Can Google+ Stop Facebook From Becoming the Top Site on the Web?All the talk recently has been about Google+ and can it beat Facebook at the social networking game? But a more interesting question to consider is the heated Google vs Facebook competition. If you just examine the Alexa numbers alone, you will see that Facebook is beating Google hands-down in some very important traffic stats.

Actually, in both May and June, Facebook knocked Google out of the number one position a couple of times. You can see this if you compare the stats for Google and Facebook in Alexa. But where Facebook must have Google really concerned is in the number of “Pageviews” and “Time Spent on Site.” Facebook easily wins the day.

Google had to do something to compéte with Facebook, otherwise Google would have to give up its position as the top site on the web. Perception is everything on the web and Google would lose both revenues and reputation, if it has to settle for second place.

Will Google+ Become Popular?

Google+ might catch on or it might not. Anyone remember Google Buzz, Google Wave, or even iGoogle – those haven’t exactly been knockouts with 3/4 of a billion users? Could Google+ go the same route?

Right now, Google+ is getting some good press and everybody seems to be clamoring for an invite. Google says it’s testing out the system with a few users at first – which is very hard to swallow. Given all the resources Google has at its disposal, they should be able to roll-out any system, with 10s or even 100s of millions, signing up.

Could this limited availability be a marketing ploy on Google’s part and somewhat fabricated? By limiting supply, even on a free product, you create a built-up demand for that product. Old marketing trick that still works wonders for any campaign.

Regardless, Google+ has some features worth considering if you like these social networking cesspools. I particularly like the “Circles” feature, where you can limit contact to a certain group of people – such as keeping your close friends and family totally separated from your work or business colleagues. This has been one of my major problems with Facebook. I don’t want to mix the people I meet and work with online to have access to my family contacts and friends. In other words, you want to keep the people you “truly” know away from online acquaintances and contacts. Just common sense at play here, especially in regards to safety and security.

Besides these “Circles,” Google+ is divided up into four other features:

Instant Upload – You can instantly upload your videos and photos to your account (in the cloud) and then decide which group or circle of friends you want to share them with.

Hangouts – Group video chat where you can talk to up to 10 friends at once. The person talking the loudest will be featured in the spotlight, with the others displayed below. Teenagers will probably like this feature the most, but it could also become popular for business conferencing.
Sparks – Tell it what you like or want and this program will bring interested related stuff to your attention. Used to spark discussions and sharing the stuff that floats your boat with friends and colleagues. This is basically a search engine disguised as socialized chit-chat. Wonder if Google knows anything about search engines?

Huddle – Group text chat where everybody can talk at the same time. Makes it easier to get everybody on the same page and again may become popular with the younger set. This feature can be used directly from your phone, if you’re using an Android 2.0+ or an iPhone 4.0+ phone.

I believe the whole “Trust” issue could be a major factor in the success of Google+. I believe Google has built up a lot of trust with web surfers and this could bring onboard a lot of users.

But even with some good press and some good reviews, especially when it comes to the “Circle” feature of grouping friends, it doesn’t mean hundreds of millions will be leaving Facebook for Google+. Geeks and techies will no doubt jump ship faster than your regular “moms and pops” on Facebook.

Once you have all your networks built up in Facebook, most people are not going to jump ship just because another program comes along, even if it’s from Google. Then again, we always have to remember, the Internet is very “fluid” and changes quickly.

MySpace was once more popular than Facebook!

But many web users will always think of Google as a Search Engine and leave it at that; they will keep their social connections separate. However, Google+ only has to cut into Facebook’s numbers to knock Facebook back down a couple of pegs and/or to stop Facebook from getting to a billion users, which will have its own bragging rights.

Of course, I look at all this stuff from an SEO viewpoint. Google+ will give Google another powerful way to rank web content. It will be another large pool of data Google can draw upon to discover what content, sites, videos, articles… users are sharing and recommending. I don’t believe Google gives a hoot about the social aspect. They probably don’t give a hoot about you or your aunt Sue, but they do care about what you and your Aunt Sue are doing online, what sites are important to you and what content you’re viewing.

I believe a major SEO shift is happening in the background…

Instead of just backlinks, Google is now looking more closely at your whole site and content, ranking it accordingly. Google MAY also be getting ready to switch more of their ranking signals towards their OWN data coming from 160+ million Google Chrome users, the new Google +1 Button and the even newer Google+ social networking platform we are talking about here. Plus, Google also has all that data from YouTube, Google Analytics, AdSense and AdWords… and, of course, all that vast data from its own search engine and how people use it.

However, getting back to our original question, can Google+ be a “Facebook Killer” as many people are suggesting?

It’s way too soon to be making those kind of calls, but despite its rather awkward name, Google+ will eat away at Facebook’s numbers and members. Perhaps, it just has to slow down the Facebook bandwagon enough so that Google can hold onto the top spot on the web. If I were Facebook, this new entry would cause me some concern and I would be adding new features like video chat and keeping a close eye on what Google is doing with Google Plus.

At first glance, I thought the choice of Google+ was a rather awkward name, but if you combine it with the Google +1 button it makes much more sense – especially when you look at this not as a social network, but more as a ranking system designed by Google to help it provide higher quality rankings in their index. Nothing wrong with that and everybody benefits. Besides, killing two birds with one stone is not a crime.

By Titus Hoskins (c) 2011