“So is Google Plus no longer a thing at all?” a co-worker asked me once upon a time. And, likely to Google’s chagrin, I had to stop and take some time to figure that out.
The answer is complex, and the first thing that comes to mind isn’t “a valuable social media platform.” That said, one of Google’s biggest bombs does have genuine value for businesses outside of social media marketing, and that’s what we’ll cover here.
What Is Google Plus?
For those who missed out on the Google Plus craze of 2010, or so, the platform was supposed to be Google’s answer to Facebook, and perhaps even the plucky upstart that would finally dethrone Mark Zuckerberg’s giant money-making machine. Suffice to say it didn’t turn out that way.
After spending several hours developing a strategy for my then-company’s Google Plus approach, I came to viscerally dislike the platform’s watered-down, jumbled take on Facebook, and reacted to every request to spend time with it like our friend below.
Google Plus has been through a lot of iterations since then. Today, it’s settled into a sort of Reddit-lite that allows users with shared interests to easily connect. But for all intents and purposes, Google’s big dream of challenging Facebook is over, at least as a social network. The platform’s value as a pure social network is minimal for most users, and you don’t need a rocket surgeon to tell you that the platform’s 34 million unique visitors per month are not that impressive for 395 million supposedly active accounts.
In addition, the audience on Google Plus is, per StatisticBrain:
- Nearly 74% male
- 72% 35 or older
- Used by 40% of marketers as a social platform
- Dominated by U.S. users, who make up 55% of its audience
- Visited by just 22% of online adults per month
Still, there is a diehard user base that uses it frequently, which as of 2015 may have numbered around 16 million. As of 2016, 91% of Google Plus accounts were empty, meaning they were likely created either as spam accounts or just to access other Google services.
It’s kind of a shame, because Google now offers a cleaner experience than it once did, and Hangouts (which originated in Plus) is arguably one of the best things Google offers in 2016. And for businesses, Google Plus has become an indispensable tool because of its tentacles in everything Google is doing online. That means that if you don’t have a Google+ account, you’re actually missing out.
Three Reasons to Use Google Plus
1. Optimized business listings
The Google My Business dashboard is where you build out your business page on Google. Here, you can update your business listing, add photos, and share content that makes your page more valuable. All of that information is pulled directly into Google’s business listing for brand searches.
While it’s technically separate from Google+, in reality, it uses the same platform, and you can use the full suite of Google Plus tools (+1s, likes, sharing, page management) from the Google My Business dashboard. It’s one way Google is sneakily making Google Plus valuable. Very sneakily.
Google My Business has also become a very robust business listing in its own right, offering built-in analytics, the ability for users to chat with your business directly from your listing, and more. For most businesses, this is the #1 reason to have an account.
2. It’s another way to rank
When you’re looking to dominate branded searches, you really can never have enough platforms at your fingertips. If someone pops in “Raka” as a Google search, we don’t want them to have to comb through pages of results to see Raka’s website, social media presence, and business listings.
The Google Plus page is another way put your brand front and center in search results. And since you’re already updating it for your business, you shouldn’t have a problem getting the listing on to the first or second page for branded results. Because Google Plus pages are effectively owned by, you know, Google, a well-optimized page is naturally going to show up in searches for your name. So optimize and reap the benefits! This is a good, quick and dirty guide to setting up a Google Plus page.
3. It’s another way to connect
You may not have the bandwidth to become a frequent Google Plus user, but the platform still has enough reach to make it valuable for your content amplification and social connection efforts. Set up your page, share relevant content from your company, and connect with clients, prospects, and strategic partners. You never know who might prefer Google Plus as their social network of choice (odd as that may be in 2017).
So what is Google Plus? Google Plus is a lot of things, but the relevant piece for your business is that the platform is another way to connect, and one that ultimately feeds into your organic search efforts nicely. Use it, even if you don’t really want to embrace it. If you need a little help getting started, hey, we’re here for you.
And speaking of your social media presence: