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Dear Larry Page, Please Save Google+ !!!

Published October 16, 2014
Google+ has become an awesome little social network that just might need saving.
Journalists love to hate on Google+. The TechCrunch article Google+ Is Walking Dead made a big splash in April. Then there was ZDNet’s article at the end of June: Google Plus: three years old and still failing as a social network. And, most recently, there has been speculation in Forbes that the end of Google Authorship means that Google+ is next on the chopping block.
Google+ might be killed off? Say it isn’t so Forbes! Google+ is a great place to build community and drive engaged traffic to our websites. As digital marketers, social media managers, community builders, and small business owners, we need Larry Page to Save Google+ !!! But will he?

gplus-logo

Google+ Traffic is Valuable

Having read the constant stream of press negativity about Google+, I was surprised how well the social network did in our October Website Engagement Survey.

Website traffic referred from Google+ is significantly higher quality than the traffic from Facebook or Twitter. It beats those networks hands down on measures of Bounce Rate, Pageviews / Session, and Avg Session Duration.

  • Bounce Rate: Google+ 49% vs Facebook 59% and Twitter 64%
  • Pageviews / Session: Google+ 2.86 vs Facebook 2.25 and Twitter 2.05
  • Avg Session Duration: Google+ 2 min 58 sec vs Facebook 1 min 57 sec and Twitter 1 min 39 sec

However, it’s true that Google+ is a lot smaller than Facebook or Twitter. Shareaholic’s study showed Google+ with only an 0.08% share of social media referral traffic vs Facebook at 21.25% and Twitter at 1.14%.

But, if you are a social media marketer or community builder, do you care that Google+ is tiny compared with Facebook? Not really. What you care about is whether or not you can effectively engage with customers and prospects on Google+.

The numbers show that Google+ users are more engaged than website visitors from other social networks.

In addition, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence indicating that Google+ is a great source of engaged visitors. I recently attended the eMetrics conference in Boston and started casually asking people I met, “Which social network sends your website the best traffic?” The most common answer was “Google+”. Usually, they would also tell me that they got a lot more visits from Facebook, but that the quality of traffic from Google+ was better.

If you read the blog posts, and particularly the comments, relating to social media marketing, you’ll notice a lot of positive statements like this one, posted on Yoast’s Blog.

comment screenshot from Yoast blog about Google+

Is Google+ Too Small for Google to be Bothered?

So, it looks like Google+ is a small, high-quality, social network. Does that mean we should be worried? Does Google tolerate anything small?

Google killed off Google Reader, apparently because – even though it was really popular with a core group of fans - Google operates at vast scale, and a niche consumer product like Reader just doesn’t move the needle.

So, yes, it does seem like there is reason to worry about the future of Google+. But, not because it is a failure. Like Google Reader, it may just not be big enough for Google to care about.

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.