The 'View Count' Feature on Google Plus explained and explored!

The 'View Count' Feature on Google Plus explained and explored!

Myself and Mark Traphagen took some time to discuss some of the key aspects around this new Google+ feature.
This is one session you will want to see for sure!

Also, here is a post from Google’s Yonatan Zunger on this new feature – between this and the video we hope many of your initial questions will be answered.

Want to put together a plan for you and your business? Well, get in touch here!

Transcript of the video with Mark and Martin

Would you like to Download the PDF of the transcript? Just click the link.

Martin: Hi, this is Martin Shervington. And today even though it is April 1st, this is hang out and I’m with Mark Traphagen. We are here to discuss the Views Feature which has appeared. It appeared on the 31st of March. It’s not a joke. It’s very serious. And it is – it’s already rolled out.

And if you go to somebody’s profile, somebody’s page you’ll see this extra number which is the views count.  But I’m going to pass over to Mark. Hi Mark, how’re you doing?

Mark: Hey Martin. Good to talk to you as always. Been an eventful 24 hours once again on Google Plus.

Martin: It certainly has. And do you want to explain a little more about what this feature is for people?

Mark: Yeah. It just started showing up yesterday during the day. People started noticing that if they went to their profile or somebody else’s profile or to a page, they started seeing a metric they hadn’t seen before. And it appeared right next to where you typically see the follower count of your Google Plus followers – your profile or page.

And it just simply said, views. And then if you put your mouse over the number, it would explain to you that this is the total views of your profile or page – as the case may be – photos and posts. And that’s all it’s said at that time. And we spent much of yesterday digging deeper to find out what that meant.

But the new metric basically is some kind of total number of these views for your profile or page.

Martin: Okay. So that’s the basic feature. But you already started to touch on where these comes from. Now, we may not have an absolute definitive, but what do we know from Yonatan, is the main person that’s been speaking to us. Do you want to go a little overview of what he’s been saying?

Mark: Sure. Yonatan Zunger of Google has been very helpful and forthcoming in answering a lot of questions and given us at least some insights. I’ll cover first what we know. And there’s a few speculative things out there that Yonatan, who’s probably having a busy day today, has not answered yet.

But the things that we do know from him and from one other Googler – who we’ve confirmed is a Googler – who also posted about it are this. First of all, let’s talk about where these views show up or how they get counted. It’s a little different between posts and then between profiles and images. Let’s start with profiles and images.

On profiles and images, first of all, we’ve been told that those get counted as a view only when someone opens them specifically. So in the case of a photo or an image, the image that’s going by in the stream doesn’t get counted as an image view. But if someone clicks on that image in their stream or in your post or wherever and they open it up, typically an image would open up in what we would call a like box, that counts as a view for the image.

Similar thing with your profile or your page. Someone has to actually go to that profile for it to count as a view. Now those are for those.

Now what’s different – very different – and this is where a lot of where people are seeing the large number. They’re still saying, How can I have – I only have 1000 followers but I’ve got 10M views. How does that happen? Most of that’s happening purely at the post level, because a post gets a view if it’s just simply seen by a person. And that can mean going by on their stream.

So they’re looking at their stream, either in their all stream or circle stream that they have you in, and even if they just scroll by that post, as long as it has visibly been on their screen in the visible part of their browser, that counts as a view for that post.

Now, not only that but all the re-views of that post.  So if that post gets shared, that counts as a view for the person who shared it if it’s seen but also a view for the re-shared post. That re-shared post embedded in the re-shares. The original poster gets a view count every time that’s seen.

One more place where that can multiply, with +1 recommendations. If someone who has that feature enabled on their profile +1’s one of your posts, then potentially that post is pushed out to their extended network, their followers and the followers of those people.

As a recommended post it will show up – you’ve seen these in your stream where it will say above it, Martin Shervington +1’d this. Any of those get counted as views. So that’s the ones that we know about. I’ll stop there for a moment and –

Martin: The other one in which we know is the embedded post.

Mark: Oh yes. Yes.

Martin: How many embeds on a websites. And even though it’s an I-frame, we hadn’t confirmed that that would get counted as a view because it calls on Google servers. So it can count as a view in order to pull in that information. So let’s quickly cap that bit and then start talk about some of the consequences of this in terms of actions, and actions for brands in particular.

Mark: Just to explain a little bit more deeply for people who may not understand that you can – for sometime now you’ve been able to embed a Google Plus post on a website. If you click on a post typically on the little menu at the upper right of a post, one of the choices is, Embed this post.

It gives you some code. You take and you put that into your blog post, your webpage. And a window is opened and called an I-frame, is put into that post. And it actually shows the post and you can go into that window. You can scroll the post. It has lots of comments you can engage with it. That window and I-frame is actually a window. It’s like an opening in your site into Google Plus. So that’s why they count that as a view.

So let me bring up some of these speculative things because were seeing some billionaires they’re already being called – some people who have billions of views, which is astounding. And some of them you know, with no more followers than you or I, but have billions of views, how is that happening?

Well here is where we’re getting into some speculation. One is that, I know it’s almost confirmed now that if you put an image on a blogger post, that image is hosted really in Google Plus. And that views of that image on your blog – blogger blog, then get counted as views. That’s one thing. That’s almost certain at this point. But we haven’t had you know Yonatan or somebody who’s saying like, yeah that’s it.

Oh before I forget, sorry (one more detail). This is from another Googler. Maybe you’ll remember his name. One of the first guys that broke the story. It’s escaping me at the moment, Emmett? Or something like that? But he told us – and this is the only place we’ve seen this – that the view counts are since October of 2012. So they don’t go all the way back to the beginning of Google Plus, which is June 2011. So October 2012. And Yonatan confirmed that his information was accurate.

So that’s – the other thing now, the other speculative one. This is much more speculative. This is been brought up by Jaana Nyström, is the idea that YouTube views. If you have a YouTube channel, since now YouTube is integrated with Google Plus, the YouTube views might be getting counted into your view count. We have no confirmation of that. That seems a little bit more out there to me, but it’s possible. So we’re waiting to hear about that one.

Martin: Okay. So let’s kick into what this means. I think this is probably the biggest change that we’ve seen for a while.

Mark: Yeah. I agree.

Martin: Because a lot of people – we’ve talked about follower count before and that it’s not what it’s about. As I always say, the numbers matter but they don’t. And I mean that they matter if somebody thinks that they’re important. And it’s usually externally, people say, Oh wow, you got that many followers.

And I think now people are going to go, Oh wow, you got that many views. So who are the people that are getting the most views generally? I mean you got the sort of the extreme ones within any speculative blogger. But what are you seeing? Let’s talk about cat GIFs Mark. That’s where I’m going.

Mark: Yeah, really – it all comes back to cat GIFs. We always knew it would.

Martin: We know the currency of the web.

Mark: That’s right. It’s not Bitcoin folks; it’s cat GIFs.

Yeah, that’s a great question. We haven’t done any thorough studies on that yet. But just anecdotally looking around, one type of user who is benefiting from this – if you see the view counts as a benefit – are the photographers, people who post lots of images because images get shared a lot. Those are very popular.

Obviously you know I’ve seen some people who tend to post things that get a lot on what’s hot. So meaning – you know we’ve joked about cat GIFs, but any kind of meme photo, funny video, funny photo, stuff that people like to share gets lot of engagement. Martin, I think you – do you care to share that observation you had? You shared with me earlier about your two communities? I think that kind of gives –

Martin: Oh yeah. The two – you know, well, two pages. So Plus Your Life and Plus Your Business. Two different pages. The Plus Your Business page has a rather – I think it’s 1.3M views on the content. That page solely posts blog post. And they are blog posts from community members of Plus Your Business and also of And that’s 1.3M views.

Now I look at Plus Your Life as a page. And that’s primarily quotes, sometimes a few videos. But they don’t tend to get a huge amount of attraction. And that page, since it’s largely constituting, of quotes has over 3M views.

Mark: Yeah. And I think that’s a great clue right there. You know, the stuff that’s generally kind of fun and popular, people are going to re-share and re-post and share with their friends. So that’s going to get more views. And maybe at this point it’d be good to talk about how much we think this matters.

Martin: Exactly. The seed value of this. This is the starting point. Is this something we should be concerned about? What do you think in relation to business as well? Let’s tag that one on.

Mark: Yeah. Well, I think at some level. And some people who are marketers, yesterday were quick to point out, this is the metric that they would really want ultimately. We are hungry for more detail. Give us views per post and engagement per post and that sort of thing. And demographic breakdowns and that’s the information we really hunger for.

But at a 30,000ft level, what I – let me express why I believe Google gave us this. Why did they put this out there? Because I think they want to move the focus slowly but surely. And this is a first move in this direction from follower counts to being engaging. Follower counts are the easiest thing in the world to run up and to gain, as we know.

It’s the reason why we say – like I say anyway – and why I would say likes on a Facebook fan page don’t really mean all that much because people will like a page for all kinds of reasons. People will follow you for all kinds of reasons. You can do one thing that somebody likes and they follow you. And they may never look at your page again.

And look, that’s the key word there. Because what the view now says is, this page doesn’t just have a lot of followers, but maybe they got into a big circle share. They’re not people that care about them. But this page actually – the stuff it posts on there gets looked at.

At a certain level we have to be aware that it doesn’t guarantee that people looked at it and liked it or thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread or shared it with 50,000 of their friends. But at least it was seen. It was looked at. We call that reach. So this is a demonstration I think of whether or not your profile or page has reach.

That’s I think – it’s moving us in that direction. And I always see Google doing these things as a form of behavior modification. They give us little pieces of information because they know that information will have some meaning to us and we’ll try to do something with it.

And I think here that the main thing is Google wants and needs to increase activity on Google+. They want to keep people here longer. They want to keep people engaged longer. So if profiles and pages of doing the kinds of things that generate more views, that has that result.

Martin: Right. I agree totally. I think it changes considerably how people will perceive activity. And we’re going to be watching at what point do people start to do activities to get to that first million. And then the 10M mark. Then the 100M mark. Where what’s going to happen. It changes considerably the psychology behind our behavior on the platform.

Mark: Yeah. We’re already hearing it. And there will be some complaining or at least negative commentary from people who come here wanting to build you know – for lack of a better term – real value, wanting to have a substantive conversations, wanting to have an engaged following that engages them because of their thoughts and their thought leadership and all those kinds of things will complain that people who posts funny cat GIFs are going to have a lot more views. And they are.

So this is the other side of the equation, is while the view metric is valuable as far as it goes, it gives you kind of an idea that you get some reach, that what you’re posting is getting out there, I think at the end of the day you’ve got to balance that with the measurement of your sense of what real value you’re getting out of that. So you were a page who was posting substantive content that was really building your brand, building thought leadership, building your authority, and then you switched to posting off funny meme photos just to run up a view count, you might win the view count lottery. But what have you won? How are those funny photos building the audience that you really need for your business? What are they saying about your brand?

Mark Traphagen - So you were a page who was posting substantive content that was really building your brand, building thought leadership, building your authority, and then you switched to posting off funny meme photos just to run up a view count, you might win the view count lottery. But what have you won? How are those funny photos building the audience that you really need for your business? What are they saying about your brand?

Martin: So we’re getting the content that you post and the authority that you’re gaining and how that then relates to search as well. Let’s go back to the old chestnut. That you want people to be engaging around your – or on your content that are authoritative themselves in subject matters, so that authority can rub off.

That’s the short version, isn’t it? But that’s what we’ve been doing, is how do you build a community around you that say that your content is the most appropriate to surface in search when people are looking for certain answers, let’s say, certain phrases.

Now, one of the things is making sure that the views that people get are coming from content where there is no copyright infringement. I think that’s one of the big things. And I think with Plus Your Business, what we’re doing is making sure that clients and people around – that the community are okay with the content they’re putting out.

And they know it’s not just a case of taking anybody’s content just to get the numbers up.

So I think that’s something that we’re going to see is a little bit of fallout. Is how the people are, maybe opening themselves up to a little bit of risk if they don’t keep the content legal, let’s say. And we’ve been told this is disruptive technology.

And it’s disruptive within the platform. It’s disruptive psychologically. It means that things that were important can still be important. Or they may change. And I believe that with this one, what’s going to be important for Google Search is still high quality content and the relationships that you have around that content and those people then determine the value through the sharing that will levitate it into – amplify into search, can levitate as well.

So I think that is the main thing still to be focused on, is quality content building the community around. However, this is a new metric. And I know for brands they will start seeing this as another way of measuring the success of a page. Probably a lot more than the +1 number because there wasn’t a huge focus on that. But there we go, that is the new feature today. I’m Martin Shervington. That was Mark Traphagen before he dropped out.

But I think you got the general idea that this is a big change. And just the first day into it, let’s see what happens next folks. So thank you for watching. Oh, we got Mark back! Just as I finish. I’m literally finishing Mark. So do you want to – you missed all the good stuff. You can watch it later. Do you want to make some – I think parting comments. Then we can carry on.

Mark: I’m frustrated because I think I had some really good things to say. And I don’t know if they were recorded or not now, because at some point my connection went down.

Martin: Well, they may not have been. So let’s recap.

Mark: Okay. What I was – what I was trying to say when I last saw you, you were talking about the authority thing and the importance of the authority in the search. Just I’ll try to make it very brief. You know, what I want to say is that those of us that understand that, we’re operating somewhat on a leap of faith that we think is justified. Because Google has been talking for along time about wanting to be able to identify who are the trusted authorities in various topics and who trusts them and why. And a lot of us think that Google Plus is one place where they are measuring that and the value they get looking at that.

So the pitch here I guess is to continue to value your substantive content and the engagement that you can build on that. And the people who are also substantive people who have some influence on Google Plus who are interacting with that. Don’t get so caught up by the view count that you miss out on that and you give up your valuable authority. I think that’s the sum of the point that I wanted to make.

Mark Traphagen - Continue to value your substantive content and the engagement that you can build on that. And the people who are also substantive people who have some influence on Google Plus who are interacting with that. Don't get so caught up by the view count that you miss out on that and you give up your valuable authority.

Martin: Well, that’s great. Because that’s exactly what I said just when you were out the room.

Mark: So it helps to recap.

Martin: I think we’re on the same page with that, yeah. And I think that we’re going to see how this one rolls out. And I think they will be some cultural changes. I was mentioning as well about copyright. And I deleted tremendous amount of content that I felt that maybe there will be slight issues within the future. So I wanted to encourage people to make sure that they’re using legal content.

And I probably deleted 50M views off that. It doesn’t matter. Because what matters is making sure – or actually the relationships is what really matters more than anything else.

Because – let’s look at this one, search metrics and sales. Let’s go to business. Instead of chasing that number of how many views, what about how many people are going to your website? How many people are filling in a form or signing up for newsletters and things like that? And how many people are actually purchasing?

You’ve got to remember this is what a lot of businesses really want, is business.

Mark: Yeah. It’s amazing how many businesses get caught up – and we saw this on Facebook first. And it’s probably going to happen here. It’s already happening. How many business people get caught up when they are into social media marketing on just the numbers. How many followers do I have? How many views am I getting?

Martin: Yeah.

Mark: Those kinds of things can get addictive and you can forget your purpose. Well said. Can I express one other quick caution before we finish?

Martin: Of course.

Mark: That is – I have some part in this – yesterday when we saw this we started thinking, Well how can we make this a useful metric? And one of the quick proposals was you can divide the number of views by the number of followers and kind of get a rough engagement percentage, engagement ratio.

And that seemed as a good idea at first. But I am really cautioning people on that now, because that often does not tell the right story. It can in many cases. But take – the best example I can put out there is a friend David Amerland. David Amerland – I don’t think there’s anybody that I know, a few people that I know – that are more engaging than him and who get more engagement.

He gets lots of engagements. Gets lots of re-shares on his posts. Lots of comments. All the +1s. All the social signals that are on his post. But he got put on the SUL – the suggested users list.

So his follower count has been vastly – I’ll use the term inflated. That would – anybody who gets put on that knows that they get bumped up. So now he has well over 22.5M followers. So his ratio is going to be much much lower than a lot of other people. You just look at that, it’s not giving you a true picture.

Martin: I think he’s got about 300K  followers just to say. Not the millions I think.

Mark: Okay, but it’s four times what I have. And I’m not denigrating that. That’s wonderful. But most people who’ve been on the suggested user list know that it runs your numbers up very fast. And that vast majority of those followers don’t appear to be people who really going to become real followers.

They are not people who are really engaging on their material. You’re still going to have that relatively small core of people who do that. So all I’m saying here is that if you’re just looking at that ratio, it can be distorted. You look at David and say, Well, he has a very small engagement ratio, so he may not be very valuable.

But, if you look at his actual page profile and his content and what happens on it, you see he’s extremely valuable.

Martin: And I think that’s the thing. That wasn’t what Google gave us. Google didn’t give us that ratio. They didn’t say, Do that folks. Put one over the other. And I know that people are looking at that, because it’s there to be done. They just said, This is the number of views. So they’re not trying to – because if they did put that number on there, that would be different.

But it’s to say that they value that. So I think that, I agree. And I think – I mean there’s another point here which is – you only need 100 people around you who love your content, who are engaged around that content, who have reach themselves let’s say, and have a network, and this is growing all of the time, and they’ll amplify your content into search for you. You don’t need – you can’t have 100,000 – you don’t see a post that’s got 100,000 shares on it. It’s just not like that.

Mark: And that’s a great point Martin. Because that’s what I’m going to use when I have to give the elevator pitch to people about, so what’s so valuable about Google Plus? Why should my business be on Google Plus? I’m going to show people these view counts. And I’m saying that this is the first tangible evidence we have of the reach of Google Plus.

That’s not really the first. I can show it other ways. But it’s good. It’s easy to understand. And you look at that and you say like, Wow. This page, you know, in case I’ll say some template consulting page with 2700 followers.  That’s not a huge number. But we have like 800,000 views. And you look at that and you say, we’re getting tremendous exposures and reach out of this.

So it’s a way of presenting that to people and saying that when you’re on Google Plus you can’t just be looking at what’s right in front of your face. It’s the way it can push you out throughout all of Google.

Martin: And that’s a social side. And as we said before, then you got the search side, as this content surfaces, which is so important for a lot of people. So we’re looking in platform, we look at the reach. Great. Let’s not forget that so many people want content to be surfacing in Google Search and that’s around engagement. And having the right people. And building the community with good content. All those things.

Mark: Amen.

Martin: Amen. There we go. That’s it folks. Thanks Mark.

Mark: Thank you Martin. Thanks very much. Sorry that I dropped out there.

Martin: Not a problem at all. And thanks for really – for watching. It’s not an April Fools’ joke. This is real. This has happened. Take care. See you all soon.

Mark: Bye now.

[end of transcript]