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Google+: Now Serving 90 Million. But…Where’s the Engagement Data!

By - January 20, 2012

Google didn’t have a great earnings call today – the company missed Wall St. estimates and the stock is getting hammered in after hours trading – it’s down 9 percent, which is serious whiplash for a major stock in one day.

But while there’s probably much to say about the earnings call – in particular whether Google’s core CPC business is starting to erode (might that be due to Facebook, Wall St. wonders?) – I’m more interested in Google’s jihad against samesaid competitor, a jihad called Google+.

And in the earnings call, Google+ was identified as one of the shining stars of the quarter.

Here’s a quote from the press release, the very first quote, attributed to Larry Page. I’ve highlighted the parts where Google+ is mentioned.

 “I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally – well over double what I announced just three months ago. By building a meaningful relationship with our users through Google+ we will create amazing experiences across our services.”

You getting that? The lead quote had to do with Google+, pretty much, not the company’s earnings, which ended up being a miss (Google is blaming fluctuations in foreign currency for much of that, and I have no idea whether that’s true, false, or silly).

But here’s my question: When is Google going to release actual engagement numbers for Google+? Because in the end, that’s all that really matters. As I have written in the past, it’s pretty easy to get a lot of people signing up for Google+ if you integrate it into everything Google does (particularly if you do it the way they’ve done it with search).

But can you get those folks to engage, deeply? That’d be a real win, and one I’d give full credit to Google for executing. After all, it’s one thing to get the horse to water…another to have it pull up a chair and share a few stories with friends.

Now, Page did talk about engagement in his comments today, but as far as I can tell, it was not specific to Google+ (though it was crafted to be easily conflated, and in reports I’ve seen across the web, it has been). He certainly led with Google+, but this is what he said:

“Engagement on + is also growing tremendously. I have some amazing data to share there for the first time: +users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.”

Er….so you’re saying the folks who use Google+ use *Google* a lot. That’s not surprising – most of them came to Google+ because they were already using Google a lot. But what about minutes per month using Google+? I’m guessing if Google had good news on that particular front, they’d be trumpeting it in a more direct fashion.

Look, I’m being critical here, and perhaps unfairly. But like many others, I’m a bit baffled by Google’s moves last week around search integration, and I’m looking forward to Google addressing the mounting criticism from not only its competitors, but its fans as well. So far, the company has decided to ignore it – both in its earnings calls, and in my own communications with company representatives. That only leads to speculation that Google is doing this on purpose, to get to critical mass with G+ before, cough cough, apologizing a month or so down the line and “fixing” the approach it’s taken to search integration.

I’m going to be down there soon, talking to key execs in search and, I hope, at Google+. There are always more sides to the story than are apparent as that story develops. Stay tuned.

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25 thoughts on “Google+: Now Serving 90 Million. But…Where’s the Engagement Data!

  1. Yusri Ghouse says:

    I feel the same as you 90 mil is a big number, but the vagueness of how many are actually engaging is annoying me, not a Googley thing to do still have faith in G+ and still believe its way too early to judge, but don’t twist your speech man! (directed at Google)

    • Guest says:

      At first, I felt the same way that you do, Yusri. 

      However, I think the long term vision of Google is to use Google+ to direct traffic back to Google products in some cases (see Mike Elgan’s article about his interpretation of Google+ as something other than a social network). In that way, their practices are resembling Facebook’s attempt to be the absorption node for web traffic (e.g.  differential pricing for advertisements that lead users to exit Facebook), money (Facebook credits have an exit fee and that will lead to money staying within the Facebook system in the same way that gift cards work), communication (any closed communication system will ensure that communication doesn’t leave the network), etc…I suspect that Google’s reporting of their numbers does mean that they do not want to speak about engagement within the social network which is mostly likely very variable (see AKB48 for lots of engagement that contrasts with many people’s experiences). However, I suspect that it also means that they building a defensive network topology to protect itself from Facebook’s and others’s design.

      If we want a better web, we shouldn’t just aim our criticism at Google. But just as much at all of those companies that are creating successful business models based upon closed ecosystems.

      • Anonymous says:

        It can’t last. I hope.

        • Guest says:

          As long we all keep using closed systems, we’ll drive the market and therefore the web to be more closed. And I don’t see that changing without a very radical exodus of users from the current dominant companies. I think that exodus is possible, it will take some fascinating technical and business advances to assist it.

        • Dmitry says:

          You need to define “last,” it will surely outlast longer that many
          businesses can. Even a 30% drop in referrals from the top search engine
          when almost all people use search to find products can ruin a business .

          Google is not going to change, unless it becomes a negative in the pres or if they start losing users. The second is unlikely given how users behave and Google’s advertising. The most immediate reason for G+ is that they have reached the max from milking
          search but Wall Street is not happy, they own a part of a $200+billion
          business so the earning need to be huge and growing.

          Google is speeding everything up knowing that any investigation,
          fake-negotiations to settle, depositions, pre-trial, trial, appeals etc
          take a good 2-5 years. Google will only change if they lose more by
          doing what they’re doing. They have stopped giving a rat’s *ss for
          anyone and now have openly discarded the “best for the user” defense.
          Arrogance ? Who knows. They can spend billions to buy search or new
          search technologies /small competitors so they are unlikely to lose much
          share, unless their search is shown as fake, as rigged. Right now on every search I tried G+ profiles outrank FB, Twitter and everything. I’m talking about empty Google+ profiles (I suspect pulled from Youtube too) vs very active FB ones.

          The difference between FB and Google is how they started and how is
          Google doing the bait and switch. People go to Google to find stuff and
          leave, Google is little by little keeping more and more and more, while
          claiming to be fair and unbiased. To FB’s credit, they never gained
          their market share by claiming to send you to the best /most relevant
          site for your search term, and then try to keep you within their system.

          Google knows what’s happening, what people are saying and they are
          trying to delay. They did this with any major update (ironically they
          were after Google’s needed more money for Wall Street) : Say we updated, users are loving it, but keep quiet on what /where /how. A few month later give some false hope to get people
          scrambling. Make sure a few recover months latyer to get some more false hope.
          Eventually people forget while Google profits and moves to the next
          update.

          I am an independent web guy that has seen this for a while.

  2. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  3. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  4. spragued says:

    They’re goosing the numbers any number of ways (e.g., the article listed below). Another reason for the somewhat messy rollout of the G+ integration may be an attempt to have it grandfathered into any negotiated settlement required by the EC antitrust action — which has been fast-tracked for March delivery.

    marketingland.com/google-now-forcing-all-new-users-to-create-google-enabled-accounts-3912

    • Guest says:

      That’s a very interesting speculation, Spragued. I had wondered if some of Page’s insistence on velocity was to ensure that Google implemented some features that might be more difficult to introduce if there was regulation.

  5. Dmitry76 says:

    Google has bent over backwards to lie this quarter. Did you hear the CPC bs they tried to sell? It’s down by an astounding 8% after falling another 8% the previous quarter. Clicks on ads increased by 34% and every website with keywords that trigger ads felt that by getting a lot of less traffic from Google.

    I am going to share a little secret with you John: Google is a fraud. Google missed 2011 first quarter’s earnings too but Page ordered more ads added to pages (it’s insane now,) added some more white space on top to push organic search off the fold and gave the go-ahead to Amit Singhal & Co to penalize small businesses that weren’t brands. Not being a brand is another way of saying doesn’t advertise in the e-commerce are (where Google makes almost all its money.)

    That juice run out and it’s going to be a lot harder to to replicate this year. The lemon is already squeezed, maybe they  can try to squeeze it again….they’ll get some pulp but it ain’t the same.

    What this has gained Google is a lot of angry webmasters and business owners that have seen their decade old sites crushed by Google, but with time on their hand. To understand Google you need to speak to people in the trenches, those that live and die by Google’s changes. They can tell you of future prospects, Google’s advertising and everything else in between.

    I will post a few links to see how the web is reacting to Google’s many ads:

    ———-
    seomoz*org/blog/8-predictions-for-seo-in-2012
    “Prediction #5: Overly Aggressive Search Ads Will Result in Mainstream Backlash Against Google There are some pretty crazy things going on in the search advertising world right now.”

    searchengineland*com/too-many-ads-above-the-fold-now-penalized-by-googles-page-layout-algo-108613

    “(Side note, that yellow color around the ads in the screenshot? It’s much darker in the screenshot than what I see with my eyes. In reality, the color is so washed-out that it might as well be invisible. That’s something some have felt has been deliberately engineered by Google to make ads less noticeable as ads).”

    My laptop’s screen resolution is pretty high, of course. Others would see less (Google’s Browser Size tool doesn’t work to measure its own search results pages). But you can expect Google will take “do as I say, not as I do” criticism on this issue.

    Indeed, I shared this story initially with the main details, then started working on this section. After that was done, I could see this type of criticism already happening, both in the comments or over on my Google+ post and Facebook post about the change.”
    ———-

    Or you can search for “Google algorithm change ads” and see what webmasters think of Google. Never in my years have I seen this, it’s a peasant rebellion.

    Google has stolen clicks from hardworking webmasters and given them to ad-clicks or to Google’s  advertisers via Panda.

    The real target for webmasters is Google’s own labeling of ads, or non-labeling. There’s a movement to get FTC involved, there’s no need for anti-trust or anything here, just label the ads clearly and on top. That will mean a huge drop in clicks for Google and an increase for webmasters. economics*com*au/?p=6428 The precious Google stock will probably drop another 40%, but it was gained by fraud anyway.

    In other words, greed will be Google’s downfall. They want to play with the big boys, but they are a one trick pony and have no ethics so they are driving others out of business to gain every penny they can. Bigger sites are in line now for the out-of-business treatment, that means you and your clients will feel the G+ effect in a major way.

    My advice to you John is to try to keep Google honest when it comes to obeying the laws. An honest Google means a lot more traffic to websites. 

    1. If they do not label the ads as they should – call FTC, Congress and spread the word so more people get involved. It’s the law,  there’s no need for “do no evil” or “I’m nice” empty words. Just obey the f*cking law and do not deceive users.

    2. If Google doesn’t deliver the best search results for the users – tell the world about it and support a SE that does. Of course question all of Google’s results and updates. If they lied for, and manipulated A, chances are they did the same for B,C and D. Why is a certain company on top for this search? Is it best for the users or are they a big advertiser? Or is it to make ads better than content so increase clicks on ads?

    Anti-trust is a very specific legal definition, and even if Google is a monopoly, it takes many years to sort it out. However, shining the light on their practices can start now and it has an immediate effect when people find out about their practices.

     

  6. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  7. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  8. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  9. [...] But Google+ has to produce some engagement. As John Battelle noted: [...]

  10. Guest says:

    Damn. Google removed the typeahead suggestions for verified Google+ users. To be honest, I’m a little annoyed by the Valley outcry about what were to me useful features. All the brouhaha has removed things that were actually good; at least to me. I liked that typeahead. I wanted the Google+ profiles there as I’m enjoying using Google+. Damn.

    • Anonymous says:

      You sure? I’d love a list of changes since the rollout.

      • Guest says:

        The typeahead for the verified users in my circles no longer yields links to the Google+ pages for me. This could just be me though… I’ll keep checking it over the next few days.

  11. [...] Google+: Now Serving 90 Million. But…Where’s the Engagement Data! [...]

  12. Why Larry Page does never tried to use their Google’s or Google+ user’s suggestions, there are several comments and suggestions on his page about Google, Maps and etc. He just ignored it.

  13. [...] Google+. This post look at the conundrum facing brands, and how they need to embrace Google+, while this post questions whether Google+ users are really engaged with the [...]

  14. [...] B&#965t Google+ h&#1072&#1109 t&#959 produce &#1109&#959m&#1077 engagement. A&#1109 John Battelle noted: [...]