I admit it. When Google Plus first launched, I was all over it. It seemed to be a better platform than Facebook and there was no doubt to me that the search engine visibility benefits would be plentiful.
I’ve been so caught up in building my Google Plus profiles, integrating my clients with Google+ Local and trying to get customer testimonials that I seem to have lost sight of the big picture. Nobody I know outside of my industry uses Google Plus. None of them have jumped the Facebook ship for Google. Nor does it seem they ever will, despite the many problems and frustrations with the Facebook platform.
So, what happened to Google Plus?
My opinion is that Google Plus was doomed right from the start.
First, it launched with little marketing effort as a Facebook alternative. People will not jump ship unless they have a real compelling reason to do so. Facebook can actually screw up quite a bit, but as long as most of your friends remain there, most likely, so will you.
Secondly, Google Plus was an arrogant launch. Because of their status as a search engine giant, they believed they would have to do very little to promote Google Plus. All the Google faithful would come, bringing their friends and followers with them. This has happened to a small degree, but mostly among the tech industry. Sports, entertainment, politics and business are still quite entrenched in other social media platforms. Most of them cannot be bothered making the same comments they’ve already made in Facebook, Twitter or Linked In.
Very few Google execs used Google Plus at the time of launch. By October, 2011, most Google execs still had never made a single post on Google Plus while several others made a minimal effort. If your own product leaders don’t believe in the product, how can you expect consumers?
Finally, and this is something the Google faithful will never admit, they have a very confusing interface. Have you tried to set up a personal Google Plus page, then set up your business page and then connect it to your Google Places page and somewhere in there you’ve created a Google+ Local page, but probably aren’t sure where to find it? Have you tried to use your Google Plus page to establish your authorship mark up? Do even know what an authorship mark up is?
Really, even the tried and true Gmail interface is not easy to read. I’ve had a Gmail account for years and I still like Yahoo mail better. It is much more intuitive than Gmail – and I never say anything nice about Yahoo!
Google has relied on arm twisting as a last ditch effort to get us to use their otherwise useless platform. The only reason most of us still have a Google Plus profile is because it appears it may help our website to rank better. By linking search visibility with Google Plus in Google’s search algorithm, they have given marketers no real choice. If we choose not to use Google Plus, our rankings and visibility will most likely suffer. And with about 80% of the global search market, not ranking in Google is not an option.