Google+ has now been around for a little while now having arrived to what can only be described as a mixed reception. It appears to be a bit like Marmite – some love it, some hate it – so we decided to speak to some of the leading minds in the search engine marketing sector, to see what their thoughts were and whether they thought Google+ would be a success or whether it would go the same way as other Google products such as Buzz and Wave.
Bas Van Den Beld – State of search
For more of Bas’ thoughts on Google+, please visit the State of Search blog
Google Plus might very well be the game changer for the web. Google has been unfolding this for a while and is far from done.
There is, I feel, however a lot of misunderstanding about Google+. Many compare this to Facebook or feel this is a Facebook killer and I’ve also heard a lot of people who feel that Google should have launched a more finished product. There are many who think this is it. It is not, Google has only just begun.
If you listen carefully to what Googlers are saying you will get some nice insights into what the intentions from Google are. They are going to change the online world with Google Plus and the crux is personalization and integration.
My hunch is that Google is integrating all their products and is making all of them ‘social’ in a way. They say Google should have roled out Business Profiles for + with the launch. They already did: Google Places. They “just” have to integrate it into Google+.
Terry Van Horne – SEO Pros
When Pete asked me for a few words on Google + first thing I said is “I hate G+ just cuz everyone else loves it!”. Just saying the relative hype on the Google + learning channel (formerly known as Twitter) has been off the meter! When this many SEO’s like something… I know that ain’t good…public will summarily ignore it. For me I just see it as another Facebook Time Suck looking to happen.
It will flop because just like the +1 button will because the Public aren’t up Google’s bum lookin’ for morsels and tidbits. Circles will be nothing more than just another thing to manage to anyone who doesn’t have a need to segregate their sharing as Danny outlined in his best piece on Google + yet . Well you could use a list of some sort…oh yeah that’s on Twitter ya’ twat.
Hangouts looked cool at first but IMO, that has more commercial value than with John q Public who would rather just go to someone’s house and really visit then to have a virtual visit on Google +! At the time of my one visit to Google + Time Suck Heaven it didn’t come to me what the potential was for a M$/FB/Skype combination not to mention the huge online presence of Xbox. Basically hangouts ain’t a Facebook killer, nor, is Circles so why would someone want two time sucks in their life? Drop one and they might actually have a real life… #JustSayin’!
Richard Gregory – Latitude Group
IMO Google+ is here to stay, although it’s too early to tell whether it can topple facebook as the leading social media platform.
Can Google+ survive if it doesn’t surpass facebook? Absolutely.
I’ve already found myself tweeting less since the launch of G+ , mainly due to the kind of people already on the network, and that’s where I think the first fatality might actually be.
Branko Rihtman (Neyne) – SEO Scientist
I think Google+ is here to stay. Firstly, judging by the response of the tech scene, it ain’t no Buzz. The privacy was done right, the sharing was done right, it works. The big question is whether it will catch up in the non-tech circles. This depends on how well Google integrates G+ with Google products that are already in massive use. I think there is a potential there – non-tech people that research stuff on Google will definitely be interested (IMHO) to click on G+ Onebox results that are relevant to their search. The way from there to using the service is not so long.
It will definitely take some time and more cool features and integrations. Will it be a Facebook/Twitter killer? No. I don’t think there is such thing as “companycide”, only suicide. Just like Twitter did, I think G+ will create a user behavior pattern that will not completely clash with user behavior patterns on FB and Twitter and people will use all 3 for different things. Right now I have completely different usage pattern on FB, Twitter and Linkedin and there is no reason why the same will not happen with G+. They may bite here and there from each others user base, but that pendulum will swing and change from time to time.
Justin Parks – SEO Dojo
A big question and an important one. Had Google launched Google plus in a similar fashion to Wave I would say it would crash and burn again but something about how they have rolled this out just screams of longevity.
Maybe its the commitment (over commitment?) they have put behind it, maybe there’s a small tingle of desperation lingering in the air, or excitement, or even nervousness from the search behemoth, a feeling of “Have we finally got this bloody social media thing right?” screaming silently in the background and echoing around the halls of the Googleplex.
I cant quite put my finger on it, but it exists.
Personally, I didn’t get over excited about the announcement and launch of Google plus. I didn’t go mad for an invite. I wasn’t desperately checking my emails every two minutes waiting for that invite to land. I didn’t mind not being “first” in there among my friends and colleagues. Basically I had more important things to do at the time…like work.
But its here now, and I’m in and I have played with it and I like it. I think its been well thought out and implemented. Its simple enough to be intuitive to users with some nice features and ideas to keep us using it though I have to remember that I am looking at it through rose tinted glasses. I know what these things mean. I know how to figure them out. I can go to the help section or forums and read what’s going on if something isn’t obvious to me (some things are not to be honest, though it will come with time and a bit more messing about). The thing is, will Google plus appeal to the new user, the “normal user”, or even the social media addict enough to make it stick around and become a real force in the virtual playground that is social media.
Like I mentioned, due to the way it has been rolled out and with some many other factors influencing its establishment (think Gmail accounts and
android) I think it will succeed and it will be here tomorrow, and the next day and the days to come. Too much importance rests on its success for Google for it to fail, so over time, I think it will make headway in attracting a large section of the internet “social media” community.
If previous examples of Google successes are anything to go by it will boil down to how we, the geeks, the techies, the developers and the internet addicts react and respond to it. We have a history of promoting Google products, the ones that work well, to the masses (for free I might add), and I see that happening already.
Only time will tell. Hell, there’s always tomorrow to play with it anyway
Chris Lake – Econsultancy
Firstly, I think Google has rushed this product to market. The launch didn’t support Google Apps users, which is a massive oversight, given that there are 3m companies using it. As such millions of professionals have not been able to access Google+. These are precisely the kind of people who would have made the most out of Circles.
That aside, the big issue with Google+ or any other new social platform is really about the time it takes to set things up, and thereafter to tune in and manage it. On the first point, Google hasn’t made it at all easy for users to import their friends and followers from other networks. Populating Google+ with connections is a manual, time-consuming process. Compare that to Quora, which allows people to sign in and immediately hook into their existing Twitter network. Perhaps there are some data ownership restrictions when working with third party APIs? We also know that Facebook swiftly changed its API to prevent users from transferring their friends into Google+ (a grave sin, in my view; Facebook is a dominant tyrant as far as ‘user’ data is concerned). Perhaps Google is playing it safe to dodge any possible anti-trust issues?
I suspect that many people exist on multiple networks but predominantly favour one platform. In my case, it’s Twitter, which seems to be standing still, as far as innovation is concerned. I hope it hasn’t missed its moment. But is Google+ going to replace Twitter for me? Not just yet, that’s for sure.
Don’t get me wrong, Google+ looks like a good beta product, I just think it was launched three months too early. It blends a lot of the best functionality found on other platforms, and with Circles there is an inbuilt filter that many power users have been crying out for. But unless Google makes it easy for people to seed their networks, and to join up their work and leisure social activity, it is going to be up against it. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in one year, and to find out how many people make the transition, and which of the existing networks suffer as a result of that migration.
A final point would be that it very much looks like a new cold war has started, and that the social web is fragmenting into a bunch of distinct, isolated experienced. The overall user experience will suffer unless these networks can learn to live with one another. I hope we’re not reverting back to the age of the walled garden.
Richard Baxter – SEO Gadget
Here’s where I’m at – I’m going to talk about this as a user, not a digital marketer. Right now, I feel overwhelmed by Google+ emails and a lot of unwanted noise. Did Google set expectations of what circles mean with their promo videos? I’m not sure.
I’d love to be in a circle, with a group of friends and, we can share with each other anything we like – privately, away from the noise. Maybe I don’t understand something here but right now that’s not what circles is doing. Ok, so I can organise people into categories and watch those categories – that’s handy, but it’s hardly a killer feature.
I’m just working through my endless Google+ emails. Have you noticed that if you click the email link to manage your email subscriptions from an Android mobile device, you’re redirected to mobile sign in – after which you’re taken to the wrong place? There’s nothing sadder than a badly redirected mobile user.
Google+ is potentially a great idea but for me it’s not creating a compelling hook. I can only hope that over time, basic user issues are solved, circles become circles and the noise dies down. That’s the thing – it could be awesome, and I think huddles are a better concept overall for that. Why aren’t circles, actual circles?
David Harry – Search News Central
For starters I think we need to think of this as an evolution. It’s not really, will this do better than Buzz. Google Plus is merely part of an ongoing evolution. We can see bits of Wave, Buzz and other social attempts here. Google has deep pockets (and bonuses tied to social success) and will continue to keep going at the problem until they get it right. That being said, I really do believe that they’re onto something this time.
I have played with most of the social channels over the years including dead-pool ones such as Plurk. Obviously, at the end of the day, we’re left with what I’d call the Big 3 ( Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Google plus has elements much like them, including a few unique elements of their own. In many ways, I have come to actually prefer G+.
From a business perspective the jury is still out, we’ll have to wait and see what the business pages/profiles are going to look like. Much like personalization and social graph changes, people tend to say, …but not everyone has a Google account. To which we only need to look at the 500k Andriods being sold everyday to realize that is on the rise fast. One way or another, Google social will be around for a long time to come. Will this be the one? I believe so in some sense or another.
Rishi Lakhani – Explicitly.me
First, let’s take a look at the basics: Google+ is being heavily pushed. That is a surefire sign that its not a half hearted project like buzz and wave were. The WHOLE company is behind it. 10 Million sign ups in the first month? That’s unheard off, for any new social network. It has to be some sort of record. Even Twitter took 2 years to hit that kind of popularity. So was it doomed to failure? Not if Google wants to lose a large art of their staff, I can guarantee some massive bonuses are tied into this project.
They are coming hard into the game, and integrating it into EVERYTHING that they do – see the latest new about tying it into their shopping offering. It will survive, only because google will make sure it does. It has had too many Social failures in the past.
Where it will fit in? It will or can become the centre point of a Real recommendations engine. Google isn’t daft – they follow the trends, they have the data. The know how many people visit review sites. They know what the real figures behind that volume is. Why send them to the middle men for reviews? “Your friend liked this – check it out!”. You know why they brought this out? My opinion is that they needed a new mechanic for controlling webspam. Their algo is buggered by heavyweight spam and is being gamed. In order to tell who is real and who isn’t, they need to know those people, monitor their activity, relay that data, overlay it with “normal” user behavior, and then plug all that into the algo to clean up the SERPs. Facebook denied them that data – and so google has decided to take all their products, with millions of users and start slowly tying them all into one “real” social profile.
Facebook is cluttered, facebook is a closed network in many respects, and facebook sucks at controlling Human Spam. Google onthe other hand has millions of users with history be it their Gmail logins, adwords, adsense, analytics, aps, Mobile, android, voice, etc etc. Imagine all those tied up over time into one big network? You never need to log in, nor do you need to log out.
Andrew Girdwood – Bigmouthmedia / LBI
Is Google+ here to stay? I was asked, in a summit we were holding on data driven content, in a room full of clients, on the very morning that Google announced Google+ whether it would be a success. I stuck my neck out and said “Yes, it’ll be a success.” There was a bold and ballsy call there; but it was not mine. It had been Google’s. I had seen the YouTube clips Google had produced to explain the concept and those made it crystal clear to me that Google had thrown the incredible weight of the search experience at Google+. Google+ is has been blended into the core search interface. Google had updated their own DNA.
We’re now a few weeks into the launch and by all accounts it has been an incredible success. Remember; Google’s already had to apologise when some users got repeated email activity notifications and that was an error created when a storage system filled up far more quickly than calculated. Google+ is a success. Google+ is a blended part of the Google experience. Google+ is very certainly here to stay.
Malcolm Coles – malcolmcoles.co.uk
For the average web user, there’s an annoying disconnect between their favourite social media site – Facebook – and their usual search engine – Google (which still has 92% UK market share according to figures out this week). Clicking the “like” button shares stuff with your friends but doesn’t send out any powerful signals about what sites you want to see when you search for something.
If Google can integrate the social and search experience – so that clicking one button both shares content with your friends and influences your own and your friends’ search results – then it ought to clean up.
I’ve only been on Google+ for a week. But for 99% of that week I haven’t used it. I’ve been too busy to work out how it works. And it’s biggest problem is there seems little incentive to set up yet another network on top of Twitter or Facebook. It’s also not clear how I would get more value from doing so than I currently get from other social media sites.
I’m sure Google will solve this – if clicking +1 on sites improves rankings, there’s an incentive for webmasters to have the button. If clicking it explicitly shares it with a network and signals what I like and don’t like in search results, then I’ve got a reason to use it.
I reckon it will be a success. But because Facebook makes it difficult to import your contacts (shame on Facebook), I suspect it will be a slow burner.
So what do I think?
Well I’ve previously documented my thoughts on Google+ here and to be honest my perceptions of it still haven’t changed, although I actually think it is getting better the more people that join it.
Sure there are problems, the countless email notifications are an obvious hinderance, comment threading really needs to be considered and there are some issues relating to the circles that I would change. That said, having a centralised communication tool is very convenient, and there are obvious communication benefits to using it commercially, something that many people already appear to have done.
In particular, Huddle could be the key. One only has to look at the effect Blackberry Messenger has had on Blackberry sales amongst teens to see how much of a powerful tool this could be and ultimately the key to longevity and cut through in an ever increasingly competitive marketplace