Google+ the New Facebook

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Google continues to resist the urge for consistency, again shuffling things around under its ubiquitous Google nameplate. This time, Google converted all of its previous online location listings for millions of businesses, called Google Places, into new and allegedly improved Google+ Local pages.

This ties to Google Maps, the most popular online map in the world, and Google+, which is now a requirement for businesses to participate in to be shown on Google Maps.

When writing “1984,” George Orwell’s imagination never conceived of Google and all of its tentacles. As Google builds and promotes its social network, it pushes users – both commercial and consumer – to share nearly every aspect of their lives, tracking them just about every moment and drawing them into an electronic path that is marked by far more than breadcrumbs.

This is helpful from a search engine optimization standpoint, as it creates more trails and connections, which ultimately help improve web site rankings.

In a communique from Google to business users of Google+, the company said, “With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.”

The underlying reality is, Google is setting more and more rules for participation in its system, and, if you don’t follow the rules or make sure you keep up to date on the dozens of constant changes, you’re not invited to the party.

Google recently reportedly spent $125 million to acquire, the well-know and well-respected online (migrated from decades of print editions) restaurant guide. The company has integrated the Zagat product with Google+, adding another layer of information for hungry Internet surfers looking for a well-recommended place to eat.

As the allure of Facebook wanes, many feel Google is still struggling to fully develop its social network popularity with Google+ Circles.

Nothing less than The Wall Street Journal, America’s corporate newspaper of record, reported on June 11, 2012 Facebook appears to have peaked, and its growth rate is already maturing in some key areas.

The Journal reported Facebook’s user growth rate in the United States is slowing sharply. In April 2012, U.S. unique visitors to the website increased up to 158 million, up just 5% from the year before. That was the lowest U.S. user growth rate since comScore, Inc. began tracking the data in 2008, and was down from 24% growth the same month in 2011, and 89% from April 2010.

April was one of the months excitement was building towards Facebook’s initial public offering in May. Yet, with all of the positive, attendant publicity, growth was still anemic.

This pattern has been seen previously with MySpace, the all-but-now forgotten predecessor to Facebook, which was bought by one media giant for hundreds of millions of dollars, and was sold for about one sixth of that price last year.

Google appears to be trying to create “the next big thing” in social networking, attempting to compete head to head with Facebook, but proffering a much wider array of offerings and temptations for a technology-aware generation. Google, however, seems to be taking a heavier-handed approach to things, and is daring participants to keep up with its changes or be left behind.

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