F ive Reasons Your Business Should Be On Google+ in 2014
It’s 2014, and your business should be on Google+. There was a time when the average marketer would chuckle and turn up their nose at that notion. If you took it further, and suggested that Google+ should be a priority over Facebook, you’d probably have found yourself laughed out of the room.
This has changed.
Now, if you mention Google+ to a marketer that wasn’t on the platform from the start, look close and you might see their ears twitch.
“Oh?” they might say, trying to act casual. “Yeah, I’ve been hearing some chatter about that. Seems it might not be such a ghost town anymore. But you know. I mean – still. What’s it got on Facebook?”
1) Google+ is growing at an extremely rapid pace
Google+ has often been labeled “a ghost town” by skeptics, but anyone that’s still calling it that just isn’t looking at the numbers. After Google+ launched in 2011, it had 25 million registered users in under a month. Six months later, it had 150 million. One year later, it had 400 million. Now (according to a February study), almost three years after launch, Google+ has over 1.15 billion registered users, and 359 million monthly active users (defined as individuals who interact with content).
By contrast, Facebook had a much slower rate of growth, with only 12 million monthly active users after three years, reaching a comparative mark of 360 million monthly active users after six years. At the start of this year, Facebook had 1.23 billion monthly active users – and by that mark, Google+ still has quite a way to go. But it’s important to note that Facebook only reached that point nearly ten years after its launch. Google+, on the other hand, turns three on June 28th of this year.
Twitter – once considered second in the line of succession to Facebook’s throne – has been struggling with growth for quite a while, particularly in the face of its IPO. Despite constant efforts to attract a larger user base, Twitter has only seen incremental growth, creeping up to 241 million active users in February after launching in 2006.
This makes Google+ the second largest social network in the world, second only to Facebook – and it’s only going to grow larger.
2) Google+ IS Google
Last year, Google began bundling most of its services together under one account umbrella: Google, Google+, YouTube, Gmail, and so on. Now, it’s one account to rule them all. That means that when you’re logged into Gmail, chances are you’re also logged into Google+. Furthermore, all of your activity across all of Google’s platforms that you’re connected to, is connected. In this sense, it stands to reason that if your Google+ business page is tied to your company website, and your Google+ page gains a lot of traction, there’s going to be some “synergy” there.
There’s been a lot of speculation (and confirmation to some degree) that Google+ was established to better understand users. In other words, it’s a data mining service in the guise of a social network. To the average person, that might seem a little sketchy. To any member of the tech industry, it’s just business as usual. And to businesses themselves? It’s a potential goldmine.
Which leads me to…
3) Personalized search offers a major advantage
Google’s personalized search takes everything it knows about you when you’re logged into Google and uses that information to provide search results that are better tailored to what Google thinks you’re looking for (and let’s be honest, it does a pretty good job).
Know what else it looks at? Your Google+ circles.
If someone has your brand in their circles, and they search for something related to your industry on Google while they’re logged in, chances are your content will rank higher in their search results than if you didn’t have a Google+ page, and they hadn’t connected with you.
This is a big deal, because Google is doing part of the lifting for you in cultivating a return audience, simply by keeping your business top of mind for that individual, as long as it suits their search habits.
Garner enough engagement on Google+, and your content might just start showing up even without personalized search. As Eric Enge says in his article on personalized search, “This is powerful stuff!”
Heck, how do you think I found his article in the first place?
4) Faster search engine discovery of your web content
It has been reported that posting a link to your just-published article on Google+ can cause Google to crawl that new article in minutes. For content marketers, this is huge. Rather than waiting around a few days for Google to get around to picking up your article, you can just post it to your Google+ business page (or an appropriate Google+ Community), and bam – your article is searchable on Google.
It’s not only that, either. A recent study shows that Google+ has one of the richest qualities of traffic, second only to YouTube (and guess who owns YouTube?). This means that visitors going from Google+, to your site, will generally spend a higher amount of time on the page, than visitors from other networks. Here, that means an average of 188.54 seconds on-site, while visiting an average of 2.45 pages before they leave. Check out the graphic from Shareaholic below to see where the various social networks fall in the study.
Unlike Bing, Google doesn’t crawl Facebook or Twitter, because it doesn’t have direct API access. That means that you probably won’t see a tweet or a post on Facebook show up in Google’s search engine on the first page (if at all). Google+, of course, is wide open for Google, and that means that public posts can – and will – show up in Google.
So if you write a really great post on Google+ and it gets a lot of engagement, guess what? That post could very well show up in someone’s Google search results, on the first page (this is even more likely if they have you in their circles, due to personalized search).
5) It’s all about engagement
Let’s face it: Facebook just isn’t the same green pasture it once was for small businesses. Eat24 summed this up pretty well recently, in their hilarious – and surprisingly on-point – breakup letter to Facebook:
“Even if we could figure out your mysterious, all-knowing algorithm, it’s constantly changing, so what works today might not work tomorrow. Posting something that most of our friends see is like biting into a burrito and actually getting all seven layers… never gonna happen.”
A few days later, Eat24 followed through with their breakup letter and deleted their Facebook page. Cavalier? Sure. Brilliant marketing campaign? Oh yes.
If you’re not familiar with why Eat24 broke up with Facebook, here’s the thing:
Facebook has rather famously smashed organic reach over the past few months. If you’re not familiar with the term “organic reach,” it’s a metric of how many people your post can reach without having to shell out cash directly. Facebook has been gradually slashing this over the years, while pushing their paid solutions in its place.
In 2012, Facebook announced that around 16% of a business page’s fans would see a post on any given day. So, say you have 1000 fans of your business page on Facebook. 160 fans would see each post. Not fantastic, but not too terrible either, considering traditional marketing statistics of reach.
But it didn’t stop there. After Facebook went public, they started slashing more and more off that figure. At the end of the last year, a study showed that most businesses were seeing organic reach under 3%. So out of your 1000 fans, 30 people are seeing that post. Yikes.
Now, it’s rumored that Facebook is going to cut organic reach again – this time to 1% – and should be expected to cut it even further, so that none of your fans will see your posts in their newsfeed unless you pay Facebook for it. In that scenario, what do those 1000 fans you worked so hard to acquire mean?
Granted, Facebook still has its uses, but it’s clear now that it’s become a pay-to-play stadium for businesses. And that isn’t so on Google+.
From the expandable, multi-column design of Google+ that offers more real estate and visibility for more posts, to the quickly expanding user base, and the highly active Communities, Google+ is a platform that is ripe for engagement once you’ve built a following.
It’s also highly unlikely that Google+ will follow in Facebook’s footsteps, and alienate business users by forcing them to pay to reach their hard earned audience. If that happens, you can blame me later, but right now I really don’t see that happening.
Why? Because Google doesn’t need to. The platform is doing everything it needs to and more, and Google – unlike Facebook – doesn’t have all its eggs in one big social basket.
The tl;dr on why your business should be on Google+:
Should you should rush out and bombastically delete your company Facebook like Eat24? We wouldn’t advise it.
Will you see instant results and engagement, and find yourself thrust immediately into an adoring fan base? It’s unlikely.
Google+ is the long game, and it’s important to understand that going in – but it’s also an incredibly important game to play.
Last week in San Diego, CA, some of the best and brightest minds in digital marketing got together for the Social Media Marketing World 2014 conference. Apparently, there was a running theme, and a unanimous consensus: if your business is not on Google+ this year, you’re going to be left behind.