Preface: Part 1 of this post was written 5 weeks before the launch of Google’s new personalized search. Now that it has launched, it only shows Google that has patience; that they will entrench themselves in distribution to where you can’t use their stuff and infuse social into it as they see fit. Please continue to read below, as social into search is only the beginning. I have small examples of their foray into everything you use to access the web and media -- from TV to your mobile.
Part 2 of my post was written later, and it argues that Google’s footholds in search, browser, email, mobile and TV/video give it key distribution channels that it can use to muscle Google+ into the forefront of the social media conversation.
Part 1: 5 Reasons Why It's Too Early to Write-Off Google+
There has been a lot of talk about how Google+ is failing, going to fail, or is a waste of time for both individuals and brands. It would be foolhardy, however, to treat Google+ as down for the count so early in the match. After all, Google has a lock on key distribution channels that it can use to muscle Google+ into the forefront of the social media conversation.
Wired Magazine's Caleb Garling said it best in this piece on Google+ early last month:
This is where Google will have an advantage over Facebook: With a broad array of services like search and Gmail and Chrome and Android, Google offers tools that are fundamental to the online lives of so many people — and these can be tied to Google+. As Google+ evolves, Google will have the means to promote its social network — and the branded Pages within it — in ways that Facebook or Twitter cannot.
This comment takes me back to my college days when I worked at Amazon.com in a warehouse picking and packing many of your orders. People told us that we would be out of jobs someday and that buying online was a fad. They were wrong. Garling nails it as to why the doomsayers are wrong here, too.
Simply put, Google has too strong of an influence on our daily online actions for Google+ to fade away without a fight. Ask yourself a simple question: what are my technology must-haves? My must-haves include a browser, email, TV/video, search engine and a mobile phone. These are precisely the areas in which Google has a foothold:
1. Search: Google is the undisputed champion here. The truth is that we have become so reliant on search engines for everyday tasks that it’s hard to think back to a day when we could get by without them.
2. Browser: Launched in 2008, Chrome is already the second largest installed browser, and its growth rate is far higher than any competing browser. There were approximately 350 million PCs shipped in 2010, further expanding Google's footprint.
3. Email: Gmail now ranks as the second-largest webmail service in the country, with 53 million users as of February 2011. As with Google Chrome, Gmail's growth rate is far higher than any competing webmail service. Some findings also indicate that Gmail users have the highest email consumption rates.
4. Mobile Phones: With 550,000 new android-powered phones activated every day, Google is well-entrenched in mobile.
5. TV / Video: Bust or not, Google still has a way to get onto your TV through Google TV. With 1.4 billion TVs out there, any leg-up on the competition in this regard can have big payback in the future. And don’t forget about YouTube's expansive online footprint.
No other company achieves this level of dominance. Apple has small footprints in browsers, computers, TV and mobile, but lacks a social network and a search engine -- typically the starting point for people who conduct business online. Both Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of millions of users, but neither has strong distribution channels beyond their respective social networks. Facebook may be making a foray into email, but by and large does not have a foothold in any of the aforementioned technology must haves: search, browser, email, mobile phones, and TV/video.
Google+ may not be an overnight success, but the odds are in its favor in the long run. By leveraging its dominance across essential channels and by promoting cross-channel synergies (think: Gmail pre-loaded onto Android phones), Google+ can challenge far more established -- but perhaps less equipped -- social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Part 2: Striking it Big With Google+
This part focuses on those that stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of Google+: brands and authors. These entities spend the most with Google and post the most online content, and there is every reason to believe that Google will target them as early adopters.
Brand searches account for a significant volume of searches on Google, and many brands are already investing significant resources to advertise on Google and boost their rankings. By incorporating branded Google+ pages in search results, Google is dangling a big carrot in front of these brands to incentivize them to join Google+.
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For example, search "T-Mobile" and their latest Google+ posts are prominently featured in the results. Without actively seeking it out, consumers can browse the latest T-Mobile news and +1 content that they like. In addition to the added exposure, having a Google+ brand page can be a competitive advantage. A recent search featured an announcement that T-Mobile will soon carry Nokia's first Windows Phone available in the U.S. -- powerful information, if I happen to be a consumer evaluating the smartphone lineup of major wireless providers.
It is not difficult to envision extended benefits to having an active brand presence on Google+. Search for "Dell" + "Coupons" and the top search results link to third-party sites, such as TechBargain.com and RetailMeNot.com. But what if Dell were to post the latest discounts and coupons directly on its Google+ page and have it rank at the top of a consumer's search results? This would drive a greater share of search traffic to Dell's branded site, allowing for increased opportunities to engage consumers and close sales.
Authors and publications produce the quality content that Google wants. Through Google+, this great content can also be used to increase their social following. Google makes it easy to +1 an article directly from the search results. Additionally, Google recently introduced an "Add to Circles" button in search results that removes a step to adding an author to your Google+ circles.
Google is further incentivizing authors to join Google+ by, in effect, promising to make their latest content, videos, news and images more visible in search results. For example, Google now includes author head shots and links to their G+ profiles in search results -- helping them to get their content noticed. It is also reasonable to expect that the size of an author’s Google+ following may soon factor into search rankings and visibility.
All of this is not to say that you should abandon Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn for Google+. Google+ is not a Facebook-slayer, at least not in its current iteration. At the same time, however, Google has such a dominant footprint in key distribution channels such as search, browser, email, mobile, TV and video, that it cannot be ignored. For brands and authors, in particular, the incentives are simply too great to pass up.
For more from Wil Reynolds, be sure to check out his company, SEER Interactive. Additionally, you can find him via the following social avenues: Twitter, Delicious, YouTube, LinkedIn
-Stephen Chapman SEO Whistleblower Related Content: