When deriding Google+, one of the most popular questions people ask is “who’s even using it?” The answer is everybody, and nobody.
In a New York Times article, Google basically admitted it didn’t care that Google+ was so unpopular as a social media platform, because its true value lay elsewhere. By making Google+ the default login across all its services, such as search, YouTube, and Gmail, Google gets access to invaluable online user behavior data.
From the article:
Before Google released Plus, the company might not have known that you were the same person when you searched, watched videos and used maps. With a single Plus account, the company can build a database of your affinities.
Google says Plus has 540 million monthly active users, but almost half do not visit the social network.
In other words, you can go ahead and keep using Facebook to see your friends vacation pictures, Google uses Google+ to find out where you’re travelling, who you’re keeping in touch with via email, and what videos you’re watching, which makes a nice little data package it can sell to advertisers.
The article also answers the question of why so many brands and marketers were on Google+ even though it didn’t have the numbers to justify a major presence. Turns out Google+ has been offering a pretty big carrot for brands to be on it.
The company has also pushed brands to join Plus, offering a powerful incentive in exchange — prime placement on the right-hand side of search results, with photos and promotional posts.
“It is literally promotion that money can’t buy,” Mr. Elliott (Forrester analayst) said. “It is something that Google could make billions off of if they sell that space tomorrow, and they’re giving it away to try to get people onto the social platform.”
Starbucks, for instance, has three million followers on Plus, meager compared with its 36 million “likes” on Facebook. Yet it updates its Google Plus page for the sake of good search placement, and takes advice from Google representatives on how to optimize Plus content for the search engine.
There you have it. Google+ might just be the most effective SEO tool a marketer can have. In fact, if Google keeps strong arming people into logging in through Google+, it might be the only SEO tool that’ll work.