When it comes to Google+, SEOs are never wrong

Google, by way of John Mueller, said yesterday it’ll be killing off the rich author snippet in search results. The author snippet, enabled by implementing rel=author tags on your content, gave you a rich search result showing your Google+ profile photo and circle count:

Rich author snippet

This snippet will now disappear, apparently because Google wants to “clean up the visual design of our search results”.

Since the entire SEO community has spent considerable amount of effort the last year or two to get clients to adopt rel=author precisely to get these rich snippets, I want to extend my sincere fuck you’s to Google for this move. Fuck you very much.

But we really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, despite abundant claims to the contrary, Google+ as a social sharing platform is, as TechCrunch put it, ‘walking dead‘. This author snippet removal is just another nail in Google+’s coffin.

Meanwhile on Google Plus


Yet many SEOs continue to adhere to the view that Google+ is here to stay, despite all the writing on the wall. The thing is, the way these SEOs frame the debate, they’re right.

Because certain aspects of what the Google+ name stood for will definitely stick around. You see, Google+ is not just the social sharing platform – it’s what most of us think of when we say ‘Google+’, but it’s only a small part of the amalgamation of systems and services that Google smashed together to make the lovely fragrant potpourri that Google+ is.

After all, Google+ starts with having a Google account. If you have a Google account, any Google account on any of Google’s platforms, you are in effect a Google+ user.

And since Google accounts are most assuredly not going to disappear, these Google+ fanboy SEOs claim that Google+ is a massive success.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the flaw in that argument, of course.

Google Plus is Dead

No matter how you twist it, Google+ as a social platform is a disaster. So when we talk about the ‘death of Google+‘, we mean the demise of that social platform. No amount of  moving the goalposts is going to make that any less true.

But since SEOs hate to be proven wrong, the goalposts will continue to move, and Google+ will continue to be redefined and reshaped in the collective minds of the fanboys, so that they can claim they were right all along and Google+ is here to stay.

Because SEOs are never wrong, you see. Even when they are.

Hype, SEO


  1. Not sure what you’re exactly trying to say, but look at this first paragraph I wrote in 2012:


    From the start I’ve said it is not about the social network part. The social network part is a feature. And some features fail, others are useful for something else. So is the social network part of G+ I think.

    Acknowleding that is not being a fanboy in my view or is it? Just checking to see if I am ;)

    1. My fundamental issue is with exactly that Bas – Google basically said in 2012 that every Google account is now called Google+, and then tacked the social layer on top of that.

      In the general public’s perception, that social layer IS Google+. The general public does not see having a Google account as being an active Google+ user. And they’re right.

      Google deliberately muddied the waters by renaming Google accounts to Google+ and then had us, the SEO community, do the promoting of it for them.

      Google renaming their accounts to ‘Google+’ does not suddenly make it a new and exciting thing – it’s still just having a Google account.

      The ‘new and exciting thing’ that the public recognise as Google+ is the social sharing platform, and when I say that Google+ is dying I mean exactly that: the social sharing platform is dying.

      Now we can all continue to dance to Google’s tunes and pretend Google+ is fine and dandy, but all we’d really be acknowledging is that our Google accounts are not going to disappear. A bit of a ‘well, duh’ thing, imho.

  2. But it is interesting to see that even though google has all the marketing and network power in the world. They do not seem to be very succesfull in creating a social platform out of thin air. Even with that many (forced on the platform) users.

    1. Dan, when it comes to Google+ you really should take all that data about user numbers from Google and wipe your arse with it, because it’s the worst kind of bollocks imaginable.

      Every time someone logs in to a Google account, it counts as an ‘active Google+ login’. Every time someone clicks on the bell notification item, it counts as ‘in-stream activity on Google+’. Every YouTube comment = Google+ activity. Every time someone even looks sideways at a Google product it will be counted as an active Google+ user.

      It’s a total farce. Google owns all that data, which is why we don’t have any REAL data on how people use Google+.

      What we do have is common sense (a lot of it, I hope), and when I ask my friends and family who are not in the digital industry (the majority of them) few of them have ever heard of Google+. None use it, ever.

      They all do use Facebook, though, and most are on Twitter too. So those graphs you link to about Google+ supposedly rivalling twitter? Pure shite.

    1. Heheh Ben, you’re not alone in shining light up Google+’s arse the past few years and declaring it a ‘smashing success’. You’re all wrong, though, and I’ll relish the imminent opportunity to say I told you so. ;)

      1. I’m in NO doubt whatsoever about that…but it’s still an IF. And even if you’re right, I’ll be disappointed…I LIKE it and get use from it!

  3. > Google renaming their accounts to ‘Google+’ does not suddenly make it a new and exciting thing – it’s still just having a Google account.

    From a user’s perspective I agree. Under the hood not quite so. The big innovation with Google+ was marrying named entities (people and places) to a permalink, deferenceable URI (plus.google.com/NNN…), and providing a method by which these unique IDs could be verified by the individuals and corporate entities to which they’re mapped.

    Prior to Plus there was a mishmash of different Google profile types which weren’t capable of being mapped to specific types of entities, or to specific named entities: “an account” was simply “an account”, and Google wasn’t able to readily associate these accounts with named entities or entity types.

    Google+ ingested the less utilitarian (from Google’s point of view) Google Profile, and gradually the Google+ platform was used on one hand to consolidate and disambiguate identities across the Google network (not always effortlessly, the seemingly endless saga of Google business listings being a case in point), and on the other to promote (to the point of almost insisting upon) the creation of Google+ profiles for new accounts.

    Now there’s simply two account tiers: a “service account” (A) that isn’t linked to a individual or corporate identity and whose use is limited to Google products like Gmail or Analytics, and a Google+ account (B) that is very much linked to an individual identity (to the point that Google+ tries to flush Profiles – personal named entities – that don’t have a “reasonable” sounding name), and entirely subsumes the service account (A).

    Verifying these identities makes them more useful to Google, especially in collapsing variant appearances of a entity across their network to a specific ID. The now less-delicious-looking prospect of a Google Authorship rich snippet was certainly a mechanism to encourage verification, just as there’s numerous carrots for business owners to verify their Google … what’s a Google business listing called these days? :)

    To Google, the advantages of a network of dereferenceable, disambiguated, verified identities are multitudinous. Of course, this network supports a more precise understanding of individuals’ interactions on the Internet, making it easier to more profitably match those individuals to advertisers, themselves now better understood by Google. It also makes it easier to track users’ travels and interactions in a multi-device universe – especially an Android universe, of course.

    So I don’t particularly disagree with what you have to say, except that – as I’ve outlined above – that not “any Google account on any of Google’s platforms” is quite a Google+ account, because that service account level isn’t mapped to a verifiable entity. But Google would certainly like that to be the case.

    And whether or not you find this laudable, I certainly ain’t one of those SEOs that can be said to be moving the goalposts. While I just so happen to enjoy using and get benefit from using Google+ (SEOs being the occupational group most likely to be on and active on Google+ – hell, probably more so than Google employees), I’ve been consistent in my assessment of the value of Google+:

    “While I’m sure Google has every hope that Google+ will evolve into everyone’s favorite social network, it would have enormous value to Google if it contained exactly zero posts, photos and videos by zero contributors. It is a verified identity network that allows Google to disambiguate individuals, businesses and other corporate entities, and connect all of these to websites and website pages.”

    1. As always, Aaron, your comments are thoughtful, well-researched, and probably much more useful than my vapid rants that precede them. :)

      Having said that, you are basically saying that Google+ is a Google account on steroids. I’m not arguing with that, I am however saying that the general public does not share this perception, and for them Google+ is the social sharing platform.

      Like I replied to Bas, it was a genius move from Google to first call the anabolically-enhanced accounts ‘Google+’ and then launch a social platform on top of that with the exact same name. It ensured that the folks who understood the first thing would be promoting, inadvertently or otherwise, the second thing.

      I’m actually quite happy it didn’t work out that well for Google. Yes they have a robust account system that gives them a heap more insight, but the social graph data they were hoping for proved to be a bit harder to gather.

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