One of the questions that came up immediately after Google+ redesigned its interface was whether people liked it. Whether someone likes it or not is an exceptionally subjective question, and one that is very hard to analyze without a ton of primary research. The more important question I had was this: does the new redesign accomplish the goal of getting more people to a website?
In order to answer this, I needed to do some apples-to-apples comparisons. Fortunately, as someone who's done a bit of consulting here and there, I am privileged to have access to a bunch of people's Google Analytics data, so I was able to look at 5 different kinds of website to answer my question, all of which are very active in social media. The five sites I picked were:
- Mine. (obviously) with about 20,000 unique visitors a month.
- A B2B site with about 25,000 unique visitors a month.
- A B2C media site with 1.5 million unique visitors a month.
- Marketing Over Coffee, a B2B media site with about 3,000 unique visitors a month.
- A B2C retail site with about 2,000 unique visitors a month.
I picked two control periods and a test period to look at the data. Control period 1 was 3/28-4/4, the Wednesday to Wednesday period prior to the Google+ UI change. Control period 2 was 3/14-3/21, the Wednesday to Wednesday period which corresponded to the same period in March that the post-change period was in April. The post-change period was 4/11-4/18, Wednesday to Wednesday.
In order to establish a benchmark that wasn't purely a Google+ vacuum, I also pulled the Facebook data for those 5 sites and put that data side by side. After all the data collection was done, I averaged the two control periods together to smooth out any major spikes that might have been anomalies.
The specific metric chosen was percentage of site traffic; that is, if 1 out of 100 visitors to my site came from Google+, that was 1% of site traffic.
My personal website is the anomaly; the other sites showed marked declines in visitors from Google+ over the averaged control period vs. the period after the redesign, with the exception of the retail site which was more or less static. If you average it out, these sites lost 23.5% traffic from their Google+ audience since the redesign.
Let's look at Facebook now. If there was something bigger going on that impacted these sites as a whole, we should see about a 23.5% loss in Facebook traffic as well. Survey says:
The only consistent site that showed a similar loss over the same period was the B2B site. The rest (except for mine, which is apparently just weird and contrarian) showed increases in Facebook traffic from the same time period. If you average it out, these sites gained 159% more traffic from their Facebook audience in the same time period as the Google+ redesign.
Based on what I've seen from the sites above, the Google+ redesign did not impact the majority of sites positively in terms of a marketing metric that matters - visitors to the site. Whether or not I like the new UI personally, it's not working in a major way for 3 of the 5 sites that I examined in this early result.
The thing to do next is to wait some more and examine the data again in a month and in two months to see if traffic and performance returns to the previous baseline once people have gotten used to the new interface. This is not a call to stop using Google+ or start using Facebook more, not yet. It is a call to say that you should be examining your own data in your own analytics software to see if the results you are getting are similar or different.
If, after a month of solid data, we see similar patterns, then there may indeed be a persistent problem with the new Google+ interface. The early data is not encouraging. Stay tuned.
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