If you’re a blogger, you should duplicate your blog content on Google+. What do I mean by duplicate? Exactly what that sounds like: reproduce your content as close-to-identical as it appears on your blog when you share it in a Google+ Post. Google+ has a nearly-complete set of tools for bloggers: virtually no limit on Post length, big beautiful embedded images, Searchability (something other social posts generally don’t have, due to things like rel=nofollow, scripts which are opaque to web crawlers, etc…), etc… It is therefore possible to make a Google+ post which looks roughly identical to a post on your own blog.
I can already hear in my mind a collective gasp from some folks who will read this. Bloggers who blog purely for fun may not be shocked by this idea, but those who blog for ad revenue may be thinking I have completely lost my mind.
If I reproduce the entire blog post on Google+, then they won’t have any reason to click through to my blog, they won’t see any ads, and I won’t make any money! they may be thinking. I understand them, but not because their concern there is justified; rather, I understand that they have inherited lessons that don’t apply to Google+ from other sources.
RSS, for example, has played a huge part in driving referral traffic to blogs, despite the relatively small number of people who actually use it (the numbers may always have been small, but have a voracious appetite for consuming blog content). This helps to explain the outrage felt by its users when Google decided to shutter reader: as far as they were concerned it was working just fine and there was no reason to ax it. Google, as we know, disagreed, and shifted their efforts with Reader to their new favorite child Google+. RSS survives, of course, but millions of bloggers whose AdSense strategy had come to depend heavily on Google Reader were unable to adapt to the idea of a world without it, and turned their efforts to new players like Feedly, never mindful of the fact that RSS is nothing but a way for bloggers to follow other bloggers and is almost unknown to the mainstream casual blog reader. What did it matter? A clickthrough is pretty much a clickthrough as far as driving revenue from AdSense and other ad providers.
Twitter reinforced this mode of perception, this pursuit of the Trinity of the Almighty Clickthrough, the Immaculate Ad Revenue, and the Holy Referral Traffic. Its 140-character limit means bloggers can do little more than share a title and a shortened link, and their followers can do little more but click through the links to read the blog. It is no surprise that, with fewer monthly users than Google+, Twitter nonetheless drives more referral traffic: there is little else it can do! Facebook is less well-designed to drive referrals, but by sheer scale, and the lack of any proper blogging tools built into the network, it still tends to drive a lot of referrals.
It is very telling that many bloggers see the success or failure of a social network, not by natural metrics like Time On Service and Engagement, but by how often its users click a link to an outside source. Of course, referral traffic is absolutely not how Google measures the success of Google+; on some level, I suspect they see any referrals to outside sources as a failure, something that took you away from Google Sites for those handful of hours most people have daily to surf the web. The number of websites and web companies is increasing exponentially, yet days remain a paltry 24-hours long, an average of 8-hours of which people are asleep, while much of the remaining 16-hours is often spent working rather than web surfing, especially the sort of casual web surfing Google needs from its users to drive their own ad revenue.
Google doesn’t care about your ad revenue, unless doing so also increases their own: they’re a business, after all, and the business of business is business, all flowery idealism aside. It is therefore little wonder Google built blogging tools into Google+. What they want users to create, and other users to consume, is rich onsite content. The very existence of these tools, and their use by many power users like myself, essentially has programmed many millions of users into expecting to be able to consume rich content onsite and not have to click through to any other sites! The premiere example of this is perhaps Mike Elgan, an extremely successful blogger who creates nearly all of his rich content on Google+ (except when writing guest articles, which is the one exception to what I am saying here, unless the host gives you permission to do so).
More to the point, bloggers who withhold their rich blog content from Google+ users are missing the point: trying to drive them off Google+ to your blog will not, in fact, get you more clickthroughs. I say this from experience, having tried many different ways of sharing blog posts to Google+ since the early invite days and seen the results. When I reproduce the entire content of a blog post to Google+, including duplicating the formatting of text, embedding the image used on the blog rather than sharing the blog itself as an embedded link, etc…, I get more referral traffic, and more traffic in general, to my posts. I have tried sharing only the embedded blog link, an embedded blog link plus a description or summation, sharing an excerpt followed by a “Read More” link, etc… Nothing else has ever generated as much traffic for me as duplicating the content.
How do you get clickthroughs if you’ve reproduced the whole content in the post itself? you may ask. The answer is simple: I place a hyperlink to the original source directly beneath the post title. You might think no one will click through, but in fact I have had some blog posts receive many thousands of visitors this way, and have never generated that kind of traffic using any other approach. Indeed, I generate as much traffic this way on an average post as some people with nearly ten times as many followers as me report getting on average using a different approach.
The reason for this is because, on a site where rich content creation is possible, you are competing with those who use these tools for attention, for engagement, for shares and recommendations. Each additional click a person has to do to get to that rich content, eliminates a significant percentage of possible viewers, because many will not click through, but may nonetheless read and engage with the content onsite and possibly help expose other people to it who will click that hyperlink, and whom you would not otherwise have reached.
It is also because Google+ Posts are indexed for Search, and therefore the same type of SEO-benefiting aspects of blogging, like keyword ranking power, are also present, especially for Searchers using Personalized Search who may have you Circled. Indeed, some Google+ users like Mark Traphagen have even been able to dominate, in apparent perpetuity, the top spot for some Google Search queries with their Google+ posts! I myself tend to rank high in Search, at least for a while, for search queries my posts are optimized for.
Another benefit of doing this is the building of trust: by reproducing your content in a context where you know it will not generate any direct revenue, people are more inclined to view you as someone who is just passionate for sharing great content, not someone trying to make a career out of generating ad revenue. I have been told by countless people who follow me that they appreciate my giving them the choice to view the content right there onsite (and isn’t reaching the consumer where they live a nobler and ultimately more sustainable goal than trying to bring them to you, whenever possible?), or to click through to the blog if they prefer that. I even suspect some people click through just out of sympathy and kindness: they want to help you make revenue from your content, because you’ve shared it in good faith.
So please, bloggers using Google+, throw out the old playbook. Google+ isn’t RSS or even Social RSS (that would be Twitter), and it isn’t the place people go to because all of their friends and family use it, so clearly many of them are seeking out something they can’t find elsewhere. Rich onsite content creation (even of the more casual type, such as one sees on “Caturdays” for example) is one of those reasons for many users.
Duplicating an entire blog post must seem like giving it away for free, but I promise you from experience, not only are the rewards worth it, but to not do so puts you in competition with people like me who will do just that, and when the user checking his stream seems two posts, one that immediately catches the attention with rich long form content, and one that doesn’t, which do you think they are more like to read, comment on, +1, and share?
I love technology and how it changes our lives. There’s something almost spiritual about how new technologies connect and empower us. And it’s really cool, too.