Just a few years ago, if you asked any search marketer what they thought about the future of social media marketing and SEO’s dynamic relationship, they would have told you that Google+ was everything. Google, the only search engine worth watching for SEO developments and the undisputed king of the Internet, was coming out with its own social media platform, and it only made sense that the search giant would do everything it could to tie search and social together via Google+.
During the first few years of Google+’s existence, search marketers under this belief were validated by Google’s actions. Google+ saw a brief surge in popularity, and Google made consistent efforts to try and boost the benefits of using the platform by making them more apparent in search. For example, if you created an Author profile and posted articles anywhere on the web via that profile, they would show up higher in search results, with your name and profile pic beside each piece to make it more interesting and more clickable to incoming users.
Today, however, Google+ is on its last legs. The powerhouse search marketers believed would change the nature of SEO entirely is starting to wither away, leaving many to wonder, is it even worth using the platform at all?
The death of Google+ was not sudden. For the past couple of years, it’s faced a slow decline as Google introduced replacement features and started decreasing the power of older ones. First, the popularity of Google+ never hit the levels it was expected to. While user signup did rapidly increase at first—likely due to name recognition, and the fact that new Google account signups were enlisted in Google+ as a mandatory step—the platform plateaued and could never reach the heights of long-standing competitors like Facebook and Twitter.
Not long after Google started to realize its stagnated signup numbers, it started decreasing the power of Google Authorship, one of the most prominent features and search benefits of the platform. Now, only Google+ articles could be seen in the headshot-containing format, and Authorship stats were entirely removed from Analytics. Soon after these effects were implemented, the mastermind behind Google+ unpredictably left the company, leaving many to draw the conclusion that Google was ready to close the door on Google+ and step in a new direction.
As the months rolled on, Google+ users noticed a handful of other small changes that demonstrated Google’s downplaying of the platform. For example, Google+ signup is no longer mandatory for Google account users.
It’s hard to say exactly what Google is thinking, since they play so many of their long-term strategies close to the chest, but we can draw a handful of conclusions from their most recent actions involving the platform. Without a solid leader in place for the future of the platform, Google is instead looking for ways to take advantage of benefits the platform already offers.
For example, Google+ is starting to break apart some of its core features into standalone products; a “Photos” section allows users to share images with one another while “Streams” offers a free video chat service. Rather than abandoning the platform entirely, Google appears interested in breaking off the successful features of the platform and making them independent. As a result, Google+ is becoming less of a social media platform but Google itself is becoming more socially in tune. So far, these changes have been met with positive reception, which shows that Google truly is keeping its users in mind with every change it makes.
The years-old dream of using Google+ as your go-to social media platform and gaining tons of SEO benefits is over. The connection between Google+ use and increased search visibility is now essentially nonexistent. Considering the fact that most of Google+’s traditional social platform functionalities are being removed or transplanted, you can’t even use Google+ as a strictly social service.
However, you can still post and share pieces of content with your audience. As you know, the more visibility you can get for your content, the better, so if you have a few extra minutes a week to share a handful of pieces with your Google+ followers, you have nothing to lose by doing so. You could easily win some extra visitors and some extra brand visibility.
Understand that trying to build an audience on Google+ probably isn’t the best use of your time. Google+ never had much of an audience and today, it’s smaller than ever and still shrinking. If you’re looking to get the most potential impact from your content on a social platform, the big three—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—will likely give you a far better return. Only use Google+ as a backup, or as a peripheral channel.
The bottom line here is that Google+ is practically dead, but it’s not going to hurt you to post there occasionally. Because the social platform is being broken up into its core components, it can no longer be used as a traditional audience-building social medium, nor can it be used for great SEO benefits. Instead, for now, it should only serve as an extra outlet for you to share your content. Then again, Google is nothing if not unpredictable, so keep watch—they might have some news in the future that turns the social world on its head once again.