Is Google+ Worth Your Effort?

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We got a question recently from Carla P., asking, “How good is Google Plus for connecting vs. Facebook? Any suggestions to maximize each of these tools?”

Since I’m always hunting for new things to post about in this blog, I thought I’d answer the question here.

I will assume by now most of you know what Google Plus and Facebook are. If not, a lot of this won’t make sense to you. So go ahead and check them out now. In fact, sign up for both of them and look around. After all, they’re both free. When you have questions, come on back here.

For everyone else, the real question becomes:

Is Google Plus anywhere near as necessary a social networking tool as Facebook?

So far, no. Google Plus opened to a great deal of fanfare last year, and with a lot of expectations. It was labeled Google’s “Facebook Killer” early on, and a lot of people were rooting for it to topple the Facebook juggernaut.  Of course, Facebook is still here, and G+ is largely a ghost town these days.

Image courtesy of PlainDumb.net

Some traffic counts put Google’s daily active users at 150 million, versus Facebook’s 900 million. 150 million still doesn’t sound bad, until you look at the time-on-site data – the measure of how long people are on each site when they log in. One study showed people spend 7.5 hours a month on Facebook – compared to only 3.3 minutes on Google Plus.

Even the claim of “active users” by Google is suspect. Since Google Plus is tied into their other products like YouTube, Picasa and Gmail Video Chats, just using one of these means you are using Google Plus. So not all of these users being counted as part of the 150 million even know they’re using G+ when they do!

Google Plus has some GREAT features, and is very well designed. The problem is no one really needs a Google Plus – so no one’s really using it much.

It is still important for business owners, but maybe not for the reason you think. Remember: Google Plus is the property of the greatest search engine in the world – Google. They definitely use signals from Google Plus to inform search results on the Google search engine, so being active on Google Plus can give your search results a leg up.

Tips on Using Google Plus

1) Don’t ignore social etiquette. If you’re going to post to Google Plus, always check your inbox, answer any question, thank people for their comments, and leave comments on other posts that interest you. Hammering strangers with ad messaging is never a good idea, no matter what social network you’re on.

2) Post something from your site as often as you have something new to post. This is where having a blog comes in very handy. Doing so gives Google a link to your most recent content. This helps get them to index your new content, and get it on search results pages faster.

3) If you do blog, set up an author tag. This can be tricky to do, but if you pull it off, can get your image and name included on Google search results next to your posts. Update: As of 6/25/14, Google has removed author photos from search results. They say this was to “clean up” the search results page, but given the higher click-through rate on these results, that doesn’t make much sense. What is more likely is that it was making natural search results that much more attractive than paid results. If Google does something that hurts the paid results, you can bet they’ll get rid of it.

Google search results with the author’s name and picture included.

4) Don’t give up on Facebook. The truth is, every popular web site has a shelf life. One day Facebook will become obsolete, and something else will take its place. Google Plus may or may not be that something else, but it doesn’t matter if it is. Something will move in on this space, and you will need to be ready.

Fortunately, the rules will stay largely the same, whatever that new social network is: Be interesting, be open, share things often, talk to people, reply to people, and avoid the hard sell whenever possible.

If you can do that, it doesn’t matter if you’re on Google Plus, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace (which, believe it or not, is making a comeback,) or any other site built on talking and sharing.

About the author

Eric Reid Hi all – I’m Eric, and I form half of the IsaGeeks with Brian Anderson in the IsaGeeks training videos. I’m on Twitter and . My life’s mission is to code a tool that will automatically write “about the author” bio pages, so I don't have to keep writing these. So until that day comes, I will continue to observe the first two rules of Fight Club.

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