Google recently celebrated its 15th Birthday (many happy returns), so I thought I'd do a bit of analysis and critique on one of their newest products, Google+.
Introduced in July 2011, Google+ was going to be Google's answer to social networking and compete with established players such as Facebook and Twitter. However, over two years since its inception Google+ still divides opinion amongst the digital community.
So here are some of my personal Pros and Cons of the site.
There's no denying it that Google+ Hangouts are an ingenious invention and make use of the ever-growing video market. This chat service can bring so many people from across the world together into one convenient conversation. A bit like a more user-friendly version of Skype. I've known of many people who have had so much fun with these from live Q&A's with celebrities to teaching cooking lessons to people speaking to friends in other countries, the hangouts are unique. Also this is something that Google+ has over other social networking sites, since the likes of Facebook don't have this...yet.
Good for a Company's SEO:
Google+ has the ability to enhance a company's SEO and website traffic potential. Whenever a company shares content on their Google+ Page, such as a photo or status update, elements of this content will be indexed into the search results. For instance, if H&M shared content that focused on a new Mens range of summer shirts, whenever someone searches for something related to 'shirts' or 'summer shirts', this piece of content or H&M's Google+ page might appear in the search results. Furthermore, searching for H&M in Google could see their Google+ page appear to.
Also being able to '+1′ a piece of content can increase its search ranking, given that more people have firstly viewed it, but also signified its quality by +1-ing it.
So if content or a company's Google+ page appears higher up in the search results this will ultimately mean traffic to their website could increase. For instance, taking our H&M example, by seeing a piece of content related to H&M, users are more likely to click on a link to their website, or type it into the search engine. Additionally, H&M's Google+ page will have a link to their website, thus increasing visitors further. Moreover, with more users on H&M's website, the purchase intention increases.
As previously mentioned company's can create Google+ pages as another channel for their social media message. Therefore, this enables them to reach a new audience that might not follow them on other social networks. Consequently, they can keep their followers updated on their company's activities with new content and at the same time engage further with them.
Familiar Designs and Quite a Slick Layout:
For new users of Google+ there is the advantage that the designs and layout are quite recognisable if you use Google's search engine on a regular basis. For instance, the well-known search bar is still present on Google+, as well as similar texts, colours and fonts. This immediately makes the user feel more comfortable whilst using the site as they understand certain elements of it. In addition, the design is quite slick and eye-catching, which strengthens the sites appeal to its users, something that's incredibly important as there's a greater focus on good UI and website aesthetics these days.
Poor Website Navigation:
One of main reasons I'm not much of a Google+ user is that it's increasingly hard to navigate my way round the site. Although, as said, the designs are nice, trying to find something simple like your profile can be a bit of a mission. Until you realise that the right hand toolbar comes out when you hover over it, you don't really know where you're going. Even when you find your profile, you still need some assistance finding your way back!
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have quite a nice, free flowing newsfeed, however, Google+'s is very cluttered with content on both the right and left. Where do you look first, what's more important, what's the newest piece of content??? These kind of questions come to my mind when I look at Google+'s stream. Although you can change the layout of your stream, you wouldn't have thought it with the poor navigational tabs! With the tabs at the top, the hangout sidebar and the stream, not to mention the search bar and search bar tabs, there's a lot going on when you look at your Google+ page, personally giving me motion sickness!
Google+'s Inflated User Numbers:
According to numerous sources, Google+ has over 500 million users, or over 230 million active users. However, this figure is very distorted, given that whenever you create a Gmail or YouTube account, you immediately have a Google+ account. So a disadvantage of the site is that it doesn't have as many users as you might think or the stats show. So you might be getting a bit fooled if you think its popularity is up there with Facebook and Twitter!
+1-ing Something. Does it Actually Mean Anything?!:
So you've seen a piece of content on the web you like. What do you do with it? Tweet it? Like it? inShare it? Email it? All those have good uses and are great ideas to spread the word. But why would anyone want to +1 it? I know it does the same things that the other social media plugins do, but with Google+'s popularity being minimal in comparison to other sites, it doesn't really achieve anything. Added to that, not every site has a +1 button on content, another reason it's not that useful!
Not all Companies have Google+ Pages:
The unpopularity of Google+ is best summed up by the fact that there are still many companies that don't have a Google+ page. Therefore, they see their social media strategies and messages not relevant, credible or worthwhile being shared to the Google+ audience. This is a shame for those that are always on Google+, or if competitors are on it. But it does provide some indication that it's like Marmite for companies (other yeast extraction brands are available!), as they either love it or hate it.
So there are some quickfire pros and cons of Google+, if you have any that I've missed or want to comment, please feel free to. Thanks for reading! For more digital marketing and social media news please follow my Twitter account @DigitalStuart or visit my personal blog.