The Struggle Over Google+’s Relevance Continues

I’m on the record as not being a fan of Google+. Google employees that I know are not fans of Google+. SEO Practitioners are not fans of Google+. Want to know why? Because none of us were ever given a choice about our involvement with Google+. If you use Gmail or YouTube, you’re automatically counted as a user of Google+ whether you set up a profile or not. In fact, you now need it to comment on YouTube videos.  In 2011, Google employees and their bonuses were partly determined based on the performance of Google+. And there are numerous rumblings from the SEO world that, even though Google+ doesn’t drive as much traffic as any of the other social networks (again repeated here), the Google algorithm is giving +1′s special treatment. And yes, that certainly does go against the kind of behavior Google convinced the FTC that they weren’t involved with.

But. On the flip side, Google+ is REALLY useful if you are a Digital Reputation Management practitioner. It gives you a place to create your grid of registered sites that are all supposed to link back and forth to each other. (Whoops. Did I just tell you a thing people charge thousands of dollars to do for you? I did. You can see what the Grid looks like by looking at the links section on my Google+ page.) And since Google is giving you no choice and placing so much importance on what’s filled out in your Google+ profile (and what you link to from it), why fight it? You can’t fight Google. For starters, why? Sure using your likeness in their Shared Endorsements is pretty crappy, but Facebook does that crap too, and you can opt-out from Google doing that to you here. And secondly, even if you were to fight them, there’s really not much to be gained by doing so.

That leaves us all at some kind of awkward stalemate. People don’t like Google+, but you also don’t have a choice about using Google+. It is the ONLY social media website that puts users in that position. With Facebook you can argue all you want about “social lock-in” (your friends are using it, therefore you must use it), but Facebook is just one place. Google’s got you on YouTube, on search, on your mobile device. And if you run a small business or have any hope of getting your stuff seen by others, you have to go through Google because Google Adwords, as expensive as they may be, produces consistantly reliable results in generating traffic and attention. Oh, and let’s not forget that Google is getting real cute about limiting the search term data available to you unless you’re giving them money.

I don’t know how many of you know your history, but this Google+ situation is a lot like Boston, Massachusetts, when it was occupied by the British after the 1750′s. That’s when rumblings of a rebellion against the British would begin, but it wouldn’t be for twenty years that something would be done about them. So during that time people would pop up and complain about the British presence, and they’d be jailed / beaten / executed, and then everything would go back to the status quo. In this instance, Google+ is the British army, Google+ fans are Loyalists, and we’re the angry Bostonians waiting for someone, anyone, to do something about the present situation and just trying to go about our business until someone does.

So if I were you? Use Google+. Don’t ignore it because of the SEO benefits (which goes counter to my advice about pretty much every social media platform). But. Let’s not get carried away about it either, ok? Just do what you got to do for the SEO and move on to other, more important things.

P.S. The song above has nothing to do with Google+ and everything to do with how a lot of us feel about Google+. It’s called “Express Yourself” by Jon Batiste and Stay Human.

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