in the algorithm, there is still a high correlation between social sharing (particularly +1’s and Facebook shares) and Google rank. Experts have speculated that this correlation could be as simple as the fact that high-quality content tends to be shared more. Whatever the case, social sharing is important, and the more your content is shared, the better. Google+, as you’ll see below, isn’t just a platform for social sharing, it’s maybe the best platform for social sharing and Google+ marketing is essential to any solid social media marketing strategy.
3. Google+ is Built for SEO. From the beginning, there’s always been some speculation that Google “cheats” to elevate content that is posted to Google+ in an attempt to give their platform a competitive edge. However, if you dive into the mechanics of the platform itself it becomes clear that the advantage of Google+ marketing comes from the fact that, unlike Facebook and Twitter, it was built from ground up with SEO in mind.
Here’s a quick overview of how Google+’s SEO is head-and-shoulders above the pack:
Google+ posts are crawled and indexed. This is a huge advantage, especially when you consider that the privacy settings and data sharing restrictions on Facebook and Twitter posts mean that the vast majority of them will never been indexed at all. This means that when it comes to Google+ marketing, posts on that platform have the ability to build PageRank while posts on other social media sites are lost forever in the ether.
Google+ posts pass on link equity. Not only are your Google+ posts building PageRank, but because all shared links on Google+ are followed they are able to pass on link equity as well.
Google+ posts are an SEO dream. From individual URLs, to title tags, to anchor text, to the ability to build internal links through sharing, Google+ posts have everything you could ever want to get your content indexed and recognized as important by Google. The best part is that it’s all built in, so you don’t even need to know what any of those words mean to start reaping the benefits of Google+ marketing.
A New Google+
In November 2015, Google began to rollout a new, streamlined version of Google+. This new incarnation marks a major shift for the platform. The redesign puts Communities and Collections front and center, while scaling down personal profiles and eliminating Circles. The end result is a platform that functions much more like a high-end Pinterest/Twitter hybrid than the Facebook competitor it was originally conceived to be.
While many critics will point to this change as further evidence of the failure of Google+, by pivoting toward the aspects of the platform that were working and eliminating the rest, Google has the chance to breathe new life into Google+. Whether or not these changes will mark a major turnaround for Google+ remains to be seen, but the new version of the platform is undeniably more intuitive and streamlined. If Google can convince users to give Google+ another look, the best days of the platform may be yet to come.
Viva la Google+ Marketing!
The takeaway here is that, even though Google+ may have turned out to be an epic fail for Google, it can still be a major win for your business. In the ongoing battle for PageRank, Google+ marketing is a powerful weapon — because it was built to be.
If you’re serious about SEO, you need to be serious about Google+ marketing — and that’s a fact that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Prefer to outsource social media? We’ve got a a couple of pricing guides you might be interested in, both for professional social media marketing tools and small business social media marketing.
Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming Guide to Google+ Marketing — now that I know Google+ is worth digging into, my next project is going to show you how to leverage the platform to get more leads and grow your business.