Is Google+ the Unwanted of the Social Networking World

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Is Google+ the Unwanted of the Social Networking World

Google+ has been around for almost a year now and – shockingly enough – despite industry professionals rambling on and on about how “intuitive” and “user-friendly” the platform is, it has yet to make even the smallest dent in social networking stranglehold controlled by Facebook and Twitter.

But although the fledgling network’s only users are tech geeks and Google fanboys, that hasn’t stopped SEO experts from rolling out article after article about how important “social shares” on Google’s new social network are.

Well, I call bulls**t!

Here’s why Google+ doesn’t matter – and isn’t going to matter – from an SEO perspective any time soon…

Reason #1 – No one *wants* to participate in another social network

I don’t know about you, but right now, it’s as much as I can handle just to stay on top of my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  With conventional social media wisdom suggesting that I need to regularly post content, engage with my followers and connect with industry thought leaders in order to be effective on these sites, I’m going to need to see a pretty significant benefit to duplicating these efforts across yet another social network before I’m willing to put my time and energy Google+.

Unfortunately, Google+ doesn’t offer this compelling reason to participate!

Sure, some people say it’s a “better organized” Facebook – but I don’t need another Facebook.  I already have a Facebook account that I’ve spend years growing and developing.  My content is there and my audience is there – and from the looks of things, these followers aren’t in any big hurry to move to yet another social network either.  A quick Google search for the phrase “social network burnout” clearly demonstrates that I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by the number of sites you’re supposed to participate on.

Really, the only reason to invest time in building a Google+ presence is to increase your chances of earning higher ranks through personalized SERPs, but even that has some serious weaknesses…

Reason #2 – No one *wants* personalized results

Despite how insistent Google is on shoving social/search integrations down our throats, personalized SERPs aren’t any more useful than traditional SERPs – in fact, sometimes they’re much *less* useful.  Really, if I wanted to hear what my friends were talking about, I’d ask them!

I come to Google because I trust their algorithms to provide better results than the other search engines on the market today.  And I trust that they’re carefully parsing through thousands of potential results in order to determine which specific piece of information will best suit my needs.  Do you think my buddy put as much thought into his recommendation?  No?  Well why, then, are his “liked” pages bumping Google’s carefully curated third-party results off the front page of the SERPs?

The replacement of traditional SERP results with personalized recommendations also turns into a pretty major issue when you recognize that the audience found on Google+ is almost exclusively male.  While that isn’t an issue for an emerging social network, it becomes a big deal when you try to shoehorn user perspectives into shaping the world’s largest search engine’s results.

This isn’t the 1920s – there’s no excuse to have women’s voices so thoroughly underrepresented, especially when doing so seriously devalues the integrity of Google’s search results.  Sure, the tech SERPs might be even stronger as a result of significant Google+ participation within this sector, but the results provided in female-dominated niches like fashion and apparel will suffer as a result of this missing perspective.

Reason #3 – No one *wants* constant Google integrations

But while these two issues are mere frustrations that complicate the Google experience, the final nail in the Google+ coffin is the increasing encroachment of Google services where they have no business being.

With the launch of Google+, it seems that the web’s largest search engine has forgotten both its primary service offering (search) and its mission (“Don’t be evil).  As an example, consider the case study put forward by Chris Crum on Web Pro News, showcasing how Google’s latest Search Plus Your World update prioritizes Google properties at the expense of results quality:

Do you really think that someone searching Google for “Mark Zuckerberg” was looking for the Facebook titan’s unused Google+ profile??  I didn’t think so either…

So if these extensive integrations don’t serve the user, what’s the point in rolling out frustrating update after frustrating update (I’m looking at you, integrated privacy policies, “+1” button, Search Plus Your World and others)?

I believe the bottom line is this…  With the digital world moving away from traditional search and towards highly-specific apps for managing different facets of life, Google needs access to your personal data – and it needs it now.

In a fascinating article on Gizmodo, tech writer Mat Honan laid out the following case for Google’s recent social integrations push:

The Internet is the world’s greatest collection of knowledge, but increasingly, that wisdom lives in walled off apps. It lives in services and platforms. Places where we build up relationships, express preferences, and reveal so much about ourselves. We’re on Foursquare and Netflix and Facebook and Twitter and Skype. We’re interacting in real time, and in ways that don’t lend themselves well to indexing. Google can’t know exactly what’s going on in all those places. How the links between entities work. What and who we like and dislike. There is information there that it can’t index. And if it can’t index it, or understand it, it damn sure can’t serve an ad.

Odds are, Google’s hit a wall in terms of the amount of revenue it can generate through Adwords and Adsense.  While this potential income may grow slightly as new websites come online, the search giant likely feels threatened by the targeted user data and profile matching available to advertisers using Facebook’s ad platform, who can narrow down groups of users by location, interest and dozens of other factors.

If Google wants to earn more money through advertising, it needs to sell better data to its advertisers – and to do that, it needs you to share significantly more about yourself on Google properties.

That’s why Google+ was rolled out wayyyyyy before it should have been.  Maybe, with a year or two of testing (the way the company has handled past beta launches of proposed social sites) and significantly more user adoption, the platform could have been used to successfully augment the SERPs in a meaningful way AND allow the company to increase ad revenue through the deployment of more targeted ad segments.

But by forcing this integration to occur before the network has anything worthwhile to index in the first place, Google has done nothing but showcase its desperation to cling to its diminishing authority in an evolving digital world.  Far from inspiring users to trust Google and share more personal data across its platforms, the company’s actions have caused many long-time participants to take a hard look whether Google truly still has their best interests at heart – a situation that could ultimately lead to its downfall.

Image Source XKCD

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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