Molly Buccini

News about Google+ has remained relatively quiet following rumors of its demise last year. A new interview from Forbes suggests the network isn’t going under, but instead will be undergoing adjustments that divide its key products into separate entities.

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of products for Google, told Forbes the network will be working to differentiate “the three important areas of Google+, rather than being thought of as one area.” These key areas Sundar referred to are:

  • The user-stream

  • The photo capabilities

  • Google Hangouts.

These updates were confirmed alongside the appointment of Bradley Horowitz as Google’s new head of Photos and Streams products last week. In a post on the social network, he said “It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users.”

Despite its perceived lack of popularity, the network remains one of the top ranking signals for search. Google+ accounts for nearly 400 million users, 300 million of which are active every month. The number of active users has been argued by some because Google hasn’t made it specifically clear what an “active user” is – it may simply be those who have logged into a Gmail account or looked at YouTube videos. 

But, the return on investment for marketers interested in utilizing Google+ is two fold, in terms of SEO and engagement.

  • SEO: Google+ +1s were the highest ranking social factor in 2014, according to SearchMetrics. This search factor was ranked only below click-through rate and relevant terms.

  • Engagement: This benefit lies in its community forums – where those interested in niche markets come together. One of our clients in the energy industry saw a 575 percent increase in followers after six months of active community participation.

Google+ isn’t going away, but instead appears to be refining the value it brings to users. Likewise, brands using Google+ need to rethink how they’re participating on the network as it splits. Are they going to focus on having conversations with users in Discussions, holding events in Hangouts or sharing visuals through images?

This is a valuable exercise to perform on any social network. Think about how people use it, and make sure the effort you’re putting forth matches up with user behavior.

Get an in-depth overview of which social networks to use (and HOW) in Brafton’s latest eBook.