It wasn’t that long ago that Google+ was considered the most important social media platform for Search Engine Optimization. Logically, it only made sense. Google is the largest and most influential search engine in the world, and dictates the factors responsible for ranking highly on its platform. With its own social media platform in place, Google could give better search visibility to brands and marketers that used Google+.
For a while, that was true. Companies that posted content on Google+ saw a range of benefits, including higher search rankings and more visibility with Author profile images embedded on the search results page. But Google+’s popularity never quite saw the growth that it would have needed to become a major competitor for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Gradually, Google+ waned in power, and today, it’s a virtually dead platform. So what does this mean for social media managers who have invested in Google+ as a prominent SEO channel, and for companies looking to break into the social SEO scene?
The Old Line of Thinking
Many believed Google+ would be the social platform to end all social platforms, due largely to the fact that it was Google. At one point, Google+ sign-up was a mandatory part of creating a Google account, and businesses with Google+ profiles ranked higher than those without them.
With Google Authorship, a single author’s profile could be attached to articles on any participating site, and those articles would rank higher and get more visibility because of the attached author image and bio on the search results page.
But when Google did away with this feature, first by removing Author Analytics and then by removing the author picture and bio, many took it as a sign of the opposite: Google’s admission of defeat. The previous head of Google+ left the company shortly after these changes, further strengthening the belief that Google+ was dead in the water.
Bits and Pieces
In some ways, Google+ is dead, but pieces of it will live on. Rather than being destroyed completely or abandoned to wither away in users and relevancy on its own, the social platform is being dismantled and recycled for several related purposes.
The Google+ brand still exists, collecting a number of different social functions together, but soon these functions will stand independent from one another.
For example, Google+’s “Photos” is now a place where individuals can share and view each other’s images (and different than Picasa for storing and editing your photos), and “Streams” is where to go for video-chatting. Bradley Horowitz is now overseeing the management of the Google+ brand, and his intentions appear to indicate a desire to strip Google+ for parts.
Avenues for Content Promotion
Though the authoritative power of Authorship is dead and never coming back, Google+ can still be used in most of its social contexts. It’s possible to, with an individual account, share articles and links to your website for others to see. It’s also possible and advisable to establish a company page through Google+, as it serves Google basic biographical information about your company which it can display in search results.
Google uses social signals to track and analyze the impact and reach of different brands. For example, brands with large followings and large numbers of interactions on multiple social platforms rank much higher than similar brands without such social presence.
In fact, according to an infographic published at AudienceBloom, Google +1s had the highest ranking correlation—in each of two independent correlation studies—among all the tested factors.
While it’s unclear exactly what social signals are factored into Google’s algorithm, it is clear that the more visibility you can get for your content, the better. As of now, Google is still regarding its own Google+ in terms of how much reach and attention each brand is getting, so it’s definitely worth using as a system of content promotion, even though as a system of content creation it’s declining from bad to worse.
Google+ was never popular, and that’s why it’s being dismantled the way it is. Since more and more functions of Google+ are being separated into their own respective areas, it’s likely that the slim number of users currently on the platform will continue to decline even further. Keep this in mind if you do choose to use Google+ as an avenue for content syndication. If you use a post scheduler to do all the work for you, it won’t hurt to have Google+ as a separate channel, but be wary not to spend too much time on it.
The Bottom Line
Google+ is on its way out, though the name and core functionality will likely stick around for a while. The platform will never have the amount of impact it was purported to one day achieve, and if you continue to invest time and money into Google+ as a major element of your SEO campaign, you will continue to see declining returns. Authorship, the biggest original selling point of the platform, is almost entirely defunct, and using Google+ as a means of content creation is virtually useless.
Nevertheless, there are some benefits to remaining on Google+. It’s still worthwhile as a channel for promoting your existing content, establishing your business information, and communicating with others (assuming they’re on the platform) due to its “Hangouts” functionality. Author Rank may still be a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm working behind the scenes, drawing data from Google+. But even in the short term, remember that Google+’s user count is low and falling; taper your strategies accordingly.