Lee Odden

If Google+ Is The Walking Dead, Should Your Brand Run?

Google Plus

A flurry of online media has covered the recent news that Google+ head Vic Gundotra is leaving Google and that about 1,000 of the team that worked on Google+ will now be assigned to different teams. Techcrunch ran the sensationalistic title “Google+ is Walking Dead” which has received more than a little pushback from Google reps.

So, what does this shift in leadership and staff mean for the Google+ platform? What does it mean for people and companies attempting to use Google+ for marketing?

An article in the Huffington Post offers a punchline: “The Google+ profile you haven’t looked at in months isn’t going away anytime soon. The difference is that Google is going to start paying a lot less attention to it, too.”

It’s easy to be skeptical and take potshots at Google with it’s history of failed initiatives from Google Wave to Google Video to Google Buzz. But what I’ve always thought about Google+ was that it was a great way to collect information that could be used for everything from advertising products to signals for search engine rankings.  Even if Google+ doesn’t succeed as a direct competitor to Facebook, it still wins with tracking and data. On Google’s future, Slate says: “Google seems likely to keep up the social networking aspects of the service as a way of deflecting claims that it’s just about data-mining.”

In terms of the Google+ impact for marketers, I think it’s important to consider three things:

1. Google+ for SEO – I don’t see Google+ as ever having been a magic bullet for SEO. Are there advantages? Since Google+ is a publishing platform with public content and links, of course there are potential SEO benefits. Authorship enhances the appearance of search results by placing the author’s avatar next to their content, which is a clear advantage over all text SERPs.  Also, public Google+ content can achieve prominent visibility in Google.com search results. While it carries a lot less impact, search visibility within Google+ is also a search benefit.

Even if Google+ content, links and engagement do not directly affect the search visibility of content on Google.com (of course it does) then there are still brand search visibility benefits from participating on the Google+ platform.

2. Google+ for Social Media Marketing  – Google might seem like a ghost town for some, but for those who have carefully cultivated connections and organized circles according to specific customer segments, then Google+ can be a very useful social media marketing tool. Sending relevant content directly to topic specific circles via email can be very effective. Plus, there’s Google Hangouts for real-time video interaction and cross-posting to YouTube and Google Communities. Images and tagging is another way to create social interactions or touchpoints on Google+.  Although, my experience with Google images, especially on mobile, has been pretty disappointing.

3. Google+ for Content Marketing – Google+ provides ample space to write long form posts, near blogging length, that can support an off-site content marketing approach. Google+ is also a very useful source to surface new content ideas, curate content and cross-post content. From an integration standpoint, Google+ is an effective content amplification channel too. But if all you do is amplify, then no one will listen.

Here’s the thing: Of course it makes sense to pay attention to the longer term plans for a platform, because if it’s destined to be sunsetted, then why invest resources? At the same time, evaluate use of any platform according to it’s current impact, future impact and your organization’s ability to deal with any substantial changes the platform will make. This is happening with the shift on Facebook, virtually killing organic brand page visibility. Companies are having to evaluate their approach to Facebook and shift to a different type of organic content and paid model than what they’ve been used to.

I would use the same criteria for evaluating Google+ right now as I would use for any social network.  Are customers and those that influence your customers active on the network? Can you create value for those audiences and engagement to support your business objectives?  If you don’t know, then experiment before you commit. If you are able to gain value from Google+ that you can see and measure, then stick with it. But be prepared to change.

If your only reason for being on Google+ as a brand is in the hopes that someday there will be some significant SEO value beyond what I’ve mentioned above, then you might just have wasted your time. Creating a profile with occasional re-posts from your other social networks and formulaic plusses and comments on keyword specific content is not a competitive SEO strategy on Google+.  Few companies will see social media, content marketing or SEO benefits from Google+ without an attempt to create content that attracts, engages and inspires a community to interact in turn.

Whether your brand should run from Google+  isn’t really the question to be asking as much as, “Should your brand be doing a better job of evaluating and optimizing social platform performance?” Do you agree? Or maybe not? What questions do you have about Google+?


Man running image: Shutterstock

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great post Lee! Over the past year or two, I stopped trying to use G+ like Facebook and Twitter…I go to G+ consume and gather and share. The content I look at and consume is what I used to go to Twitter for years ago…I hope people/brands/businesses don’t run away. I understand why Google would pay less attention to it, but hopefully it doesn’t go the way of the Dodo…or Wave rather. Sharing this out with my coworkers. Thanks.

  2. Good points Lee 😉 I see G Plus as a typical social platform; you get what you give. The mechanics vary from Facebook and Twitter but the idea is the same; if you want to see success on Google Plus you need to put in the time. If you have built connections over weeks and months and he platform dies off on some level, those connections are stronger than any social site, or communication channel.

    I found this post on kingged(dot)com and will vote it up 😉

    Appreciate your insight Lee.

  3. Avatar Kirsten Meyer says

    Thanks for addressing this, Lee. I hesitated to jump on G+ when it first came out, but in 2014 I’ve stepped up in using it for personal & business use, and have come to appreciate it. People are disenchanted with other channels and seeing that G+ isn’t going away and has some great features, so are finally feeling better about it. It’s ironic that now Google may be giving up on G+, just as I’m hearing from other social/marketing pros that they expect it to really (finally) see wider adoption & usage.

    Now, whether this means Google simply won’t be fine-tuning G+ and making “improvements” (which seem to never mean anything good for users in social anyway) or if it means they will pull it altogether remains to be seen. Google has certainly done that before (reader comes to mind).

    Your advice for how to approach this latest news (without the dramatics of doomsday extremes) makes a lot of sense!

    • Thanks Kirsten. I’m not so sure they’re giving up, just changing focus. Maybe there was a push to put all the eggs in the Google+ basket and they’ve realized that’s probably not the way to source the best omelet ingredients. OK, that was a really bad metaphor, but I do hope they continue to invest in making the native Google+ experience even better.

  4. I think except for the few experts in the industry, Google+ around the world in general is considered as the copy of Facebook. A copy that’s not getting better but worse compared with Facebook.

    Samsung was copying Sony in early 1980s but finally after choosing an area and fully focusing now they are much better and bigger. But if Google doesn’t focus 100% but looses an interest, will it get better? Never. I guess Larry Page ignored Steve Jobs advise.

  5. Great post Lee – I like the balanced approach and understanding that it may be a community that you are looking to tap into on Google+ versus the general feed as people often think of with social media. It’s interesting when you do hit the right audience there how big it can be and powerful too. AstronautAbby has a massive following on Google+ because apparently space is a big deal there – she did not try to build it – just set up a page there and posts occasionally but over 130,000 people have found her. I think testing it out and seeing what works is the way to go, I don’t think it’s an all or nothing type thing and try to help others understand that.

  6. Lee, Thank you. another nice article. What I like about what you teach is the focus on the reader rather than the company itself. It might be very obvious, but shockingly, many companies and business owners out there are not aware of that, let alone applying it when writing.

  7. This is helpful, thanks for sharing. I won’t try to startup G+ for our new company then.