We'll ask it again: is Google+ still useful for your social media strategy?
The answer is, “It depends...but probably not.”
Let's first look at ways in which the network may not be entirely relevant or effective, especially when compared to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. We'll set it up by referencing this intriguing piece in Forbes which asks, “Google Authorship Killed: Google Plus Next?” It notes that Google announced that its Google Authorship program, which enabled publishers to register with the platform and promote their content, would no longer influence search results.
The takeaway: brands who've been pumping up their Google+ profiles hoping to generate higher search results may be out of luck. Furthermore, the development leads the author to speculate that Google+ may shutter its doors in the not-too-distant future. He notes that the network simply can't keep up with its competitors: “If you look at the simple 'share this' buttons – how often do you see big numbers for Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn, and a low count for Google Plus.”
So what is Google+ good for?
Taking away Google Authorship, SEO analysts claim the network can nonetheless boost your SEO strategy. For starters, Google+ posts, unlike those on Facebook and Twitter, are publicly indexed. Furthermore, the more +1s your posts get from followers, the more "link equity" the URL receives. "Link equity" simply describes how popular the content is, and the more equity it receives, the more Google's algorithm is likely to boost it in search results.
Other analysts talk about how brands can fully utilize other Google+ features like Circles and Hangouts. Take Circles, for example. You could create targeted Circles and push relevant content to these sub-groups. Meanwhile, you could roll out live product demonstrations on Hangouts. Then there's Google’s Related Hashtags feature, whereby Google+ scans your content and comes up with a hashtag that tells the reader what the post is about, thereby making it searchable.
But keep in mind that all of these aforementioned benefits have less to do with what we consider “social media marketing” and more to do with things like SEO and content marketing. It's a subtle but important distinction. Also remember that your staff will have to ramp up on each of these features. Oh, last but not least, as the elimination of Google Authorship underscores, the company has a tendency of getting rid of features and programs without warning. This makes it hard for firms to plan ahead.
At the end of the day, you'll want to spend those valuable Google+ marketing dollars only if a substantial amount of customers and leads are on the platform. Hopefully by now you have good sense of if this is the case. More importantly, marketing teams need to compare the return on their Google+ marketing dollars with that of their Facebook and Twitter marketing dollars, as well as non-social media marketing spend. What areas are generating the greatest return? Engaging new leads? Driving conversions?
If the answer is Google+, then yes, Google+ is still a useful component of your social media marketing strategy. If the answer is, “Well...not really,” then it's probably time to move on.
What do you think? Has your firm had success with Google+ marketing? In what ways has it proved valuable? Do you agree with the Forbes writer that its days may be numbered?