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Warning: Google Friend Connect Numbers Are Wrong

In November, word spread quickly from Google’s blog that Google Friend Connect will be discontinued on March 1, 2012, on all non-Blogger content management systems. Panic ensued.

In the light of this change, I’m here to tell you why GFC numbers don’t mean exactly what you think they mean and how your blog can still prosper without it.

Google Friend Connect is Not Your Friend

google friend connect is not your friend

Just replace "Anonymous" with GFC 😉

Well, it’s not really that GFC is at fault in any of this – it’s just a tool designed for Blogger that makes following blogs easier. The problem arises when bloggers use this tool to measure their followers. Because Google Friend Connect numbers don’t mean what you think they do.

For example: Have you ever entered to win a book on a blog that required you to follow it using Google Friend Connect in order to enter? Have you done this and then never visited the blog again?

Or have you seen blogs literally double their followers after a huge giveaway and wonder how they gained so many devoted fans so quickly?

Or have you participated in memes designed with the sole aim of getting people to follow your blog to “gain followers?”

Do you see where I’m going with this? Many bloggers’ GFC numbers are inflated and don’t accurately represent their true fan base. Plus, it’s a way to compare your blog with someone else’s and potentially feel 1. discouraged 2. envious and 3. anxious to gain more followers yourself. (Don’t feel bad about that last one, I’ve been there too).

Why Pageviews and Comments Matter More

So if Google Friend Connect numbers can be bloated, then what’s the real measure of a blog’s stats? It’s pageviews and comments.

Using the Google Analytics tool will give you an realistic number of how many people visit your blog over time. It can help you track the number of blogs linking to your site (the blog community) and the number of people finding your blog via search engines (non-blog community).

Pageviews and blog comments matter more because they directly impact your blog and they carry just as much weight (if not more) than Google Friend Connect.

Grow Your Blog Without Google Friend Connect

As a new blogger, I was advised by those in book blogging forums to add the GFC widget to my blog immediately or else no one would know how to follow my blog. This is a huge misconception. A ton of book bloggers use Blogger, however a whole host of other websites use other content management systems.

For exaple, 69 million websites use WordPress as their CMS. All of these sites will not magically lose their followers when Google Friend Connect is retired, and neither will you.

Before GFC is canned, instruct your readers to:

  • Follow your blog in Google Reader
  • Subscribe via email (super convenient)
  • “Plus 1” your blog posts (you can even add a Plus 1 button in your sidebar)
  • Like your blog’s Facebook fan page
  • Follow you on Twitter

As a blogger, continue to:

  • Participate in community memes like Top Ten Tuesday and In My Mailbox
  • Comment on blogs in your niche like YA, fantasy, paranormal, etc.
  • Post quality content original to your blog
  • Be passionate about blogging – it always shines through

Plus, you can generate more traffic to your blog by applying Search Engine Optimization techniques, which are ways to increase how often your blog posts appear in Google searches.

Not sure how to do that? Read Google’s free SEO Starter’s Guide. This will help non-bloggers find your pages when searching for books and reviews.

I don’t know everything there is to know about blogging, analytics or SEO, but I hope I provided some insight into why GFC isn’t the end-all-be-all of blogging tools and especially that your blog can survive with out it.

How important do you think GFC is? Has Google Friend Connect affected how you blog or how you perceive other blogs?

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Great post, Lisa!

  • I really dislike google friend connect because, like you said, it is not accurate at all in terms of who all reads the blogs. I really don’t even check google analytics because I hate feeling any sense of needing to build that number higher or having competition. I just have it on my page because I have had people tell me that they didn’t know how else to follow me. But I know there are lots of other ways. That’s interesting, though… Is it going away from all the blogs? I don’t care either way really.

    • Jenny- GFC is going away on all non-Blogger sites, like blogs hosted by WordPress or Drupal. Google Analytics, though, is another way to measure your blog traffic (in an un-inflatable way).

  • Dana

    Terrific post, I believe in quality over quantity! Great advice, Lisa

  • This is a great post, thanks so much for the info 🙂

  • Fantastic post, Lisa! I love all your suggestions and points. 🙂

  • Jessica S,

    I’ve been copy pasting URL’s into my Google Reader a lot lately. I think it’s a lot easier that way, and Google Reade is just awesome–everything in one place all in a row. Thanks for this post, it’s nice to see a balanced view on it. 🙂

  • I am pretty much in love with this post! I’ve been without GFC for over a year and am doing just fine generating community and page views. I also got really good at SEO.

    Also, I love the shout out to my two favorite memes! I feel like there’s so much personality in Top Ten Tuesday and In My Mailbox and love visiting and reaching out to blogs through those memes.

    • Thanks, April! I’m about to send an email in a few days that I’m taking GFC off my blog. I feel like it was a blessing from Google in disguise. 😉 SEO and awesome memes FTW!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I know the numbers definitely aren’t accurate and I have been considering removing GFC because I always feel a little sad when the numbers drop. I will definitely be removing GFC from my blog for 2012 after reading your post. Thanks for the tips!

  • Great post! Gives me a lot to think about and look into. I’ve never been a fan of “feeds” or “readers” – they are so confusing and just do not make sense to me. But what you said about GFC makes total sense. Thanks.

    • If you don’t have Google Reader set up yet, I highly recommend it. I think it makes following blogs a lot easier and can help you organize them into groups.

  • Mary De Bastos

    I have seriously never used GFC to follow a blog. It’s not that hard to follow it in reader, etc. I also hate how some blogs clearly only have so many followers due to giveaways. There is NO way a blog that looks like “that” and has content like “that” can have that many followers. No way, no how! It’s a misrepresentation of the blog.

  • I wish I could just dispose of my GFC completely – but I feel that it is convenient for some readers to just click it, so I keep it. It’s one of the slowest loading thing on my website!

  • Melissa Hayden

    Very nice post. I’m sorry to see blogger do this as I really like using Friend Connect to find people. It’s easier for me that way. I do have the email set up with some accounts, but now I have to figure out how I don’t have, which means a messy email inbox. *sigh* But I’ll still be around to see ya. 🙂

  • Nentwistle

    What email subscriber plugin do you use on your wordpress site?

  • Thanks for this, I was one of those panicking over GFC going away.

  • GFC drives me insane. I have considered removing it more than once, for the reasons you mentioned above. Thank you for sharing this information, it was extremely helpful!

  • Anonymous

    I keep GFC because it automatically lists the blogs I follow via GFC into my reader – I like that convenience, so I like to offer it to other people as well. I also find that those blogs I’ve only followed for a giveaway are quickly unfollowed when I notice their feed is full of fluffy content.

    And for anyone looking (publishers, for example), even it the numbers have been inflated, it’s a quick reference point to the amount of “followers” I have – which would actually work in my favour, if they’ve been slightly inflated.

    So even though I’m aware that GFC isn’t an accurate representation of my actual followers, I keep it because the pros outweigh the cons (for me). I do watch my pageviews/comments with Stat Counter though, to keep an eye on how people are getting to my site in the hopes of attracting people for my content (and not for my latest giveaway).

    Great post!

  • I agree and I realize that many GFC users follow you just to get a follow back but don’t necessarily come back to read content. I actually get most of my readers from my social media sites like pinterest. people who are interested in reading your posts will come to your site for the info they are interested in and not to gain more followers on their own site.