google_plusWhen Google launched Google+ in June 2011 they did so to quite a bit of confusion, apathy and the usual intense coverage by the tech press. Back in June 2011 Google said “online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it”. Over 12 months later the situation appears similar with many people especially businesses somewhere between confusion and apathy.

Looking at the numbers it has recently been reported that the Google+ website had more traffic in a month than other social networks Pinterest and LinkedIn (see http://bit.ly/Ppf3yK) but of course it is still well short of Facebook (and Youtube and Twitter for that matter) but I think this is not a useful comparison. For me, Google + is not a social network, or at least not a social network that can be usefully compared to others like Facebook or Twitter. Google+ is the social layer of the most important web company in the world. With social becoming more influential to many parts of the web and Google still being key to the success of many businesses we ignore Google+ and its social integration at our peril.

Facebook vs Google+

I think it is worth businesses looking where Google is popular.For example they are

  1. No. 1 in Search – Google has the most popular Search engine in the world (by far). 91% of search traffic in the UK (see http://theeword.co.uk/info/search_engine_market.html) and 87% if the worldwide matket
  2. No. 1 in Web Video – Google owns YouTube the most popular video website in the world (by far – http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics)
  3. No. 1 in Smartphone – Google has the most popular smartphone operating system in the world with Android. Currently 68% of the market – http://bit.ly/NYFpUp
  4. No. 1 in Web Browsers – Google has the most popular web browser in the world with Google Chrome (see http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp)
  5. No.1 in Webmail – Google has the most popular webmail service in the world with Gmail (http://blog.mailchimp.com/major-email-provider-trends-2012-gmail-pulls-ahead/)
  6. No.1 in location and mapping – more people use Google maps than any other location or mapping service (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2011/jun/14/comscore-mobile-apps-uk)
  7. No .1 in Online Advertising

There are other areas where Google is very strong but the areas above are the most significant and these sites combined have more traffic and users than all of the social networks mentioned. Adding a social layer to all of these services with Google+ and integrating them together should have significant benefits to users and businesses. Even if the reported numbers of Google+ are well below Facebook they will have more people using these sites and service. We are starting to see Google+ integration into many of their products but there is still much more that Google can do.

It is also these areas of huge future importance where Google have the most potential, specifically Mobile (Smartphones), Video and Location. As an example of this you only need to look at the Android, Googles operating system for mobile phones and tablets. All of the services mentioned from Maps to Gmail are made easily available through your Android phone and to get the most out of all the Google Services you need to be logged in with a Google Account.

So as a businesses why should we care?

Google has always been about information and the relevancy of that information (delivering information to the user when the user wants it) so nothing has changed there, except now as the web and technology has moved on relevant information can now be influenced by so many factors including your location, the time of day and a whole host of social signals from your past and present activity.

The more signs and signals of information you can give to Google that your information (e.g business web pages, location, contact details) are relevant to a user who may be looking to that information the more likely you will be found. Prospective customers may even not be actively looking for you but Google is starting to make suggestions. Google Now a new service on Android makes suggestions of useful information based on the information Google has about you at that time.

Google has also made some pretty significant changes to its search algorithm, which controls its search results. The updates often referred to as the Panda Update has had significant effect on some businesses reducing the effect of some web links that previously resulted in better search results. Although it is difficult to predict, the general trend is away from the link culture that has served Google since its creation and towards other signals that Google now collects including location and social information.

All these considered, even though no-one can predict the future, I would recommend that business have a closer look at Google+ and Google as a whole to see the many benefits. In a series of posts on Google+ I will be covering individual areas that can help businesses get more traffic and deliver information to get more sales but summarise the three main reasons why businesses should care about Google+ Google:

  • Google is still the go to place when people are looking for products and services.
  • Mobile and location will only become more influential to customers when searching for products and services, areas where Google is a dominant player.
  • Google+ has the potential to add a social layer to all of Google services to make them even more relevant when looking for products and services.