Should Bloggers Be Nervous about Google Plus?

Google Plus is acquiring users at such a rapid pace that it’s impossible not to take notice. Many will point to charts, like the one below, to demonstrate the speed of unprecedented growth.

I am particularly interested at the speed in which some notable people are shifting their resources and attention to – for a platform that’s less than a month old. Blogger Chris Brogan has effectively left Facebook for Google Plus (which he has already begun to host $47 webinars for), and many others have placed a calling-card avatar to point their Facebook fans to their new digs on Plus.

I am also surprised by Digg founder Kevin Rose’s move, who redirected to his Google Plus page. I can understand how critical it feels to be at the forefront of the next big social content network, but I have to ask whether this is a visionary move or a hasty attempt to be first for something with an unknown payoff?

So, what will be the true impact of Google Plus on blogs and the bloggers who blog on them? A few possibilities:

1. Hostile Blog Takeover

It’s a definite possibility that bloggers will decide that publishing full posts on Google Plus is much easier and more practical than maintaining a domain and dealing with the issues that come with blog hosting.

Many bloggers are reporting much higher engagement levels on Google Plus than those found on Facebook or even within blog comments. Some have even suggested using Google Plus as the main platform for new “posts,” which would also be stored in a repository way on the former blog, but no engagement would take place blog-side.

If the previous few weeks are any indication of the quality and quantity of conversations occurring on Google Plus, traditional blogs could be in for a major shake-up.

Probability of this occurring: medium-to-low. There’s the possibility that some will abandon sites like Tumblr and Posterous for Google Plus. I’ve also had feedback from some that are viewing Google Plus as an alternative to Blogger (it’s hard for me to see the comparison at this point). I don’t expect many serious bloggers to abandon their sites for something with no legitimate monetary or ownership payoff.

2. Blip on the Radar

Another possibility is that Google Plus will be no more than another niche tech community, used by few and cared about by even fewer. The initial fervor will wear off, the general public will fail to sign up, and current users will realize that it offers nothing substantially different from Facebook and the existing social treadmill. Companies, spammers, social gamification, and self-promoters will overrun the space and make it boring.

As a result of this scenario, nothing would change for bloggers. Google Plus would become platform to promote content and drive some additional traffic, but not much else.

Probability of this occurring: low. Google is piling on many resources to make this project successful, including shutting down other projects and giving internal employees the opportunity to move to the G+ team (and many are taking it).

3. Something In-between

Google will continue to add features for individuals and businesses to make Google Plus more attractive, but if it becomes a true blogging platform alternative, it may do no more than Blogger has done for Google. Or it may be more successful at helping individuals monetize and gain audiences than existing platforms have done. Right now, the indexation and SEO components of Google Plus are also pretty sparse and true data ownership is nil. Still, G+ has the possibility of being a major contender and source of exposure, as bloggers experiment by posting whole posts to G+, using it as a hybrid for posting media that they wouldn’t otherwise host on their own sites.

Probability of this occurring: high.

So, if you’re considering whether to follow a few bloggers off the Google Plus cliff, it may be wiser to use Google Plus more judiciously than just dumping all of your efforts into it. With few exceptions, you’re better off continuing to focus on blogging where you have complete control (and complete SEO benefits), while building some presence on other shiny new networks like Google Plus.

Note from Ann: Here’s an in-depth post on how to start using Google Plus and a great Google  Plus tutorial as well as this Google Plus social network tutorial, in case you want to give it a try. Here are also a post on why Google Plus might fail.