Web, marketing and SEO analysts have been making some noise about the future of Google’s social media platform Google+ (aka Google Plus) for some time now.
Rumours have abounded the net that the social media platform is being split apart and there has been much speculation about the future of the social network. Williams Commerce, a Magento silver partner and digital marketing specialist, comment on the growing speculation surrounding the future of Google plus.
Day-by-day more evidence on the web is coming to light indicating that the social network is definitely undergoing a major transformation.
For the moment you can still log in to your Google+ account to post streams; logging in through the google sign in system or by downloading the full app. However, in a recent development it appears that Google+ has split its more successful elements into two single entities “Google Streams” and “Google Photos”. Now Google is starting to market them separately from the collective Google+ brand.
A recent update to the Google+ app saw the removal of the Photos section and ended its use as a photo organiser in the application. Now Photos is a whole new app in itself, available on Android to download on Google Play.
The desktop Google+ site redirects users to the new Google Photos, though a related link, yet states that “Photos shared in Google+ still remain part of your Google+ profile.” according to Alex Chitu on Googlesystem Blogspot.
Furthermore, “Photos” will now be an organising system for all images across all devices. The app is downloadable through the Google store. Streams will cover all the social aspects and Hangouts should continue as usual in Google+ application with a funky new logo.
So if the Google+ social networking platform continues to dilute the brand and plough more resources into marketing these lucrative stand-alone products, what will this mean for Williams Commerce customers who rely on the channel to communicate with customers?
Matthew Banes, Head of Search at Williams Commerce, believes that ecommerce customers should not be affected by the changes; as Williams Commerce’s clients that use Google+ extensively and exclusively can still access and modify their stream changes. They also tend not to use the photo application in their marketing mix.
“Customers who have used the platform like Facebook exclusively; may see some changes in the way they use the application but for the moment it is still possible to post on a Google+ profile through Google sign in,” said Banes.
“Google is known to base its company around experimentation and iteration and they’ve never been afraid of suddenly pulling the plug on unsuccessful products and applications, often with little to no warning to their users.
“Google Buzz, Google Desktop, and even the relatively popular Google Reader were cancelled in recent memory, and we even have a Google+ like precedent where Google Video, the company’s streaming service, was cancelled to focus on serving video content from other sites.”
Further evidence is emerging that the very name Google Plus is beginning to disappear from some of the most noticeable parts of its branding and more importantly; from search engines. According to the Independent, Google is also starting to remove the + from its search engines too and slowly and gradually removing the plus from its branding.
Some investigation confirmed that indeed the small “+” that once appeared is also no more; while reference to the social network has also been moved instead to the full application. The small icon at the top right hand corner of Google’s pages used to be called “Google+ notifications” and these have now disappeared and known as simply “Google notifications” – hence the stream element.
While Google+ is still the number one search keyword, signs of the break up are becoming noticeable in searches. Once you searched for a name or a business and it would also call up a Google Plus profile prominently, but now that appears to have changed, and that is moving the rankings.
This was important for digital marketers who could link information to Google+ as an easy way to boost SEO rankings. However, now the future of this useful marketing tool is less clear.
As Knoll predicted in an article on SEO Moz in 2013, “It’s no secret. When engineers built Google+, they constructed an SEO juggernaut to dominate search results above all other social platforms.” (Knoll, 2013)
But now are they appear to be dismantling the juggernaut.
While Google has yet to make any formal announcement on the changes; there have been some signs of a new direction from executives.
For one, Bradley Horowitz, who stepped up in February from Vice President of Product to “VP of Google Photos and Streams,” he has carefully refrained from referencing the Google+ name in any correspondence.
Furthermore, Google’s Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of products, confirmed that Google+ was always two big things: building a stream, and a social layer. The common layer of identity goes across Googles services. He told reporters at a conference recently: “We are at a stage where use cases like photos and communications are big standalone use cases. We are going to think of this as a stream first, and then photos and communications as big new areas. So internally we’re organizing ourselves to support that. You’ll see us evolve all these three areas,” (Live.theverge.com, 2015)
Williams Commerce believes it is wise for companies to spread their marketing mix across a variety of networks, in order to combat any surprises.
As the Google+ we knew it continues to evolve, Banes believes there will still be enough great features on the stream for businesses to utilise; and thus delay any mass exodus.
“The huge marketing push that Google put into one risky product with Google+ was unprecedented, and there was plenty of backlash from users of their separate products, especially YouTube, finding out they were forced into the social platform,” said Banes.
“After putting so much effort into a social network only digital marketers wanted, dividing it into easily to process services and Apps, like My Business, Photos and Hangouts, is a pretty reasonable decision for the brand. At the very least it’s likely the essential features digital marketers needed won’t be leaving any time soon.” (Banes, Williams Commerce, 2015)
Marketing Land Columnist Travis Wright argues that Google Plus never really gained the traction with Digital Marketers. He warns never to put “all your digital eggs in one basket.”
“In the world of marketing, industry experts agree that this whole restructuring approach is just stretching out the inevitable: Google should just let go.” (Wright, 2015)
The Williams Commerce Digital Marketing Team shall be monitoring developments on Google+ with great interest. We will update you as we know more.
Chitu, A. (2015). Google Operating System. [online] Googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
Live.theverge.com, (2015). [online] Available at: http://live.theverge.com/sundar-pichai-google-mwc-2015/?_ga=1.106064779.920732243.1433923811 [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
Wright, T. (2015). What The Unofficial Death Of Google+ Means For Marketing. [online] Marketing Land. Available at: http://marketingland.com/unofficial-death-google-means-marketing-122696 [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
Shephard, C. (2012). 10 Dead Simple Tips to Take Advantage of Google+ for SEO. [online] Moz. Available at: https://moz.com/blog/tips-to-use-google-for-seo [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
Knoll, M. (2013). How To Make A Google Plus Page Appear Next To Google Search Results. [online] trendblog.net. Available at: http://trendblog.net/how-to-make-a-google-plus-page-appear-next-to-google-search-results/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
Lunden, I. (2015). Bradley Horowitz Is Now Running Google+. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/01/bradley-horowitz-is-now-running-google/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].
The Independent, (2015). Google Plus is slowly being deleted from the internet. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-plus-branding-removed-from-notifications-and-menu-bar-as-social-media-site-slowly-disappears-from-the-internet-10296805.html
[Accessed 10 Jun. 2015].