Google+ is shutting down.
Announced on October 8 2018, the shutdown has marketers and social media enthusiasts wondering what will happen next.
What does it mean for your SEO and marketing?
Whether you’re active on Google+ or not, this is the perfect time to review your online strategy and make sure you’re prepared for the social shakeup.
How the Google+ Shutdown Changes SEO (Plus Your 2-Part Attack Plan)
Google announced the end of Google+ earlier this month.
In a way, it’s a surprise because the social networking site does have a degree of traction. But it hasn’t grown significantly enough.
Even worse, Google+ suffered a large cybersecurity failure in March of this year, where data from 500,000 users was exposed. And worse still, the company knew about the problem but didn’t disclose the news for months.
In the aftermath of Cambridge Analytica and other security failures, that approach is just not going to cut it.
At least there’s one glimmer of good news in the announcement:
The shutdown process will unfold over a period of months, with the complete elimination of the service expected in August 2019.
That gives you time to plan your migration from the platform.
What Does the Google+ Shutdown Tell Us About Google?
This bold move by the company to shut down their social network gives us some insights into their plans and priorities for the future.
It tells us that Google’s resources and patience with their secondary products are limited.
Search, YouTube and advertising are likely to remain core to the business. Products that have low user engagement and fail to produce revenue may be at a heightened risk of shutdown.
We may see more changes to the way their existing products work. In fact, I paid for additional storage on my personal Gmail account this year—a big change from the days when Google seemed to add Gmail storage for free.
In addition to incremental changes like that, the company’s strategy is changing at a larger level, too. Remember that back in 2015, Google signaled a new approach to “moonshots”—highly speculative projects—by moving these activities to a separate entity.
Now that we know Google+ is disappearing, it’s time to develop a plan of attack.
Part 1: Respond to the Change
The first step is to review your presence on Google+, find out what you have there, and protect your assets.
At this point, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway:
Stop adding new content to Google+ and wind down your marketing activity on the platform.
1) Assess Your Presence on Google+
Use these self-assessment questions to determine how much Google+ matters to your marketing.
- How often do you use your Google+ account(s) per month?
- What percentage of your leads can be attributed to Google+?
- Do you have significant marketing assets (e.g. posts, discussions, videos, photos) on the platform?
- Do any of your clients or managers have strong views about the social network?
If you have a significant presence on Google+, you’ll need to start adjusting your strategy.
You also have a choice to make: You can start the backup process now or wait until Google provides backup tools. Unfortunately, we don’t know when these backup tools will be released.
In the meantime, I recommend focusing on your most important assets: content and connections.
2) Assess Your Content on Google+
Ask yourself these questions about your content on Google+:
- What posts and content on Google+ are driving significant traffic (e.g. more than 5% of unique visitors in the past 12 months)?
- Do you have copies of that high performing content?
For example, if you mainly use Google+ as a distribution channel for your blog, then the end of the platform will have minimal impact on you.
If you have success with Google+ and lack copies of that content, it’s time to start the backup process. Right now, the best way to download your Google+ data is to use Google Takeout.
What if you have a large amount of content on Google+?
In that situation, you may need to form a migration project. Ask your marketing team to assist you in the migration process, or you can look at hiring a contract developer to back up your content.
3) Assess Your Connections on Google+
Content is only half the story when it comes to a social network. You also need to give some thought to managing your connections and following.
Ultimately, this is a tough nut to crack since social networks don’t encourage you to transfer your connections to other platforms.
But before you get too worried, first assess whether it’s worth the effort of transferring your Google + following. Using a spreadsheet, list out the following:
- Number of email subscribers. Segment these into customer and prospect lists if you want, but it isn’t necessary
- Number of Facebook followers
- Number of Twitter followers
- Number of LinkedIn connections
- Number of “niche” social network followers. If you’re active in a niche social network relevant to your business like Reddit or YouTube, note that figure as well
- Number of Google+ connections
If your number of Google+ followers is at the bottom of the list, or make up 5% or less of the total, forget about migrating them.
If your Google+ followers make up 5% or more of your online following, you’ll need to work at migrating them to another platform. I recommend encouraging your Google+ connections to join your email list by offering a lead magnet.
Part 2: Refresh Your SEO Strategy to Thrive After Google+
With Google+ on the way out, this is a timely reminder to reassess your broader digital strategy and focus on SEO fundamentals.
1) Go Back to Basics with a Hub and Spoke Model
Think of the online world as a hub and spoke. Your marketing objective is simple: Use other websites as “spokes” to send prospects to your website (“the hub”).
Your website is the only online marketing asset you fully control. While social media platforms have large audiences, market there with your eyes open. If you’re not paying to use a service, you are the product!
To emphasize this point, consider an aspect of Facebook history.
Years ago, attracting a large number of likes and fans on Facebook was valuable. Marketers could reliably reach a large number of those people without paying for advertising.
That’s now changed—organic reach has declined to less than 10% on Facebook. If you want to reach prospects on Facebook, paying for advertising is becoming the most reliable approach.
Use these two questions to realign your online marketing into a proper hub and spoke model:
- Do all of your social media profiles have optimized links to your website? When possible, send website visitors to a landing page instead of your homepage.
- Are you building new backlinks beyond social media? If the answer is no, your website traffic will suffer. (We’ll cover more on backlinks below.)
If you’ve been marketing as a social media addict, pay close attention to the next section.
2) Adjust Your Marketing Strategy to Emphasize SEO
With one less social network to use, use that freed up time to improve your SEO performance. There are two dimensions to SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
To improve your on-page SEO, check out this 13 point checklist. After all, if you drive traffic to a poorly organized website, not much will happen. Weak on-page SEO will also put you at a disadvantage relative to other websites.
For off-page SEO, the single most crucial factor is backlinks. Let’s dive in to that factor next.
3) Review Your Backlink Trends
Is your website gaining or losing backlinks over time?
If you cannot easily that question, your online marketing is in trouble. The quantity and quality of your backlinks is a critical predictor to search engine rankings.
Plus, backlinks from high traffic websites can bring you highly targeted traffic.
Using the Your Links report, you can see that this website has gained multiple backlinks in October 2018. Gaining new backlinks each month is a good sign.
However, a snapshot of your backlink profile doesn’t tell you the full story. You also need to know if you’re keeping or losing those backlinks.
To answer that question, just navigate to the Link Changes report in Monitor Backlinks.
In this example, you can see that the site has lost a handful of backlinks over the same month (i.e. the links with new status “backlink not found,” “server down,” “404 not found” and “403 Forbidden” may be lost).
If you don’t like the way your backlinks are looking, now is the time to get out there and start marketing your website more.
I recommend using these two most powerful methods to get quality backlinks as a starting point. Once you get some solid backlink wins under your belt, you can continue building further to keep improving search rankings and traffic.
Final Thoughts on the Google+ Shutdown
The end of Google+ is a reminder to maintain a balanced online marketing perspective.
SEO, social media and paid advertising all have a role to play in an effective marketing portfolio.
After all, most of us probably wouldn’t want a 100% bond or 100% stock retirement portfolio.
Investing and online marketing are the same in that way—diversification is critical.
Bruce Harpham helps provides content marketing services to enterprise software companies. His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and other leading websites. He enjoys travel, science fiction and books.