Is Monetization of Google+ Coming, or is this just a gService Hub?

Updated July 3, 2011

Doc Sheldon

Google+ LogoLike many, I’ve spent a LOT of my time the last few days, familiarizing myself with Google+, building my circles, and digesting the comments and impressions of others on Google’s latest foray into the Social Web. Let me go on record as saying that I’m favorably impressed and hopeful that this effort will be hugely successful.

I won’t even get into all the conjecture flying around about G+ being the Great Facebook Killer. If that’s the sort of thing you want to read, you’ll find no shortage of treatment of the topic on other blogs.

Of course, many questions do still remain unanswered. Google seems to have the release schedule planned as a very methodical process, and can be expected to roll out new features continuously for some time. At this point, even they may not have a good idea of what the final product will look like, since they seem to be paying a great deal of attention to the comments and suggestions offered by the open beta users. Most certainly, none of us know what to expect, once the fat lady finishes her song.

One question that I haven’t seen raised yet is if/how Google intends to monetize G+.  Will we soon be seeing targeted ads interspersed between the posts of our friends and acquaintances? Will all that lovely free space in the sidebar be swarming with ads?

Or is this possibly nothing more than it seems at this point… a user-oriented hub, where we can access the many gServices that used to occupy multiple browser tabs?

On the one hand, I’d be surprised if Google were to miss the opportunity to flood another space with their main income generator. But then, I’ve been half-expecting them to start shakin’ their moneymaker in the margins of my Webmaster Tools page. Maybe I’m getting jaded in my old age.

I do think that if they do monetize G+, it will precipitate the demise of yet another attempt by Google to entrench themselves into social. And that would be a shame, because this seems to me to be their best effort to date, and has the potential for great success.

What do you think? Will they pass the offering plate, or will they be content to just preach? Let’s hear from you in the comments.


  1. Kevin Medeiros says:

    I believe that a little targeted advertising wouldn’t bug most people as it doesn’t on Facebook. Lots of folks run adblocking software or plugins for their web browsers as it, so those folks wouldn’t even notice it.

    Of course if Google takes the high road and keeps G+ ad-free that would be just one more reason for people to use it instead of other social networking hubs.

  2. I don’t know that I agree, Kevin. I hear a lot of complaints from folks about the ad concentration on Facebook. I run AdBlocker, so I don’t notice them, but I think the vast majority of users probably don’t use blockers.

    I do hope they take that high road, though. At the end of the day, I would doubt they’d get much click-through from G+, anyway.

  3. If they don’t eventually monetize it in some way, though – what is in it for them? What is the benefit to Google?

  4. Hi, Lisa-

    There are a number of considerations in this case. As you probably already know, Google’s primary source of income is via the sale of targeted advertising. Their ability to sell such ads is greatly influenced by the fact that they control the vast majority of the search market. That a great many websites also carry Google advertisements adds to that. Simply stated, Google has several billboards erected on essentially every freeway, state and county road and city street in the world… a user is almost sure to run across a number of them during essentially any surfing experience.

    However, the mere presence of those ads isn’t what makes them extremely attractive for those with something to sell. Their real value is in their targeted nature. You and I can follow the same link, to the same page, from the same originating page, and yet see totally different ads, based upon what Google has learned of our individual surfing habits, likes and tastes. So anything that substantially increases their ability to better target ads to us, as well as to learn more about which ad content, style and placement is most effective, contributes greatly to their ability to provide effective, targeted ads to their advertising clients. For the most part, they’re very good at this.

    Google+ can accomplish two things on that front, in my opinion. First, it gives them access to more information on the surfing habits of the G+ users. Secondly, however, it can subtly help overcome some of the “Big Brother” phobia that keeps many people from using the Google Toolbar or remaining signed in to their Google account while surfing the Web. That will translate into more incoming information for them.

    Another major impact that widespread adoption of G+ as a social platform can have is the simple matter of market share. If there are X number of users utilizing some sort of social platform, to be divided amongst the social platform providers (Facebook, Twitter and Google+ being the three principle providers, in this case), then every conversion of a user to G+ from one of the others makes Google’s market position stronger, while simultaneously weakening the other’s.

    In other words, every user that Google can take away from Facebook or Twitter, makes Google stronger, and their competitor weaker.

    From inside the GooglePlex, projecting the overall effect to their bottom line of such endeavors can border on witchcraft. But they have a lot of practice at analysis of cause and effect in the advertising market, and their success to date would indicate that they’re pretty good at it. Whether their in-house coven of financial witches have determined that they don’t need to monetize G+… only time will tell.

    Thanks for a great question, Lisa! I hope this makes the process clearer for you. Stop by again soon!