What is Google+ and do I need it?
October 16, 2013 • Glenn Murray
In very simplistic terms, Google+ is Google’s version of Facebook.
Like Facebook, you can post an update, and people can comment on it. You can also share and comment on other people’s updates, Like people (although in Google+ you add them to a circle), and create custom lists of people (a circle for friends, a circle for family, a circle for workmates, etc.). And you can create and join public and private groups (they’re called Communities).
But despite the similarities, Google+ is both better than Facebook, and an entirely different kind of animal. One that will prove far more important to your business.
Google+ is already the 4th biggest social network
Google+ is better than Facebook
- It’s easier to see and maintain any custom lists of friends you’ve created (they’re called Circles in Google+).
- It’s not dominated by ads.
- It’s not full of spam and malware (so you don’t have to think twice before clicking a link someone sends you).
- It’s a much cleaner user interface, with more white space.
- It’s not dominated by food photos, inspirational quotes and dog videos.
- Its privacy settings aren’t a nightmare.
- It doesn’t hide posts as Facebook randomly does.
- It seems to me there’s a critical mass of people already using it for professional networking (rather than just personal networking), so it’s great for connecting and interacting with like-minded, intelligent, articulate people about the things that are important to your business.
- You can click and drag a photo to your update.
- It much clearer who you’re sharing an update with.
- You can share a single update with multiple friend lists (Circles). On Facebook, you can share to only one at a time.
- The mobile app is nicer.
- You can search YouTube for a video to add to your post (the search is part of the native Google+ interface).
Google+ is critical to your business
Given all of the above, it’s tempting to think of Google+ as just another social network. But it’s much bigger than that.
In fact, to Google, it’s just a means to an end. Here’s why…
- Most of Google’s revenue comes from the ads you see when you perform a search.
- Google wants as many people as possible to see those ads (i.e. to use its search).
- To keep you (and the rest of the world) searching, Google has to keep returning really relevant, quality search results. If it doesn’t, you’ll use Bing.
- But people are always gaming the results. Tricking Google into thinking their website is good enough and relevant enough to rank well in the results, when in fact, it’s not. It’s just spam.
- So Google is constantly inventing ways to combat these search spammers.
- This is where Google+ comes in… Updates from your friends Google+ friends (people in your Circles) will now appear in the results when you search. Google assumes you trust them enough to add them to your Circles, so it’s likely you’ll find their content relevant and useful.
- And it gets better… Web pages shared and voted up on Google+ will soon rank higher on Google. (Some people believe this is happening already, but this article suggests it’s not.)
- But here’s the kicker… Google+ gives Google the ability to judge the quality of content by looking at who wrote it. That’s why Google encourages you to link your content to your Google+ profile so your photo appears next to that content in search results. Because when you make that link, Google knows for sure you wrote the content. This is the final piece of the puzzle. If you write lots of good blog posts, for instance, and lots of people share them, link to them and comment on them, and you have lots of followers on Google+, and your updates there are generally well received (shares, comments, +1s), what does that say about you? It says you’re a reputable author. It says there’s a good chance ALL your content is good and relevant, and should, therefore, rank well.
That’s why Google wants everyone using Google+. Why Google+ now appears in the main menu of nearly every Google product (Search, News, Maps, Translate, Gmail and many more). Why YouTube comments are now powered by Google+, why you will soon need a Google+ account to comment on a YouTube video, and why comments from recognizable profiles will be prioritised.
It’s not because Google wants to beat Facebook. (It’s already done that. Facebook is just an island in the stream. Google+ is the stream.) It’s because it wants to deliver better search results so it earns more money. Essentially, Google is forcing (or at least nudging) everyone onto Google+ so it can continue earning billions.
The message is clear: “Get on Google+, or your rankings will suffer.” Business owners and marketers who dawdle will have a lot of catchup to play when they recognise their mistake.
It WILL happen (it may be happening already)
This isn’t just a conspiracy theory. It’s a fact. Google calls its ability to judge content quality by author, ‘Agent Rank’. Here’s the patent. In the SEO world, it’s become known as ‘AuthorRank’.
Is it already affecting rankings? The jury’s out. Google’s John Mueller says no:
“We don’t use it for ranking at the moment.”
(Note the last three words: “AT THE MOMENT”!)
Be assured, though, it will happen. When it does, will you be ready?