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Mark Jones is a freelance writer based in Devon, covering the latest developments in mobile tech, social media and gadgets since 2010.

Google+ - the future of the social network in Alphabet's soup

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Both the future and the fate of Google+ (dependent on what side of the fence you sit on) have been much debated across the web. Has Google’s social network, Google+, got a future? Or is it ill fated?

Here at Loop we’ve supported Google+


There are many positives in our view: Google+ can certainly increase local search visibility, help get you closer to your customers via communities and give you an ear to Google that supports broader search engine optimisation efforts. That’s just a few of the positives.

Our director, Richard Wynn, presented a short film about the benefits it can have in terms of helping your business and website get found in searches.

We’ve even written an online guide about using Google+ for business.

In the first of a series of regular blogs, one of our lead writers, Mark Jones, looks at Google+ now and what we can expect going forward.


Google is now a wholly owned subsidiary of its parent company, Alphabet


Having originally made its Alphabet announcement back in August, Google completed the necessary paperwork this month, so completing the merger. 

Alphabet serves as “a collection of companies” according to its CEO Larry Page. Page has written that the structure will allow the company to “run things independently that aren’t very related” while also keeping “tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google”.


Four years since the launch of Google+, does this mean a new focus for the social network? 


According to many people, the answer to that question is no. Many have been declaring the death of Google+. Once again the phrase ‘ill-fated’ is being thrown around. But, with a user base that technically totals over 2.5bn, Google+ is far from dead. 

Of course, the number of people actually engaging with the platform is much lower and, with Google being cagey about exact figures, it is estimated to be around 250million active users. 

Although this would indicate it's still struggling to keep up with the other major social networks, in the wake of the Google shake-up there are changes on the horizon which promise to make Google+ more appealing to its billions of potential active users. 


In amongst the new Alphabet…


I is not just for ill-fated


While it might be too early to call Google+ ill fated, it is no secret that some of its key innovations have failed to inspire its users or attract new ones. Although some features like Hangouts have proved popular, others like circles haven't been engaging enough to make people jump ship from, say, Facebook. The people in charge seem fully aware of these failures but, more importantly, willing to acknowledge them and move on in order to create a better product. 

One clear indication of this is the recent appointment of Bradley Horowitz – the new VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing (his title a clue to where Google+ is heading). Horowitz is the third person to take a stab at making social work for Google and his vision for the network was outlined in the recent post Everything in its right place


C is for Collections 


The new Collections page within Google+ 

Part of Horowitz’s new direction has seen the arrival of the new Collections feature, putting the focus on the topics of posts rather than the people sharing them, encouraging people to come together over shared passions. ‘Collections’ has been described as the first in a “series of pivots” for Google+. 

And it certainly looks good from a search engine optimisation perspective, as Collections will enable your business to become known for a broad topic, such as ‘online marketing’, which in the new world of SEO is where you want to be. You want Google to understand what broad topics are relevant to you, so it understands more about your business and knows when to return your site in a broader range of relevant searches. Rather than solely relying on a small set of keywords to get you found.

In theory, Collections will also provide a space within which to share interesting, engaging and shareable content with like-minded people and companies that want to engage with you on a good level. All of this gives you a great opportunity to build your credibility and authority around broad topics – all of which is great for SEO, too.


A is for apps, F for footprint


Apps and Google+’s footprint, bot of which are an important element of the Horowitz strategy. 

Part of the Google+ shake-up involves taking a page out of Facebook's book and creating dedicated apps for its main services and enlarging its app footprint. 

Photos and Hangouts have been spun-off into separate services and, though some have seen it as a sign of useful features jumping ship, it's a move that worked for Facebook and should benefit Google+ in the long run. Some see this as a sign of Google+ getting weaker but ultimately having a dedicated app for each key feature makes the overall integrated service stronger. 


D is for don't give up


Google+ has always been a less-attractive option for clients whose marketing teams have struggled to convince them of its worth. One problem is that aside from a few notable examples of brands that have generated some serious engagement using the service, the success stories can be few and far between. 

However, for local businesses, Google+ is still a very important tool for getting your business indexed in Google and connecting with the customers that live close to you.

What's more, just as we were publishing this blog Google previewed its new Google+ design, which had been on the cards for some time. It's very early days, but the new design and interface looks easier to use, has a striking feel and hints at the investment being made in the platform. According to Google:

"Today, we’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and centre. Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler. And it’s more mobile-friendly—we’ve rebuilt it across web, Android and iOS so that you’ll have a fast and consistent experience whether you are on a big screen or small one."

So it's not game over yet for Google+. But, while it's great that less-popular features are being retired, it's important that new ones provide the kind of easy engagement that keeps people on other social networks. With Horowitz at the helm it looks like there are plenty of developments in store and, for the time being, it's still a relevant social network and one that has a more focused future ahead of it.

Tagged in: Google+ SEO
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