The Upcoming Google+ Shutdown: What it Means for Local SEO (and What You Need to do to Prepare)
Google+ is slated to shut down in April 2019. Whether you were aware of this sad news or not, it is important to recognize that for some people, no more Google + will change the state of local SEO—and you’re going to need to know what that means and if you’ll be affected. Read on to find out more!
The Big Reason Behind the Shutdown
The biggest reason that Google+ has to be shut down is because there was a huge data breach on the platform in March 2018. You may not have heard as much about this because this happened right around the time that Facebook was being investigated because of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Google also did not disclose information about this for quite some time, which also contributed to the silence surrounding the breach.
In comparison to Facebook’s fiasco, Google+’s data breach was considerably more conservative in how many people it affected: About 500,000 accounts were targeted, and personal and private information was shared without their consent. And, because Google kept this news quiet for a long time, profiles remained vulnerable to further exploitation for much longer than they should have.
The Most Obvious Reasons
Unfortunately, Google+ has had a reputation for being a ghost town for a long time. While Google+ did develop some strong communities, particularly among niche interests such as tech, Android development, artists, engineers, and anime, it simply did not have the usership that other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter had.
People also complained A LOT about the clunky UI and user-unfriendly navigation system from the get-go. And sadly, it never really got much better. People were speculating about the end of Google+ years ago, citing Google’s poor interface design and frustrating user experiences as potential deal breakers. These issues appeared to be huge barriers to the adaptation of the social network, and Google’s repeated attempts to revamp it only ended in more frustration for many people, ultimately causing people to speculate that Google was killing its own network without the interference of external networks.
So, How Does the Google+ Shutdown Affect Local SEO?
Google+ used to be a major factor in local SEO because Google Places was integrated with it. Thankfully, Google has separated most of the local SEO factors from the Google Places and infused those elements in Google My Business. If you aren’t using Google My Business, you definitely should be—it’s essential for local and organic SEO. If you’re still using Google+, or your business page remains in the dusty annals of Google+, then you may be affected by this change. It’s definitely time to move your information over to Google My Business to avoid losing whatever work you’ve built at Google+.
What About My Adwords Account?
You will be glad to know that even if you still maintain a Google+ page, Google Adwords and other advertising platforms will not be affected—you’ll still be able to use them.
Okay, But I have Circles and I Actually USE Google+. This Will Certainly Affect Me, Right?
If you are one of the people who is still very active in certain niche circles, then you might be worried about losing influence and your audience. And this is likely true—however, most people are active on other social media networks, and you still have time to let your audience know where else they can find you. You can even promote your Google My Business site using posts and product showcases, so there are ways to entice your audience to follow you on Google as well.
But What About Social Signals as Ranking Factors?
Good news: Social media signals from other sites will help fill in the gap left by Google+. Social media signals are part of Google’s ranking factors, but they are much more minor elements in comparison to backlinks and quality content.
What Am I Supposed to Do with My Data?
You might be wondering what you’re supposed to do with all your circles, communities, streams, and all of the hard work you’ve put into building those groups.
Thankfully, Google will let you download an archive of Google+ data. You can also include photos and videos from Google+. The tool you can use to do this is called Google Takeout, and it’s an official Google product. You can access it here.
Tips for a Smooth Switch-Over:
Use the Google Takeout tool mentioned above to save all your personal and business data from Google+ before it disappears forever.
Update the social sharing buttons on your website—you don’t want dead links hanging out on your site.
Check your header and footer or sidebars on your website as well; some plug-ins add those social sharing buttons in tricky places, and you don’t want those appearing anywhere!
Remove any requests for Google+ reviews. You can replace them with requests for Google My Business Reviews!
If you already have a Google My Business account set up, then you’ll want to be sure to focus on updating it. Google My Business Posts are absolutely essential to modern local SEO. These posts appear in the SERPs as a part of your profile, so there’s lots of opportunity for them to be seen.
Do you have any other insights into the Google+ shutdown? Will you miss it, or have you already moved on? Let us know!