Google+ is NOT failing!

Last week I analyzed the data that I collected from Alexa and wrote a post Google+ is failing. Many people have pointed out that Alexa data is skewed and not reliable. This is true when comparing two different sites. However I believe that comparing Alexa data of one site over period of time will give some indication into the user volume trends of that site. Specially in the case of large sites like Google. As one commenter put it:

You can make the Alexa is only for people with the toolbar argument when comparing two very differnet sites. But not when you are comparing the SAME site over just a month apart unless you can come up with a reason why 30% of Google+ users who had the toolbar installed (and were therefore being counted) all decided to delete the toolbar now. – Lakawak

Another possibility would be that overall traffic has surged enough to decrease Google+ relative percentage.

…there is NO WAY you could think that Google’s overall traffic would increase to the point of making up for the 30% decreasing… – Lakawak

Now these points out of the way, there is at least one reasonable explanation that accounts for declining number of visitors but does not mean that Google+ is failing.

To put it very simply, there are two kinds of Google+ users. True Fans are the users who love Google+ and will use it more and more. Hype Users are the ones who just signed up to see what’s this all about and have now moved on to next new shiny object. It is entirely plausible to assume that the drop in visitor numbers comes from hype users leaving the service while True Fans stay and their numbers actually increase.

[This is total fiction] To make it easier to understand I drew a simple sketch that illustrates the True Fan/Hype User point. The graph below is based on the current Alexa data and assumes (for illustrative purposes) that all hype users are gone by tomorrow.

I would really love to see somebody competing with Facebook, so I plotted slight exponential growth in there. However there is now way to tell if this is true or not. Overall numbers are going down and we have no data on different segments.

I hope this gives Alexa numbers some context.

Priit Kallas

Priit is the founder and CEO of DreamGrow Digital, an internet marketing and social media company. With his 20+ years internet marketing experience he is Helping companies to understand and use the digital marketing to reach their target audiences. He's also writing on a personal growth website He has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences on different aspects of internet marketing. Priit is also the organizer of Digital Elite Camp, a leading traffic and conversion event.

15 Responses

  1. Michael Martinez says:

    There are no reliable 3rd-party sources of information on Website traffic out there. Alexa acknowledges the limitations of its various data sources but their rankings are acceptable for the top 100,000 sites — certainly the top 10,000 sites.

    Since Alexa puts Google at number 1 in its rankings, the criticisms people have raised are simply ridiculous.

    Your methodology is more sound than the criticism, even though the data is very crude.

  2. Priit Kallas says:

    Some supporting data: According to analysis from Experian Hitwise, there was a 5.5% drop in U.S. visits last week to 1.16 million.

  3. TRVolk says:

    Find a new career. You also neglected to account for the end-of-summer slump in net traffic. Wait until the college kids are back in class.

    Sheesh! A real consultancy would eat you for breakfast.

  4. Eric says:

    The problem here in lies that Alexa is given entirely to much credit over the information it gathers. I recall a time years ago that Alexa was becoming a spam issue. Haven’t trusted anything from it since. ANYWAY. Assuming Google+ is failing is nonsense.

    G+ started off huge, yes. However, we are in a stride where everyone is starting to step back and adopt a “wait and see” attitude. The Google fans are jumping on, sending feed back, and giving out invites. People are still analyzing the various ways to use G+.

    The hardcore users are here. They have it. Now it is a matter of bringing in their friends and family that are stuck on Facebook. Showing them what it can do. When that happens, there will be a surge again.

    This assumption that G+ is “failing”, where is it coming from? Is it a decline in new visitors? Is that all? The site is still in field trials. It is technically closed. To say it is failed is in essence telling someone that no one is home just because the door is closed. Just because the door is closed doesn’t mean there isn’t a party on the other side!

    What is Alexa’s data on return visits, time on site, page views, etc? Those numbers are equally important as they reflect the amount of return hits and loyal users.

  5. Kev says:

    I don’t understand, google+ has not been published yet, it’s still in trial, how come it is failing? Even it’s true, from my point of view, we have been waiting for too long. At lease, I clicked the ‘Keep me posted’ button several months ago.

  6. EntrepreNerd says:

    Even with the revision this guy is still clueless. Not to be harsh or anything, but one would assume if a person is posting openly on a blog or news site that this person would understand the basics of how the data he is using is collected, what it actually reflects, and how to use it properly.

    Think of Alexa like this. If Google Plus were a room with 10 doors with which you can go threw to access the service, Alexa is only counting the people coming threw the far left door, and only the people who enter while hopping on one leg. Which used to be everyone by the way. Now that Google has opened up all the other doors people are moving in and out of those doors instead. This is having an impact on Alexa’s ability to determine how many people are using the service because it can not even see the other doors. So it assumes less traffic.

    The other Doors you can use to access Google Plus are +1 buttons, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Photos, Reader, Sites, Groups, Shopping, Translate, Images, Google Voice, Maps, News, Finance, Blogs, Books, Videos, Scholar, and of course Combined these sites have more traffic than any other source on the planet, and your ability to access Google+ from these products was not available at the beginning of his data time line. This means that everyone was forced to use Google+ directly threw, or the far left door while hopping on one foot. That is not at all the case now.

    Most people tend to share cool stuff from sites, or other Google+ users. An activity that used to require you to hit Not any more. Now you can post content from any +1 button on the web, never having to hit You can also comment on any post in your stream from any of those other Google properties listed above with out ever having to hit Alexa is clueless to all this activity.

    We have not even included the fact that when he starts his data there was no mobile app, but half way through his time line One for Android came out, with an iPhone version following a week later. Nor does he factor in the fact that Alexa can not track those using the Chrome browser, which is a huge portion of users. Not only that, but Google Plus just works better in Chrome and so Chrome has been suggested to a ton of people who were not using it. I can think of over 50 clients I have had install Chrome for use with Gplus.

    A good statistic to look at is the fact that 50% of Facebook traffic comes from the mobile App. Would it not be logical to assume a good portion of the traffic moved to the mobile apps once they came out? Mobile Apps Alexa can not factor.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Thank you for your comment, EntrepreNerd. I think the Alexa reliability question is answered in the post but, Alexa (if installed) measures every “door”. And there is Alexa on Chrome Mobile App has been out for a long time (v.1.0.1 June 28, 2011 If people share stuff but don’t read it… then they are not G+ users.

  7. cassy says:

    i am always signed into google+. i check on it frequently, sometimes i click the links, sometimes i do not… how is the traffic calculated? does it matter if one stays signed in rather than logging on and off?

  8. TKK says:

    Can we end the damn online social era yet? It’s getting very old, very fast.

  9. cassy says:

    what happens if i stay signed in all day? i check on it frequently, sometimes i click on links, sometimes i don’t… does keeping a tally on traffic mean that it sends feedback every time one signs in?

  10. Jaak says:

    There are also other possible reasons. G+ is not static system. Actually it’s under constant development and in change. Many new features appeared in the before mentioned time interval — comment scrolling, just to mention. Horowitz told in his last interview, that they optimize G+ excessively to reduce data transfer and increase response time. It all can affect to Alexa figures.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Jaak, I’m not convinced. The changes that you mention don’t have much impact on actual traffic levels.

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