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Are You Seriously Focusing on G+ for SEO??
Written by Gabriella Sannino
Monday, 20 February 2012 06:33

A lot of people are focusing on Google Plus. They're talking about the SEO benefits. They're talking about the marketing benefits. They're throwing a lot of numbers at the wall to see which ones stick. In fact, they've done a really good job of marketing Google's product for them. Congratulations – you're officially working for Google pro bono.

Google Plus Search Your World - My Untrusted SERPS

The beauty of running your own business with a small group of trusted individuals is the fact that they're trusted individuals. I trust them and their opinions – but does that mean that Jahnelle, Hilland, Massimo, Dava or anyone else we have on our team is automatically going to like what I like? Of course not. –And while I trust their opinions, I can assure you I'm not going to click on whatever results the search engines give me just because one of my trusted friends recommended them.

Google Search PLus Your World

Yes, that was a dig at Google Plus Search Your World, and what kind of name is that? Why not "G+ Search" or "Plus Search" even? Who's going to say that whole thing?

I'm not the only one boohooing about Google's latest "ignore the user" actions. Although some are saying, "give Google time" or "stop being a hater", I'm personally sick of Google+. Aren't you? Am I the only one ready for another search engine (besides Bing) to take over? I think not.

90+ Million Have Embraced Google Plus? Prove It…

I'm really tired of numbers being thrown around. Not too long ago, I had someone try to convince me that 30% of a client's target market can be found on Google Plus. They waved this percentage at me, as if it meant something. They aren't the only person who's tried to sell me with "jump-to-conclusion" numbers. As an online marketer, SEO professional, brand developer or whatever you want to call me, I'm not fooled.

The 30% they touted is based off erroneous conclusions. 30% of their search terms are coming in as "not provided". This means, supposedly, that 30% of their target market is signed in. This means that 30% of their target market has a Google Plus account. This means, the person throwing this percentage around has made more leaps than a kangaroo being chased by an angry, rabid dog. In fact, they've jumped to as many conclusions as Google throwing the "90+" number around.

The FACTS are this:

  • Google, throughout its various services (of which search is the biggest service used), has several billion users.
  • The number of users taken as a whole does not mean there are the same numbers of Google+ users
  • Just because someone has a Google account does not mean they have a Google Plus account
  • Just because someone has a Google Plus account doesn't mean they're actually using it

In short, with the Plus Search changes Google has completely done away with their "User Experience Rules". For example:

  • It doesn’t strong-arm people to use features they don’t want
  • It doesn’t intrude on people’s lives
  • Google teams think twice before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less important feature

Wooooow. Somebody at Google must have decided to throw these things out the window. Plus Search is intrusive; its addition seems to be based off feeling everyone should use Google Plus. It isn't simple. It's a much less important feature from a user prospective than the search engine results. – And yet, here we are with this stupid, intrusive, irritating, opt-out instead of opt-in, annoying "feature".

When Being a Trusted Resource Really Means Something

All these applications – these social platforms – are meant to be trust builders. In fact, a lot of what we do is trust and authority building. However, whether it's Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook or any other social platform, I have to wonder if it's gone way beyond anything that makes sense.

Not to bust anyone's fuzzy feelings, but think about all the people you have following you, and that you follow. Out of them all, how many have you ever worked with? How many do you know personally? For that matter, how many do you talk to – even if it's just occasionally?

Now look on the other side;

  • How many of them ask for recommendations from you that you don't know?
  • How many feel that you'd be willing to promote them simply because they follow you?
  • And how ridiculous is that assumption?

I don't know about you, but when I recommend someone, I've either worked with them, know them personally, or they've made such an impression on me that I want to work with them. I'm just not convinced that promoting and recommending strangers, especially if you're considered a "trusted source", is the brightest thing to do.

Neither, in my opinion, is the following frenzy that occasionally seems to happen. If you don’t' think someone is important enough to talk to, why the hell would you follow them in the first place? Why would you follow someone, only to ignore them when they say hello?


All that glitter may not be gold

This is part of the reason why I'm skeptical of Google Plus. On Twitter I have plenty of followers, but I also know that if I reach out to most of them, they'll reach back. Together, we've built an involved, active community.

On G+, however, where you can chat to your heart's content and have tons of room to reply, I have over 2,000 followers and talk with maybe 50 of them. Not because I haven't tried, but because they don't care to answer. To me, that means they've put me in a circle for some other reason than connecting – and I don't care to find out what it is, to tell you the truth.

I refuse to follow these complete strangers who have no wish to converse with me. I refuse to voice, recommend or promote someone unless I believe they're worth it. I've worked hard to become a trusted resource, as many of you have, and I'm not going to throw it away with carelessness.

Am I being unreasonable? Should I blindly promote people, whether I think they're ethical or not, because we're on the same network? Am I over thinking this? Am I the only one that thinks trust is more than a commodity to pass around?

Where Google Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong

The problem with what Google has done is that they've assumed a lot of things. For example, they've assumed that social connection = trust. They've assumed that I want to see everything you recommend, simply because we have something in common and chat (or not) on G+.

What I see is this – with G+ integrated into search, the places you decide to share will pop up in my results. While I might respect your opinion on social media or search engine optimization, I don't care to see the latest sleazy gif you found humorous enough to share with your G+ followers. Thanks, but no thanks.

The brilliant minds that decided to integrate my SERPs and my social ignored that little tidbit. They fail to see that there's a line – or should be.

Not only that, but Google has been a trusted resource. It's where you go when you want to know something; you Google it. It's a friggin' verb. By integrating G+ into the SERPs, they're recommending and promoting people (not businesses) they don't know. For those with a G+ account, the SERPs are no longer about getting the best results.

All of a sudden, the SERPs are a popularity contest – and we're all going to be the losers.

Gabriella Sannino -

Gabriella Sannino is the owner/operator of Level343, a copywriting & SEO company. She specializes in depth analysis, hard data, strong copy and tested SEO techniques to bring traffic and conversions to business websites. Her passions in brand building through social media, marketing techniques and writing strong copy that converts are all part of the strategy.

You can also hook up via


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+1 #1 Patrick Allmond 2012-02-20 06:59
Great articles like this that call out the numbers pumpers need to be written more often. People should doubt the numbers they see until it is backed up with proof. Remember proof - that thing we learned in science years ago.

I do like Google+ but I concur that a lot of us are doing their marketing for them. And your like about social connect trust is brilliant.
+1 #2 Vadim Tchernine 2012-02-20 07:00
Great article Gabriella! The fact is that i still havent seen any credible stats when it comes to G+. At least with FB they define the metric as users which have logged in at least once in 30 days. Google has not done that here, just a random 90M.

Its actually a bit upsetting that Google is acting this way, but i guess the pressure that FB has put them under is getting to them.


+1 #3 stargaterich 2012-02-20 07:06
Thanks for the great article on G+. I am a relative newbie to SEO and I find the basis of your argument very convincing and makes sense from 'trust' perspective. I fully agree that just because someone sign up to be inside my 'inner' circle does not necessary mean he or she share the same interest to network and build rapport. Perhaps G+ is just a way for Google to grab a piece of the traffic away from Facebook.
+3 #4 Aaron Bradley 2012-02-20 07:15
An interesting analysis, but I think the actual issues surrounding Search Plus Your World are a lot more nuanced than your post suggests.

We've been living with personalized search results for a long long time, and this is a type of extension of personalization . Did personalization ruin Google's results? Were my SERPs irrevocably messed up because Google gave me results pertinent to my geographical region, even when I didn't want them? No.

I don't disagree that making social graph connections in search don't always produce the best results, but sometimes they do add value. And once one digs in this is not about the efficacy and relevance of SPY World per se, but a philosophical question.

By which measures to we judge "relevancy": the relevant resources created by "authorities" or resources that are created or recommended by those in my social circles. If "authorities" how is that authority imparted? Are recommendations from some sources more valuable than other?

All of this to say that "the best results" are not an objective reality. Just because - as you often persuasively argue - socially-connected results may not be the best - it doesn't mean they're supplanting another, "more relevant" set of results. It depends not only on how one defines "best" and "relevant," but on each individual query as well.

You say that "[a]ll of a sudden, the SERPs are a popularity contest...." The SERPs have *always* been a popularity contest - at least since Google started using links to help determine rankings. SPY World changes this, but I don't think these changes are as black and white as you suggest.
+2 #5 Barry Adams 2012-02-20 07:49
Ahh... common sense... reason... immunity to hype... It's a sad state of affairs when these virtues feel like a breath of fresh air instead of the norm.

Keep preaching, Gabs. More people need to hear this.
+3 #6 Martin Oxby 2012-02-20 08:38
I have felt that this SPYW is a step over the line and I have to agree with your thought pattern that my friends' recommendations may not be, in all honesty, the most relevant information for my search and on that basis alone this over integration of G+ into search seems a little wayward.

Also I have a problem with them building their G+ base just by putting it in people's faces in search.

On the flip side, we can't ignore G+ because Google does use it to a degree in ranking and therefore if we are to advise businesses well we have to encourage some usage of it to compete. Sad, but true.
+2 #7 Seth 2012-02-20 08:58
Great article, found it very interesting.

While I'm with you on your reservations about Google+ adding value, here's where I'm stuck...

1) Is Google+ impacting search results and user action?
2) If yes, what do we do about it?

The validity of Google's decision doesn't change whether it is or isn't impacting search. From my understanding, anyone who has signed up for Google+ (90 million) will experience the Your World results, regardless of if they are active.

If 90 million people are potentially having their search impacted, the next question is how can we potentially leverage or respond to that, and if the allocation of resources is worth it to do so.

I think this last part is a very valid argument, as you could argue that the effort needed to foster engagement on Google+ wouldn't pay a high enough return, since the potential reach is limited, and current user activity is so low it would require a high investment up front.

We may or may not like Google+, but if our jobs involve search, it's much less about personal preference and more about the potential impact Google's decisions - valid or not - could have on our ability to connect our content to our potential customer/audience/community, etc.
+1 #8 Gabriella Sannino 2012-02-20 14:31
Aaron, I do agree with your comment that there are more nuances than I covered in the post. Aren't there always?

It's funny, because, as I wrote this article, I knew that someone would jump on the "popularity contest" comment. Yes, it's always been a popularity contest. What else would it be in a search world of IBLs, citations, and conversation?

My protest does not come from Google forcing G+ results on us – not really. While I don't personally feel it made my results better – in fact I think it skews them greatly, that is, of course, my oh so humble opinion.

Where my distaste really comes from is what Patrick Allmond, in his comment, calls "the numbers pumpers". Martin Oxby says, "we can't ignore G+ because Google does use it to a degree in ranking", and I have to say, "true". Yet, there's a difference between testing a platform to find it's validity and assuming that validity because Google sneezed.

By all means, start an account and check it out. To argue anything different would be hypocritical, seeing as I have my own G+ account, as well as a page for my company. As marketers, we do need to take a careful approach to new platforms; unfortunately, you never know which ones will take off and which ones won't, so you can't afford to dismiss one.

However, to start spouting about the benefits, or screaming that G+ is the way to go, the bright and shining star, Google's gift to humanity and so on – I've come across several articles saying things just like this, although maybe not worded that way. To me, this is irresponsible. It is insanity, in fact, to assume that every client will find value on Plus; it's just as insane and irresponsible as foisting Facebook marketing on every client that walks through your door.

The fact remains that some businesses will NOT find value in using these services. Their target market is not there – or there in such few numbers that those numbers become insignificant when compared to the time (and money, if they pay someone) needed to manage these networks.

It is our responsibility, in my opinion, to stay above the hype - to carefully consider the possibilities, options, consequences and results of any platform, campaign, tactic or strategy. Google Plus and SPYW are no different, and shouldn't be treated as being different.
+2 #9 Aaron Bradley 2012-02-20 14:39
Thanks for your detailed response, Gabriella. I'm pretty much behind you in all the points you make.

Yes, we must stay above the hype. And, as you say, its utterly impossible to assess the success - or even potential success - of new platforms until they've been up and running for a while, and delivered meaningful results.

Having said this I think Google has positioned itself very cleverly with Google+ - especially in tying author and business profile pages (damn you, Google, for giving us another "Page" a la Facebook!:) to increased visibility in the SERPs. That is, there's no inherent benefit for many businesses or individuals to set up a Google+ page, but there's a benefit within Google's network - including the search results - to joining Google+. As the saying goes, damned if you do, damned if you don't.
+1 #10 Boni Satani 2012-02-20 22:18
I too agree with you. I hate Google plus your world. The search results are annoying. I mean it shows you irrelevant searches and makes me look idiotic.
I too wonder is it only me?
+1 #11 Luis Hernandez Jr 2012-02-21 05:51
Interesting article and viewpoint, but if I understand you correctly as far as Google search results, you have the option to hide or show personal results. Doesn't that solve the issue?
+2 #12 Dario- Webinfermento 2012-02-21 10:12
You said things quite correct! I was tired of hearing conferences on web marketing where Seo's insist that we must be on Google +, encourage sharing, i + 1, etc.. etc.. because it affects ranking. But then how much interaction there is with the content? We see this same post (only 3 +1 ops and 55 tweets) or other blogs read almost exclusively by seo's. Ordinary people do not use Google + and if it uses the common people shout is useless in miracles only because it is a product of google. Brava Gabriella ;)
+2 #13 Paul C 2012-02-21 12:01
Great post, and very true. I've written posts about the benefits of the Google +, based on the numbers I could find. Come to think of it, I (as I'm sure most) have a Google + account, but don't actually use it.. Good points above. PS- I couldn't agree more with the name? Who thought of that?
+2 #14 Philip Busk 2012-02-21 14:34
0 #15 Gabriella Sannino 2012-02-22 07:33
Quoting Dario- Webinfermento:
You said things quite correct! ...Ordinary people do not use Google + and if it uses the common people shout is useless in miracles only because it is a product of google. Brava Gabriella ;)

Thanks Dario :) it's nice to see you on English sites. Now maybe we can share things Italians only dream of sharing lol

@Luis it's a bit more than that, for me anyway. We do a variations of searches throughout the day that signing in and signing out or clicking on or off is just a pain in the a$$.

Then there's the mystery of the +1's where do they go? Sure some are part of the new algo's and some will show up on the Serp's but I can assure you there are many +1's that I know I clicked that don't show up. Not even on my own profile.

Meh I'm too busy to pick through all their changes, especially when they don't make sense. Maybe they do to Google but to me as a user they're messed up!

@Paul C thanks glad you enjoyed it :)
@Philip Can I get a Hallelujah with that Amen
+1 #16 Tina 2012-03-14 18:41
I like people who doesn't go with everybody's flow and does not get easily influenced. And that made me really adore you Gabriella. You check the water before really diving into it. Kudos to you! ;D

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