August 1, 2013

Is Google + worth it?

Since Google + launched in Sep 2011, every few weeks/months you’ll come across reports stating how it’s growing at an astounding rate and that if your business isn’t on it, then you’re “missing out”.

I’m not so sure…

If we take a look at the stats, then Google + has perhaps reached critical mass and is now the 2nd largest Social Media network after Facebook (it was 90m in Jan 2012). However, stats only tell half the story.

Whilst I couldn’t find any stats to confirm this, my hunch is that approx. 70% of users on Google + are professionals who have an active account only for SEO purposes (it’s no secret that having your content get plus 1s will help it’s rankings).

By professionals, I mean either online marketing professionals or business owners who understand the importance of Google + to bolster rankings.  And, the objective of opening and managing the account is almost entirely for SEO, not to generate leads, build relationships or loyalty and other strategic goals that Social Media networks are most well-suited for. And, that includes me.

What this means is that the reason for any likes or shares (to put it in generic terms) you’ll generate on Google’s Social Media network is largely a result of professionals out there to help each other as opposed to Facebook, for example where the same effect is most likely the cause of a piece of content ‘worth sharing’.

It’s the same story when it comes to lead-generation.  If you’re putting in the time and effort to produce great content that adds value to the reader in some way, there’s a much better chance of generating any leads on Facebook or twitter than on Google +.

But what about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you ask?

Social Signals are a very real part of the ranking factor and that includes Google + and also other major networks – Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and so on.

As much as Google would like it’s Social Media network to become the Social Media network of choice, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to do so at the risk of sacrificing the quality of it’s search results (meaning giving better rankings to a piece of content liked/shared on it’s own network compared to Facebook, for example, assuming all other variables remain constant).

So, I doubt that a piece of content receiving the same x likes on Google will rank higher compared to another piece receiving same amount of likes on Facebook as Google will be well aware that the likes on latter is probably more ‘genuine’, at least for the time being, and giving it any less importance will mean affecting the quality of it’s search results.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you’re considering Google + for purely SEO purposes, then it’s probably worth it.  However, if you want to incorporate Social Media into your online marketing strategy because you understand the importance of it, then your investment has a better chance of giving you a higher return on Facebook or twitter. And, that includes SEO.

So, what is Google + good for?

First and foremost, I love the Authorship feature as its great for increasing Click Through rates from the results page.  And, it certainly has helped increase Domain Authority and overall rankings of any domain we have verified, ours and/or our clients.

I definitely recommend it.  Claiming authorship is dead easy as well. Wishpond created a pretty useful ebook which you may wish to download.

Google + is also great as a networking opportunity as it largely comprises of professionals from all fields which you can leverage to create mutually beneficial partnerships for marketing, cross promotion and so on.

At the risk of contradicting everything I said above, I did generate a lead via Google+! How? Remember when you opened your Facebook account, you started connecting with friends from school or elsewhere who you haven’t spoken to for ages and then you got together? Well the same thing happened here. Once I sent the invite to all my contacts, some of our very first clients got in touch who we haven’t worked with for quite some time one of which eventually resulted in some new business.

Not sure I should be thanking Google+ for that however 😉

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About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.