Google+ Simplifies Follower Counts, But Confusion Remains

Did you miss it? Part of this week’s changes to Google+ was the debut of a new figure combining +1 counts and followers for brand pages. It’s nice, but it still doesn’t rectify problems with how Google+ badges are displayed and used.

Counting +1′s

My earlier article, The Broken Follower Counts & Confusing Buttons Of Google+, looked in detail at how, until this week, Google+ Pages featured a confusing count of +1′s that a brand had received, based on:

  • +1′s of the brand’s Google+ page
  • +1′s of ads that the brand runs
  • +1′s of the brand’s web site home page

This count did not include:

  • +1′s on pages within a brand’s web site
  • Number of followers

The last omission was, to me, the biggest problem. When brands list badges from Twitter or Facebook through widgets on their web sites, both of those companies show a clear, easy to understand follower count.

Follower Counts, From Badge To Page

For example, consider our Facebook widget and how it links to our Facebook page for Marketing Land:

On the left is our widget here on the Marketing Land site, showing that we have 3,197 people who currently like us. Our page on Facebook also reflects this same figure.

Here’s the same situation with Twitter:

We have a button on the site that shows 5,274 people follow our Marketing Land account on Twitter. Over on our Twitter page, you see virtually the same count being shown. It’s off by only three followers, probably because of a lag in Twitter updating the counts that it sends to buttons.

Google+ Shifts (Mostly) To Follower Counts

Until this week, the main count that you would see at the top of a Google+ page was the number of +1′s that the brand behind that page had accrued, rather than the number of followers. Here’s the before-and-after:

On the left is the before shot. You had a big number (3,115, in this case), at the top. That showed all the +1′s that a brand had accrued. Further below, as the first down arrow points at, was the number of people on Google+ who actually followed the page (13,943, in this case).

On the right is the after shot. Now, the number of people who follow the page (the 14,671 that the second down arrow points at) has been combined with any +1′s that the page is deemed to have accrued, producing the big number at the top (18,014).

Badges Stay With +1 Counts

The change is nice, because it better represents the number of people who follow a page, which as I’ve found, was often far more than those who simply +1′d the page. But there are still issues when it comes to the badges. Consider this:

On the left is our Google+ badge for Marketing Land, with a count of +96 being shown. But our Google+ page for Marketing Land itself shows a 910 figure at the top, which includes those 96 +1′s that our page on Google+ has gained, along with 814 people (as the second arrow shows) who follow the page.

The figures do add up, but at-a-glance, you have no idea why the count on the badge is so much smaller than the bigger figure shown on the Google+ page.

Ad & Site-Earned +1′s No Longer On Brand Pages

Meanwhile, consider this:

That shows a Google +1 widget (as opposed to a Google+ widget) that we include at the top of our pages, showing that our home page has accrued 130 +1′s. But if our home page has earned 130 +1′s, and our Google+ page has 814 followers, why doesn’t our overall figure of followers and +1′s received show 944?

The answer is that brand pages no longer use +1 counts other than +1 counts that the brand page itself had received.

Remember what I said before, that +1′s on Google+ pages had included:

  • +1′s of the brand’s Google+ page
  • +1′s of ads that the brand runs
  • +1′s of the brand’s web site home page

From Google’s blog post, that’s changed:

We’ll now show an aggregated count of users that have engaged with your page, either by +1’ing it or by adding it to a circle. This way, both you and your page’s visitors can get an at-a-glance summary of who is interacting with your page.

This means that +1 counts added to follower (circle) counts now only include those who have actually +1′d the brand’s Google+ page. All those other +1′s that had been aggregated for the web site’s home page or related ads have been dropped.

Ad & Site-Earned +1′s Used In Search

As best I can tell, ad and site-related +1′s continue to show within search results and don’t include any +1′s earned to a brand page. For example, Mashable shows this count of +1′s that its site has received on its home page:

That 44K figure corresponds to the 44,567 that is shown for Mashable in Google’s search results:

But those 44,500 +1′s earned from favoring the Mashable home page or pages within Mashable clearly don’t flow into the Mashable Google+ Page:

With a count of 122,648 overall, and 115,596 followers, that means the Mashable page on Google+ has earned 7,052 direct +1′s. Potentially, these could be added into the 44,500 figure, but I don’t think so (I’ll check on this). Clearly, all the site-generated +1′s aren’t flowing the other way.

Following Accounts Vs. Liking Accounts Is Confusing

In general, the change is good. I think the mixing of ad-earned and site-earned +1′s into those for a page itself was confusing. However, I still think the badges and the ability to +1 a Google+ page both remain confusing.

The counts shown on the Google+ badges don’t correspond to the larger counts shown on Google+ pages, and they should.

Separately, we’ve been told by Google to earn +1′s to our web sites, in order to help our sites rank better with Google. But now we’re having to earn two different things, +1′s of our Google+ pages and +1′s of our actual content.

Both Facebook and Twitter have similar issues. Facebook encourages you to like Facebook Pages as well as like content from within sites that might also have pages. Twitter encourages people to follow accounts and also retweet content from sites that may also have accounts.

The difference is that neither Facebook or Twitter mix the figures of those who like an account with those who like content from an account. Their badges show one count: followers. Their buttons ask you to do one thing: either follow an account or share content.

With Google+, you get three options: follow an account, like the account or share content — and it feels like one button too many.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook: Pages | Features & Analysis | Google: Google +1 | Google: Google+ | Top News | Twitter: Buttons & Widgets

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/tarekelshwehy Tarek elshwehy

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  • Chiranjeeb Jena

    Agreed… It’s confusing… [o.O]

  • http://twitter.com/Red_Mud_Rookie Ralph du Plessis

    Danny, if you hadn’t added the final two paragraphs i would still be confused so thanks for clearing that up!

    “….Their buttons ask you to do one thing: either follow an account or share content.With Google+, you get three options: follow an account, like the account or share content — and it feels like one button too many.”

  • http://carlospacheco.tumblr.com Carlos Pacheco

    I had noticed the discrepancies but decided not to concentrate on them because I was sure it didn’t make sense…. now I’m even more confused and it still doesn’t make sense!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1599010116 Robert Leonardo

    Whatever it is. Sounds confusing. I would not want to display the Google badge with these numbers.

  • http://www.nikonbaby.com/ Nikon Baby

    You are right. You check again. You will see that you +1 count reduced again :D 

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