For any Game of Thrones fans out there, you’re familiar with the series’ author not being afraid to kill off major characters, usually ones everyone loves or was just starting to like. This is a unique characteristic George R.R. Martin shares with Google who has been known to kill off multi-million dollar projects such as Google Reader, iGoogle and Google Buzz. At Google’s recent I/O Developer Conference, barely a word was spoken about Google+, who was also celebrating its 3 year anniversary last month. In addition, the search engine giant announced it is making major changes around Google authorship in dropping the profile photo and circle count from the search listings where authorship is assigned to a web page. Both features have been a high selling point in getting bloggers and marketers to sign up for Google+ in the first place. These puzzling set of events have been speculating whether or not this is the beginning of the end for Google+ and Google Authorship.
Aside from YouTube and Gmail users forced into creating an account, marketers and bloggers are Google+’s predominant users. This audience saw Google+ as an effective way to maximize their brand’s exposure on Google through author snippets and well documented ranking effects of +1′s in SERPs. Brands such as Starbucks Coffee and the Economist admitted to using Google+ solely for the positive SEO effects. When Google announced this week that author snippets were being abandoned, many started to think this was the first sign that Google+ was being slowly phased out. For now, Google is stating the cause of this change is simply because it cluttered search experience, particularly in mobile. This move is highly logical on Google’s part as almost every marketing report released this year will tell you mobile is crushing it, and Google too needs to pay attention to that in order to better serve consumers and the company’s they purchase from. In the words of Eli Fennell, Google is extremely data driven, and the data probably pointed that this change was more beneficial in the long run.
The resolution … maybe
Now with one of the only real draws of using Google+ gone, some speculate that everything from Google+ is slated to be broken up into pieces in order to keep all the information retained from Google+ users, and utilize some of its positive SEO benefits. This implies Google now cares more about “Plus” not as a social network, but as the glue that ties all of Google. These components could be the future backbone of Google’s ecosystem. So, the demise of Google+ could only really mean that Google has finally found a real, concrete use for it and isn’t afraid to start shaping future products and policies around this change. In other words, Google+ is still fighting the good fight, but we could be seeing some major changes in the future.