Google+ is now more than a year old. While Google reports that its user base continues to grow, in general user activity has remained stagnant.
That said, SEOs and brands are frantically looking for ways to integrate Google+ into their programs. Secure search coupled with Google+ personalized search has pushed us into a world of Google social insanity.
Let’s take a look at Google+ and how we would score some of the data (in the form of pluses or minues) presented in the below examples.
Google+ User Growth
There are currently 250 million users on Google+ and 150 million active users (according to Google June 28, 2012). Google had predicted in January, it would have 450 million users by the end of 2012. Well, they are more than half way there right now. The question remains, however, are people really using Google+?
Better User Analytics Needed
It’s actually hard to tell who is using Google+, since Google+ really doesn’t have any insightful metrics to offer users.
Facebook certainly does with the traffic data it offers users to view about people visiting their business pages or personal pages. Facebook’s analytics are light years ahead of Google.
Why hasn’t Google set this up yet? Why wasn’t this platform built to easily integrate with Google Analytics?
As of now, one of the best ways to review Google+ data is either with external third-party tools (mentioned in the SEO section below) or the weak Google Ripples feature integrated in Google+.
User Engagement Still Lacking
According to a recent study by RJMetrics (40,000 users sample set), the average Google+ post gets about one share and one reply. This is very low engagement compared to other platforms, which are easily double or triple this type of engagement (Twitter or Facebook).
Also, during their study, they determined that 30 percent of the users who posted once, never posted again. Google has 150 million active users that apparently don’t do very much.
Google+ Platform Growth Crossroads
A recent TechCrunch article suggested that some insiders close to Google have rumored Google+ will not make any more social acquisitions for 2012. This report came shortly after Google bought Wildfire.
What exactly does this mean? Hard to say. Maybe they are investing internal resources to enhance the platform itself? Maybe it’s not performing as was forecasted by internal stakeholders. We'll see what else Google can add to the platform to engage users.
Google Hangouts have some potential with the free group chat it offers. Facebook has yet to create its own group video chat.
Google+ Mobile is a very good user experience with the integration of both social experience, mobile use and mobile ad revenue platform. Google+ is ahead of Facebook and its mobile weakness in this regard.
I expect 2013 to be the year when Google+ will really define who it is and if it can truly challenge Facebook. Facebook’s ramp up of its mobile platform will be a key factor in this area.
Google+ Forces SEO Adaption
With the above said, regardless of the direction Google+ takes, it definitely is affecting organic search. In a recent analysis of some of Covario’s top Fortune 500 clients, we have seen that organic secure personalized searches coming from Google (sometimes called ”Term Not Provided” in analytics) have spiked as high as 20 percent. Originally, Google suggested this number would be in single-digits. Well, not quite, as we are seeing almost double that now!
Also, after running some additional analysis, more than 31 percent of browser traffic for some of our big brand clients is coming from Firefox and Chrome. Both of these browsers default to secure search, if someone is logged into to Google. I would assume that a lot of sites out there are seeing similar browser behaviors, which in turn will equate to more spikes in Google secure search traffic.
Why is this important and how does this relate to Google+? Google+ and your Google circles influence personalized search results for users such as +1 for a page, a brand being part of your circles, or the potential authority of your Google+ account (speculation). In turn, this will affect a brand or sites personalized rankings.
Personalized rankings are becoming more important to ensure your organic reach extends beyond a simple non-logged in query. With the reliance on sites of Chrome, Firefox, and Google, brands and sites must ensure they are relevant on Google+ to maintain traffic share and visibility.
Even though Google+ isn't the most dominant platform right now, it definitely is the most impactful for organic search traffic and measurement. The future of the Google+ platform and its growth will be a huge factor in shaping and changing Google search and organic strategies in general.
SEO Social Strategy for Google+ … Because You Have To!
Using tools such as socialstatistics.com, you can begin to uncover mavens and influencers on Google+ to determine users who might be a good fit for your brand or site. Also, for a more in-depth analysis of how your current posts are shared, All My Plus is a great resource to find great stats and analyze your Google+ account.
My colleague Andrew Devine just issued an fascinating Google+ whitepaper that offers insights to enterprise marketers based on what our internal team uncovered about Google+ Ripples, Google+ users, and other actionable information.
Additionally, a recent Emarketer social media study reported that the top reason users follow a brand is for discounts and deals. This can be a great strategy to help potentially port people over from other social channels you own like Twitter and Facebook to engage on Google+. Offer users an incentive to join your Google+ page(s) and circles.
Darwin Said It Best…
As Charles Darwin once put it, “In the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” In a world of Google+’s and secure searches, we must collaborate and improvise. You must be the adapter and Google is the Plus Your World we must adapt to for better or for worse.
For those keeping track, our final score is: