Is Google Plus growing up?


One of the reasons I love Twitter is because so far it has given me the possibility to come to know many brilliant minds form all over the world.One of the first persons I was lucky to meet was Gabriella Sannino, incredible woman and professional. When I asked her for a guestpost, I was pretty sure she would have come up with something worth reading. And she didn't disappoint me. Enjoy.

When Google Plus launched in November of 2011, its first denizens were mostly comprised of technical folks - SEOs, marketers and social media dabblers. That improved somewhat over the next year, but it never seemed to catch on with the general public in the same way that Facebook and Twitter did.

Almost exactly thirteen months later, Google Communities was announced, and by that time, adoption had picked up quite a lot. Although many people have said that G+ adoption wasn't what it should be, let's take a look at some comparative numbers:

  • Facebook hit 10 million users 852 days after its launch
  • Twitter did slightly better, hitting that number in 780 days
  • Google+ accelerated from zero to 10 million in a mere 16 days

A little further down the curve, we see that:

  • LinkedIn reached 50 million users in 2,354 days
  • Facebook hit 50 million in 1,325 days
  • Twitter reached the same number in 1,096 days
  • MySpace did it in 1,046 days
  • G+ made it happen in only 88 days

Seen in that perspective, it's hard to imagine how anyone could characterize it as slow adoption. If that's the case, then Mark Zuckerberg must feel about 27 times worse than Larry Page.

The demographic of Google+ has shifted, too. No longer mostly occupied by people that earn their living on (or with) the Internet, it has become another venue for celebrities and businesses to enhance their visibility, along with ever-increasing numbers of the John and Jane Q. Public sort.

Communities have popped up in virtually any niche imaginable, with a good deal of duplication. Some have a small handful of members, while others have tens of thousands. Predictably, some were started soon after the feature was launched and died a quick death.

Still, Communities brought something to the table that Google+ didn't have before - the ability to form groups of like-minded individuals. Circles couldn't do that, as they were a one-way channel.

The Motivation

There's been a lot of speculation about Google's motivation in adding Communities to G+. Probably the second-most popular theory is one that reads as one more step in a litany of efforts to capture a slice of the social media pie. If that's the case, then it might not be unrealistic to say that it represents Google's best effort to date.

The most popular notion, however, says that Google is simply expanding its reach, gathering yet more data on behavior and relationships, in order to give its advertising more focus. This one is credible, for a number of reasons.

First, it's true that Google's ability to deliver ads to highly targeted users is its bread and butter. Let's be fair - they're already very good at that. Being able to see still more relationships and interests of well over 50 million users, when added to the millions of other users within their reach, can only improve that ability.

But I think there's a deeper purpose behind the push to keep people logged in on Google properties. Don't forget that they expend a lot of time and energy (which equates to a great deal of money) to continue extending the Knowledge Graph. Knowing where entities are, what they do, when they do it and who they do it with can fill in a lot of gaps in the Graph.

The Result

It has become very difficult to escape detection and tracking by Google. If you have a Google+ profile, and have made any sort of effort to fill that profile out at all, it can approach impossible. For instance, even if you sign out of every Google property, any other profiles you have listed on G+ might still provide a method of identifying you when you land on a property that makes use of Google Analytics.

And there are a LOT of sites out there running GA code.

That means that any actions you take could possibly be tied to you through a series of profiles, email addresses, sites you own, articles, comments or blog posts you've written... essentially any aspect of your online (and conceivably, offline, as well) activities. If you've implemented the rel="author" verification, you've integrated yourself more deeply into their graph. All that knowledge enables Google to deliver more relevant search results and more targeted ads, which gives them tighter control of the search market and increased ad revenue.


Google is, indeed, growing up. With nearly 70% market share, they've had firm footing in the advertising game for a long time. Now with a social media presence that for the first time, seems to be self-sustaining, they've found a new well of knowledge to tap - a well that's a good bit deeper than what any of their competitors has access to.

Google is here to stay for the time being, and between Google+, the Knowledge Graph, the developing semantic search capability and new possibilities like Author Rank and entity authority, most of us are faced with a harsh reality: we either play Google's game, or we don't play at all.