Yesterday a report from Experian Hitwise said that one month after its beta testing round had began, Google+ was taking a traffic hit. According to the firm’s research, visits to the site as well as user engagement were falling off.
The news came hot on the heels of massive criticism and media dialogue about Google+’s username policy, which requires that registrants use their legal names and bars anonymous handles from the site. That coupled with the still-exclusive nature of the site and its slow response to loud cries for business pages led some to believe the traffic drop off could be a consequence of these blunders.
But we wouldn’t be too quick to assume Google+’s growing pains created a slump. There are a couple traffic sources Hitwise wouldn’t have been able to take into account. For starters, it seems that there is some confusion between page visitors and users. Hitwise tracked people going to the Google+ URL, and the number of people who don’t have a Google+ account yet visiting plus.google.com has probably dropped – and that doesn’t really matter. You can only visit hoping to finally sign up for so long before it gets too discouraging.
The data also couldn’t track Google+ visitors using the mobile app. Considering how popular the Google+ app has become since its launch, this could be a pretty impressive number. Also unaccounted were those who were interacting on the site via the drop-down navigation bar. If you’re a Google+ user, you know that the red notification icon drops down to reveal your updates. From here you can reply to posts or add new contacts to your Circles – do a host of things without leaving the drop down. And this action doesn’t get recorded, which could be a part of the alleged fall in user engagement.
It’s too soon to make conclusions either way about Google+’s longevity, and the real test of the site’s impact will be revealed when it’s opened up to the general population.