TopRank Online Marketing
Lee Odden

Google+ Optimization vs. Community Building: Pros & Cons of Google SPYW

By Lee Odden     Google, Online Marketing, Search Engines, Social Media
Google+ Optimization

Google+ Optimization or Community Building?

Initially I looked at Google+ the same as other Google social projects like Wave and Orkut. But the more I use Google+ the more I like it. Maybe it’s the network effect because others are using it more too. I often find content and insights shared on G+ that I don’t find elsewhere.

While the addition of Google Search Plus Your World (SPYW) has made a big splash in the digital community, I actually think G+ is far more useful (from a personal perspective) as a social network than it is as an augmentation of search on Google.com. When I put my Marketer’s hat on, of course it doesn’t matter what I think of G+ – the task is to figure out how to optimize opportunities to gain an advantage.

There’s been no shortage of commentary about G+ and SPYW but I think there are a few pros and cons that are worth exploring.

Google+ Pros:

As a social network, there are inherent social engagement benefits of Google+.  The Google+ shares, pluses, comments and overall interaction behaviors necessary to improve Google+ inspired search visibility also benefit social network development and community engagement. Starting with SEO and Google+ seems a little backwards to me compared to leveraging it first as a social network.

Along the lines of optimizing for customers before keywords, what about starting on Google+ with engagement and building a network for the sake of growing a community first? As you grow content and community, then bring in the SEO component – or at least simultaneously.

Google+ can definitely serve as another spoke in a hub and spoke content distribution and social engagement model. While Google+ has been reported to have 90 million users, it’s a far cry from the 800 million on Facebook. That said, Google is doing everything it can to “encourage” mass adoption. As that happens, it can become a very productive channel in an overall content and social media marketing mix.

As for SEO and G+, there’s no reason Google+ optimization best practices and social networking efforts cannot happen simultaneously. G+ has rich social networking opportunities that have value on their own vs. viewing G+ solely for it’s SEO value. Together, they represent true social media optimization opportunity.

Google+ Cons:

Is Google+ participation mandatory? The clear advantages of Google+ presence and activity in search make it impossible for companies that value online visibility not to join in. But that incentive is not the same thing as joining a social network because you know that’s where customers and influentials are. As companies mature in their social media participation, those choices are increasingly based on customers vs. chasing shiny objects, the competition or because everyone is doing it. Joining Google+ for the wrong reasons is a bit of a con to me.

A boost in Google+ is a boost for “Unknown” keywords. The more people that are logged in to Google+ and other Google services, the more that search keywords will be reported as “Unknown” to website owners. I think this is the biggest potential con for Google+ success. Search encryption enables privacy with organic search results but not for PPC search clicks. Is that double standard?

The “unknown” segment of referring keywords for our most popular site is now over 25%. That’s a lot of traffic that we know comes from Google but we don’t know which specific keyword phrase it was. As a result, optimization refinement for better search visibility is a much bigger challenge for those phrases. Additionally, optimizing content for better user experience also suffers.

Of course, we’re an adaptable bunch and we’ll simply find another way to make connections between how customers discover our content and what inspires engagement and conversions.

Can Google create their own weather by incentivizing participation? Will it be enough to create momentum and the network effect that will create “true” value for membership? Yes or no, the incentive is too strong not to join. Now it’s a matter of what can brands do to actually make it meaningful vs. mechanical.

When I posted this question on my Google+ account, here are a few of the replies:

Mike Grinberg  -  Google is using a push strategy with G+. They are pretty much “forcing” people to join by integrating as much as possible with all their other services. As more people join, this will become more than just a “power user’s/geeks/nerds paradise” It is slowly happening already.

Benjamin Wright  -  I like G+ because I can post comments like this, including comments with links, immediately, without CAPTCHAs and without waiting for the blog/post owner’s approval. G+ is able to allow this, I believe, because it bans spammers.

Rohn Jay Miller – Lee, I’ve joined and I check and participate–at least some times. But I’m still using blogs and Twitter far more to keep in touch with communities I’m a part of. What’s the incentive to pay the switching costs? This seems like Google-think again: it’s a technology driven idea that’s cool in the overview, even compelling.

But down here at my user level Google+ is just a “mini-net” that I look at once a day. And that’s me, a full-time social media / content professional. What about my brother in law? This has a long way to go before it’s more compelling than compelled

Ian Lurie  - Google is taking this 1-2 steps further by creating a strong marketing incentive FIRST, and using that to drag us all to their property. But that kinda makes sense given that they already have the audience. Facebook didn’t, so they went about it a different way.

I DO think Google can create their own weather. Their huge advantage is their audience. It’s easy to forget, but they own the two most-used search engines on the planet. If they don’t get plowed under for anti-competitive practices they’ll likely win through brute force.

How have you approached Google+ personally or for your business?

Are you optimizing or building community? Are you doing both at the same time? How are you incorporating Google+ with the rest of your online marketing mix?

Be sure to check out TopRank’s Google+ account here.


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