Google+ Traffic Boosted by 61 of Top 100 Brands

Google+ saw a surge in traffic the first week after it launched brand pages, underscoring just how much companies wanted to get their marketing presence felt on the network.

Google+ Pages have given the young social network a boost, less than two weeks into their arrival, according to data.

Experian HitWise noted that for the week ending Nov. 12, Google+ logged 6.8 million visits from U.S. users alone, making it the third-biggest week for U.S. visits since the network launched June 28.

The top two weeks for Google+ visits occurred the week ending Sept. 24 (after the company opened up to all users) and the week after that, into October. Traffic slowed for the rest of October following the mad dash to join the hot new network, which has somewhere between 50 million and 60 million users.

Indeed, HitWise analyst Heather Dougherty said the growth from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12 represented a 5 percent increase from the previous week and a whopping 25 percent increase from just one month ago.

Eight of the top 10 referral sources for Google+ traffic were Google properties, led by at 45 percent and Gmail at 16 percent. Google's Web services accounted for nearly three-quarters of upstream traffic to Google+, which is what Google executives intended to happen as they sought to make Google+ a hub for Google's other applications.

Dougherty also noted that the share of visits to Google+ from returning visitors, which she defined as those persons who visited the network within the past 30 days, has been increasing over the last few weeks. That means increased stickiness or user engagement, which is exactly what Google was expecting when it began integrating the network with its existing Web services.

"The average of the first two weeks of November versus the same time in October shows the share of returning visitors to the Google+ site increased 18 percent," Dougherty wrote. "Last week, 74 percent of the traffic to Google+ was from returning visitors, suggesting that Google+ users are returning to interact and engage with their networks (aka circles)."

Dougherty's data does not include traffic from mobile applications or via the Google notification bar that comes with a Google+ membership on desktop computers.

To what can we attribute the traffic hike in November? Simple: Google+ brand pages, which launched Nov. 7. Brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Toyota launched corporate accounts on Google+ to connect with customers and boost marketing awareness.

That rollout came amid such pent-up demand after Google forbade brand pages on its network until it had the proper verification system in place, so tons of businesses naturally jumped at the chance to secure their brand page when Google opened up the capability.

In fact, SEO specialist BrightEdge said 61 of the top 100 brands rushed to secure Google+ Pages. That compares with 93 of the top 100 that have brand pages on Facebook.

However, exactly how much engagement is going on between customers and brands on Google+ is another story. Coke, McDonalds and Verizon have only hundreds of fans, while each of those brands has millions of followers on Facebook.

Ford, for example, has 27,575 fans on Google+ as of this writing, but nearly 5 million on Facebook, which has offered brand pages for three years. Google clearly has some work to do, as do the brands that are casting for users' attention on the social network.