Google+ is still very young, but it's already becoming a significant traffic source for some sites.
"I was quite surprised to find how strong Google+ was as a social media traffic source driver," Larry Kim, Founder and CTO of WordStream, told WebProNews. "Google+ beat-out LinkedIn, and was even closing in [on] Twitter and Facebook!"
He put together a case study looking at this a little bit. "Like any case study, I can only speak for my company’s own experiences, but nevertheless, I found the results of my case study to be quite surprising."
For the case study, Kim compiled web analytics data for WordStream's blog for the week of July 18 - July 24, which he says was an unusually high traffic week for the firm. He analyzed which social networks drove the most referral traffic, and Facebook took first place, accounting for 47% of visitors. Twitter was second at 27.51% and Google+ came in third at 15.42% of visitors. LinkedIn trailed with 9.81%.
As we've discussed before, LinkedIn can be a solid traffic source, but the fact that Google+ has been around for so little time, and is capable of driving a significant amount of traffic, before the product is even open to the public, is remarkable.
Here's an infographic representing Kim's findings:
Google+ Holds its own as traffic driver" src="http://images.ientrymail.com/webpronews/pictures/social-media-showdown.jpg" title="Social Media Showdown - Google+ Holds its own as traffic driver" class="aligncenter" width="616">
Kim's not the only one to see Google+ making a contribution to referrals. We've seen some first-hand as well. Ryan Spoon wrote at BusinessInsider the other day, that Google+ had already become the #3 referring site to his site.
"Of course this has real implications for marketers & brands and how they should think about leveraging / interacting on Google Plus," he wrote. "Furthermore, it is a powerful position for Google (should the trend continue) because they can begin connecting the properties (SEO, SEM, Plus, .com)… which in turn will cause marketers (and their budgets) to dedicate themselves further to Google."
"Google+, despite only being around for 1 month – and even then, being released in a limited 'field testing' mode, drove more traffic to our blog than LinkedIn – it was roughly a third of our Facebook traffic and over half of our Twitter traffic," said Kim. "This was a huge surprise given how many Facebook fans and Twitter followers we've accumulated over the last several years, and given that at the time of this writing, I don't even have a company presence on Google+ yet, or any Google +1 buttons on our website. (Though plans are in the works for both!)"
Kim brings up a couple of good points there. When Google launches its business profiles, it's going to potentially be a huge part of how sites are able to gain more traffic from Google+. For that matter, we're still wondering if Google will eventually include further integration of the +1 button into Google+ itself (for example, allowing it to share content to the stream like the Facebook Like Button) or merge Google Buzz with Google+ (which would mean this type of sharing via the Buzz buttons). Either would also potentially lead the way to increased traffic on heavily shared content.
Kim speculates that reasons why Google+'s estimated 20 million users could beat LinkedIn's 100 million users as a traffic driver may have to do with the lack of spam that has appeared on the service so far and a higher level of engagement among users. In terms of spam, I'm sure more will come in time. I've already seen a report of comment spam on the network.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land raises some good points about how building your following on Google+ may serve to help you in search rankings, based on Google's use of social signals and personalized search features.
He notes that he saw a search result show him for him that was marked as being shared by Ford on Google+. That's Google'e social search in action.
"Until recently, the social connections that Google Social Search uses have been mostly actual people," Sullivan explains. "While brands were allowed to have Google Profiles until March of this year, few of them did. That meant relatively few brands were available for direct connections through Google."
"It was possible to connect with brands in Google Social Search if you followed brand profiles on Twitter, Facebook or some other ways," he adds. "However, it was fairly unusual for me to spot that something was getting a boost in Google’s search results through that type of connection."
The point is that brands will soon (in the coming months) have Google+ profiles, and the more people that have your brand added to their Circles will probably mean you'll have a better chance in ranking better for those people.
I'll take it a step further and suggest that having your brand in these people's circles may mean additional +1's on your content. Google has already said flat out that it looks at +1 info as a ranking signal. If you're putting your content in front of your circles, they may follow your links and +1 your content on your site, or they may +1 your actual Google+ post (which contains the link to that content).
It's probably as good a time as ever to be a big brand.