Google+ is Where the Rich Get Richer

Google+ is Where the Rich Get Richer

As the first couple of weeks wind down to a close, Google+ seems adamant on being more than just another flash in the pan. 10 million strong have joined the ranks at Google+ and Google co-founder/CEO Larry Page was certain to highlight these and other impressive numbers on the company’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.

The search giant though, known to favor large and reputable brands in the past, could be lending the same benefits in their new social network.

Identifying the Problem

In my previous post I made mention of how Google+ Streams can become overrun with updates coming from the same series of people.

The cause for this behavior in Google+ is due to user interaction on posts.

When someone with little to no following posts an update on Google+ it is often swept down the Stream because there is no one there to interact (+1, comment, share) the post.

When someone with a much larger following posts an update though – there are thousands upon thousands of people there to interact with the post. When they interact, the timestamp on the post is effectively changed, and the post then continues to stay at or near the top of your Stream view.

The Usual Suspects

Before I get into the list of offenders here, I want to say that I love these people. They are what make the Internet, our industry of search and social communities what they are. They’re not the problem themselves, they’re simply the poster children for it.

That said… Anytime I load up Google+, I’m guaranteed to see updates from Matt Cutts, Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, or Danny Sullivan.

I chose to see updates from these people in my Stream so if there’s anyone to fault, it’s me. The problem caused by the existing technology though is something I firmly believe should be changed or improved upon.

Class Structures & Celebrification

Intentional or not there’s a class structure created by the Google+ Stream system. On one hand, that’s okay. Online communities mimic offline communities and whether we like it or not, there’s certainly a class system in our offline society. On the other hand, I don’t believe that I should miss out on my connections’ updates and posts because more popular users are also active in the community.

Yet, that is exactly what happens.

In one of my Google+ posts tonight, Brian Chappel of Ignite Social Media presented the fact that celebrification in this social setting allows Google to push more traffic to Google properties – but at the cost of greater relevancy.

How the Rich Get Richer

The stats don’t lie.

Cutts, Scoble, Pirillo, Sullivan… These are all successful authors and their contributions to online industries are far reaching and have been for years. In other words, they’ve worked hard to get where they are today. They’re successful in life, in business… and in the Google Search Results.

The SERPs are where things come full circle.

Google+ and the +1 Button are all about personalized search results. If you’ve logged into Google Webmaster Tools recently, you’ve likely noticed that there’s some handy reports on the +1 button and how it has been used in conjunction with your site’s URLs.

Barry Schwartz describes these reports and highlights how popularity plays a role.

The Search Impact report gives you an idea of how +1’s affect your organic search traffic. You can find out if your clickthrough rate changes when personalized recommendations help your content stand out. Do this by comparing clicks and impressions on search results with and without +1 annotations. Google will only show statistics on clickthrough rate changes when you have enough impressions for a meaningful comparison.

The Activity report shows you how many times your pages have been +1’d, from buttons both on your site and on other pages (such as Google search).

Finally, the Audience report shows you aggregate geographic and demographic information about the Google users who’ve +1’d your pages. To protect privacy, Google will only show audience information when a significant number of users have +1’d pages from your site.

Note “significant number of users” and “how +1’s affect your organic search traffic.” In other words, the more +1 interaction, the more positive the influence on organic traffic. Rest assured, the most popular users in Google+ are also benefiting from having a more “significant number of users” accessing their content.

Highlighting this late Thursday night was Jason Calacanis who noted how much more traffic Google+ sent compared to other networks when it came to his shared content:

Google+1 is crushing Facebook and Twitter as a traffic referrer to the LAUNCH blog. It’s just insane the difference!

With 100k twitter followers I’m getting half the clicks as from Google+ with 10k followers. That’s 20x the effectiveness.

I’m getting 10x the traffic from google+ than Facebook and i have 5k facebook friends. That’s 15x more effective.

Same Old Battles Wage On
Five years ago webmasters and site owners put their energy into building quality backlinks. Today, those same people are putting more energy into the social marketing of their content. It’s all for the same reason, too – to climb the organic rankings and gain more exposure.

Unfortunately, larger sites are led by more popular people. In both cases – backlinks for sites and social interaction on Google+ posts – quantities will be higher for those already having that celebrity stature.

The end result remains the same.

Google employs an algorithmic imbalance that rewards bigger brands with broader reach and discards smaller organizations and individuals.


I’d like to thank Matt Crouch of SEO Video Corp for his observations and comments that helped lead to this post being written in the first place.

5 thoughts on “Google+ is Where the Rich Get Richer

  1. Well Jason Calacanis maybe a little premature in his excitement – its nice he is getting traffic but 1) Google + is new and people may be a bit more active 2) the lower user-base number would help his post be seen better and thus, drive more traffic – as opposed to twitter feeds that just get lost in the oblivion – same with facebook posts.

    Regardless of that, well said. “The end result remains the same.” Google is a popularity contest, great content or not. Maybe Hemingway, just starting out today, wouldn’t rank well either these days if he couldn’t find the right number of followers.

  2. Repost from my Facebook comment:

    There’s a better way, imo, to look at G+. The whole idea of circles is that you don’t need to look at the entire stream. If you carefully choose who goes into what circle (e.g., you could have one for high profile posters) then you can simply view the stream of each circle as it’s own stream. This effectively stops that phenomenon of only seeing the prolific posters.

    Now, of course, everyone else has to learn to use G+ this way as well for it to really work. Since I’ve been using FB lists in the same manner for quite some time, it comes naturally to me, and is even easier to do in G+.

    1. Google says:

      “The stream is the place to have meaningful conversations with the people you care about.”

      That doesn’t align with what I’m seeing.

      While your idea of circle segmentation has legs, the same behavior is demonstrated in the circles you create and their Streams. I agree that like FB lists, Google+ Circles have suitable applications – but Streams are way too easily gamed right now. Edit a post, it rises to the top. Comment on a post, again it rises back. +1 it – same thing. It’s a bit ridiculous when these actions happen again and again over the course of multiple days.

      As an example — In my default Stream and my Search & Marketing Circle Stream, I’ve seen Danny’s sunset photos in Newport Beach about a hundred times. It’s cool, they’re great looking photos – but that doesn’t mean that I want to miss new content and discussions taking place in the Search & Marketing connections I have. As a publisher of content in that stream, I’m pretty sure you’d agree.

  3. The exception may be in our industry. When I click my “Search Marketing” circle, I’m gonna see Sullivan, Brogan, etc.. But I will heed to your prior advice about putting them in their own circle. The other problem is by default, I see all my circles/streams, not just one. I am forced to click each circle to filter through the data, which i have to say I do enjoy doing. Facebook was a PITA for that. I would LOVE to be able to select a default stream when I log on OR just show the last stream that I viewed last

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