Google Plus is regarded by many users as a dead platform with no relevance in the social media industry. On first glance this seems to be an apt statement, with public posts garnering seemingly no engagement, falling prey to a digital vacuum to be unread and forgotten.

This was my initial experience with Google Plus; any post that I made often went unseen with no likes, shares or comments. If I attempted to comment on the posts of other users, I never received responses from anyone; whether this stemmed from the inability to open notifications in separate tabs or if users that posted publically never actually traversed the platform, it’s hard to say.

Out of 2.2 billion Google users, Google Plus boasts 111 million accounts; out of that number, only 6.7 million have posted more than 50 times and 3.5 million have 50+ posts in the past 30 days.

The Importance of Google Plus for SEO

Despite the perception that Google Plus isn’t relevant, it serves an integral role in website SEO and referral traffic, ranking just behind Facebook as the most important platform that Google crawls in ranking sites for relevance and SEO-friendliness.

While the niche may be small, Google Plus does foster an active community of users, provided that you look in the right places. Just as Facebook is prioritizing Facebook Groups in its user’s newsfeeds, anyone who is using Google Plus needs to post and engage in Communities if they want to see any kind of engagement or active users.

Initially I posted without joining any communities on Google Plus, only to experience increasing frustration as posts remained untouched and comments on other people’s posts were largely ignored. Even with multiple tweaks in messaging and content my posts received no engagement and I was ready to give up on the platform.

Based on Facebook’s algorithm change and the emphasis it started placing on Facebook Groups, I decided to see if Google Plus offered something similar and was surprised to find a sea of groups that I could join.

Unlike Facebook, Google Plus doesn’t necessarily have Pages, just variations of account types, but there are no stipulations as to who can post in a group, whereas with Facebook only personal accounts can participate in a group while Pages are barred from access.

The trick was to find Communities that are active and don’t spam content in self-promotion or attempts at artificially boosting SEO. It took some time to find a few Communities worth joining, but the moment that I found a few that met my criteria I found that I started receiving an increase in engagement as well as referral traffic directly from Google Plus.

To put that into perspective, I didn’t have any referral traffic from Google Plus for three months until I started posting in relevant Communities; now Google Plus ranks as one of my highest referrers behind Facebook and LinkedIn.

Leveraging Communities On Google Plus For Engagement

My experience may be anecdotal at best, but in my eyes it shows the importance of engaging in communities as a way to grow your personal brand, or building a community of like-minded users if you’re expanding a business that offers products or educational materials.

The purpose of social media is to inform, educate or entertain, not constantly sell yourself to users, shove advertisements and marketing efforts down their throats and self-promote without adding anything of value to the user.

Social media is starting to move further in this direction as Facebook takes the lead in bringing back meaningful engagement with its users instead of displaying business posts and promotions on equal footing in newsfeeds. Google Plus is also in this boat, although it doesn’t serve as a suitable platform for advertisers and promoters.

It’s interesting that Google Plus purported itself to be on equal footing as a direct competitor to Facebook, but instead of serving as a standalone platform it now stands as support for other Google services such as Photos or Hangout.

Google has a history of shutting down products and services that aren’t performing as anticipated and it’s uncertain as to whether Google Plus will suffer a similar fate based on the exceedingly low amount of active users it has.

I feel as though it can switch directions if it offers something of more value through its Communities and capabilities, but the future doesn’t look bright for Google Plus despite the positive public perception surrounding its release in 2011. There is value in using the platform, but its limited compared to other rising stars like Instagram or even Vero.