In the past, I’ve not been shy about hiding my dislike for some of Google’s practices. In fact, I’ve called them everything from an arrogant bully to an incestuous circle jerk, trapped in a filter bubble world . But recently I’ve been reading all of the press and counter press about how Google+ is growing faster than the waistline of your average McDonald’s customer along with the incessant blood sucking social media guru’s top ten posts about how to leverage Google+ for everything from attention, mindshare, links, SEO, and Fritos covered with caviar. It’s all a bunch of BS: Google+ is doomed to fail. The only people too blind to see it are the techno-weenies, social media charlatans, or any other clueless half wits who think getting on the homepage of techmeme is a meaningful goal worth achieving.
Let’s get one thing straight: Google is an amazing company. They have built some amazing top of the line products that I love and use by choice daily because they are top of the line (like Google Apps). Other products (like Google buzz and Google wave) suck worse than a Bethany Getting Married weekend marathon on Bravo. But what makes a Google product work and what doesn’t? It’s really quite similar to way things work in the rest of the world. What works is building products that solve problems for CONSUMERS and are things that “normal people” want to use, not products companies want to ram down the throats of normal consumers for the company’s own best interests. The reason Facebook works is because it allows “regular” people to connect and socialize with their friends. The reason people loathe Facebook ads and Facebook pulled their online stores is because it was like trying to sell things to your friends while they were hanging out at the bar. You were the annoying Amway dude that no one wanted to talk to or be around.
So why does Google+ suck despite all the free hippie love from the tech community fan boys? First off the tech community has the attention span of a squirrel on ADD medication. This is the new shiny cat toy of the moment. They all want to play with it. To be honest, they are like political commentators on CNN: they have 24 hours a day to fill with programing (or, in their case, a day’s worth of page view journalism). They will say anything for 15 more seconds of air time time, more attention, or a boost in klout score. You should pretty much ignore 90% of the things that come out of their mouths. Secondly, deep down inside they all want to work for Google. Maybe it’s the peer respect, the pay, the perks, or just maybe it’s the free lunch. Since Google tied all of the Google employee’s benefits to the success of Google’s social network, Google employees are now highly motivated to engage with “the common folk” using all the nifty things on Google+ like video chat. This is all smoke and mirrors to get you to think Google+ is where the cool kids are when they’re really not (its the real world equivalent of paying celebrities to show up at a party). However, if you are a Silicon Valley reporter, talking with a Googler on video chat is the equivalent of a 13 year old girl talking to Justin Bieber. Yea, I went there–but just try and tell me it’s not true.
When Google started out, their goal was to build a great search engine. They did, and it changed everything. Nowadays when Google sets out to build something, they don’t do it to build the best product in its class; they do it to extract more data from/about you, profile you better, and sell you to advertisers as a more targeted and qualified prospect (ad retargeting anyone). Google wallet wasn’t designed to build a great, frictionless commerce system. It was designed to pull you away from PayPal and to extract as much data as possible about your purchasing habits. Google buzz wasn’t designed to help you discover cool fun stuff on the web. It was designed to build a set of trust data about your friends (aka your social graph) and what they read and like. Then it filters out the fake social media spam and SEO BS with social proof so companies can make their SERPS better to charge more to advertisers. They just were too good at it and got busted. Google+ wasn’t designed to create an amazing social network to allow you to connect with your friends. It was built to validate your social graph data, keep you off Facebook and Twitter, keep you in the filter bubble of your “friends likes” and, more importantly, keep you in the Google ecosystem as much as possible.
Aside from the naive delusional tech press, who are little more than puppets on strings at this point, regular people “know without knowing exactly why” that Google is being disingenuous and lying to them. But for now, thanks to SPYW being integrated into Google’s SERPS, if you sell anything on the web, you have to play with social media to remain competitive. However, you should never put all your eggs in one basket, especially one you are going to let Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ carry around for you. You’ll never know when they will decide to change or phase out your mission critical business functions or take your data and keep it to themselves, leaving you to swing from the gallows.
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