The Great Google+ Swindle
Do you use Google+? I don’t mean “do you have a Google Plus profile?” I mean, are you a regular user of Google’s social network.
The answer is almost certainly “no”. You’ve probably decided against it. You don’t need another social time sink. Especially not one that just won’t deliver any business your way.
Your decision was “thanks but no thanks” to Google. Plus isn’t for you, but the app is rather nice looking.
Well, tough. You’re going to use Google+ whether you want to or not. You’re going to be bombarded with pro-Plus propaganda, and outright threatened with expulsion from the search engines. Welcome to the great Google+ swindle.
That’s right. We’re all being swindled. By Google, and by supposedly trustworthy bloggers. We’re being coerced and cajoled into wasting our time.
And why? Because while Google know how to build a search product, they have no idea what a social product even is.
Google+ Demonstrates a Complete Misunderstanding of the Social Product
One of my colleagues in web development put it best. “Google+,” he said “has a great website, and the most well-designed social media app I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame nobody uses it.”
This sums up the major problem with Google+. That Google have fundamentally misunderstood what the social product is that we’re all signing up for. They’ve created an intuitive, well-laid-out and functional website, supported it with a fantastic mobile application, and added a groundbreaking “hangouts” functionality.
Facebook doesn’t have a good website. Facebook’s Android application is one of the worst things I’ve had the misfortune to use. And Facebook chat is a glorified MSN messenger that’s straight out of the 1990s. Yet Facebook has over a billion users, while Google+ is a comparative ghost town? Why?
Because Facebook understands that the social product isn’t the website. It’s the network.
I’ve just loaded up my Facebook page now. Here’s the last five people to post in my feed:
- A man who promotes a number of local bands in his hometown
- A woman who runs a hair salon
- A hotel manager
- A self-employed poet
- My mother
Four of those people, I can sell my services to. And the other has invited me around for Sunday lunch next week. In comparison, the last five people who posted on Google+ are all in online marketing. As were the five before that.
They aren’t potential clients. They’re the competition. And it’s not just me adding the wrong people. My Google+ circles are just as diverse as my Facebook network. But nobody except the ninjas, the gurus and the mavens post regularly. Because their friends, colleagues and potential clients are already invested in Facebook.
So why am I even logged into Google+? Why haven’t I abandoned my account? Simple. Because the egos of Google’s top brass demand that I use it, or else 90-odd percent of UK search traffic will be closed off to me.
Google is Strong-Arming People Into Using Google+
Lets get something straight, right off the bat. Google+ doesn’t exist to make it easier for you to connect with people. It wasn’t designed to provide you with anything you want or need.
Its sole purpose is to make Google the most visited website in the world. Because when Facebook started to challenge for that title, it made Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin hopping mad.
So they set up their own social network to challenge Facebook. And after the initial hype, nobody bothered to use it. Because there’s no point in wasting your time on a social network without a network of people to socialise with.
This, understandably, has stuck in the collective craw of the Google leadership. They don’t want you to use Facebook. They want you on Plus, and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it. So along came author rank and publisher rank, and a threat that if you weren’t on Google+, well, you wouldn’t be listed in Google Search either:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance”
Eric Schmidt – Google Grand Moff
That seems like a threat to me. Use Google+, or else our search algorithm will view your content, no matter how useful to our users, as irrelevant.
As you can imagine, the blogosphere has been up in arms over this blatant attempt to railroad people into using a service that offers little to no value.
Only joking. They’ve gone along with the whole thing.
Marketing Bloggers are Complicit in this Tactic
Throughout 2013 so far, and especially since Schmidt’s announcement above, leading bloggers have sung Google+’s praises from the rooftops, explaining that it’s the greatest social network in existence.
(Remember, that this is a social network which your friends, relatives and potential customers do not use.)
Blog posts, editorials, and even horrendously biased polls have been trotted out to evangelise a network that offers you no tangible benefit beyond stopping Google penalising your site.
Because the people that are desperate to get you to use Google+ know that it’s a complete and utter waste of your time. I’ve referred to it as what Reddit users call a “circlejerk” – a festival of backslapping where people who all work in the same niche swap the same hackneyed posts about how blogging about blogging is the future. But other Google+ fans think even that tag is too generous:
Google+ isn’t a circle jerk. It’s not sociable enough. At least LinkedIn, my least favourite social network, is a reach-around — you pull mine and I’ll pull yours. I hate it, but it’s got a purpose.
The only purpose of Google+ is Google+. It provides no value, yet headlong we charge into it, because Google have made it clear our SEO will be devalued if we don’t. Everything Google+ does is done better elsewhere. But we don’t have a choice.
Alastaire Allday – Copywriter and G+ Fanboy
Google have forced these bloggers, who are reliant on Google search traffic, to use Plus. And now, in an attempt to justify the horrendous time sink they’ve been lured into, they’re asking you to abandon your carefully cultivated and productive networks on Twitter and Facebook, in order to join Larry Page’s “Ego Massager 5,000.”
So, it’s clear. There’s a social network out there that offers your business no benefits whatsoever. Yet you’re being forced into joining by those with vested interests, and nagged into joining by those looking to justify a timesink.
Which all leads to one question:
Will You Use Google+?
Unfortunately, despite the failure of Google to create a useful social network, the bullying tactics announced by Eric Schmidt, and the knowledge that only the self-serving want you to join up, you’re not going to have a choice.
You’ll need to sign up for Google+, add your rel=author tags to your blog and rel=publisher tags to your website, and make a handful of desultory posts until your rich snippets show up.
But here’s the swindle. Google and those bloggers are stealing your time, and they’re taking you away from activities that will actually help you communicate with clients.
You are not going to use Google+. Because once you’ve warded off the threat of being penalised in the search engines, there’s nothing to keep you there. Except for the sort of shameless self-promotion that’d leave even Twitter blushing with embarrassment.
And doesn’t the fact that we’re all being railroaded into a time sink just to assuage the egos of Mr Schmidt, Mr Page and Mr Brin just get your blood boiling?
Edit: March 2015
This post generated a lot of heated debate – and no small amount of fury from Google+’s small but loyal fanbase of people invested in the service for the reasons above. Unfortunately for all the people sinking time into this anti-social network, Google seem to have realised that people aren’t interested. And Google+ is, seemingly, going the same way as Yahoo Meme.
I say good riddance.
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