Google has announced the phase-out of Google Plus, the company’s SEO/content marketing/social media mashup that had been struggling from day one. The immediate catalyst for the announced shutdown was a security bug, but the platform never really caught on with users or found its place in the SEO scheme of things.
Too Many Problems With Google Plus
As an SEO agency with a heavy focus on content marketing, we were quite active on Google Plus and eager to see it succeed. But there were a ton of challenges. The ones that stood out in my experience:
- In the early days of Google Authorship (GA), the setup process was extraordinarily complicated and user-unfriendly. It was a worthy idea to help search engine users evaluate the authority of the authors behind the content, but it seemed to me the best authors were too busy thinking up great content to learn the complexities of GA.
- From an SEO perspective, we saw limited evidence that involvement with GA had much effect on organic visibility — a lot of work with little return. Furthermore, it seemed obvious that Google’s search algorithm was capable (or quickly becoming capable) of determining the authority of an author without the GA rigmarole. I doubt if we were the only agency to see this, which may explain why Google Plus became the bright, shiny object for only a relative handful in the marketing community.
- There was also a built-in conflict with Google Plus. Google’s core business is a search engine that is expected to deliver objective results for user queries, results that cover the entire landscape of the web. However, if Google tilts results to favor original Google Plus content and content receiving a lot of Google +1 button likes, then its results become highly subjective and far more limited in scope. This is not what Google search engine users want. Even if Google Plus was the right idea, Google was the wrong company to develop it. As a content platform, LinkedIn is having much more success: It already had a user base full of expert content creators and users happy to limit themselves — limit themselves to searches within the LinkedIn content platform and limit themselves to searches on business topics only.
- The social media side of Google Plus was no match for Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter in any respect whatsoever. Google Plus lacked a “fun factor” and a broad base of engaged users. At this point, 90 percent of user sessions on Google Plus are less than five seconds (see the TechCrunch article cited earlier). Google has always been weak in UX, and it’s a fatal flaw for a platform aspiring to be a social media giant.
Innovative companies such as Google are bound to fail. In fact, stockholders, company leaders and employees expect failure — no failure means no risk, which means stagnation and decline. Google’s decision to shut down the platform, if it’s noticed at all by the general public, will only serve to improve its stock value and brand perception.
Over to You
What do you think about the shutdown of Google Plus?
What was your experience using Google Plus?