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With Google+ now allowing users to customise their user profiles many are flocking to get their custom vanity URL.

However, how many have read the "payment" section of the new terms of use?

Google:

You're now eligible for a unique Google+ custom URL that lets you easily point people to your profile (no more long URLs!).

That message is now going out to all Google+ users whose profile has a photo and at least 10 followers, and whose account is at least 30 days old.

This is the news that, in addition to the slew of Google+ updates this week, Google has started inviting all users of its social network to grab a custom URL, changing what is currently a long list of letters and numbers to something more memorable.

For those who don’t know what custom URLs (also called vanity URLs) are, here’s quick example. Currently, my Google+ profile is located at https://plus.google.com/113460065390054689377.

Now with my new custom URL it’s possible to access my user profile from http://plus.google.com/+AndrewIsidoro, swapping out the string of numbers for something that trips much easier off the tongue and is easier to share.

The price of doing business on Google+

Usually I'm not one to write about news, after all a number of leading outlets have already written extensively about how to claim your new vanity URL but all seem to have missed out the terms of use that have accompanied the new feature; most notably the phrase about payment:

Custom URLs are free for now, but we may start charging a fee for them.

The new terms of use, which can be found here, clearly state that Google may look to monetise the URL scheme.  

This would be a major shift in the business model of the platform, given that Google+’s user experience has always been geared towards being a 'no ads!' service (fuelled by the Google+ leadership that have, on numerous occasions, spoken ill of having ads on a social network).

Virante’s Director of Digital Outreach, Mark Traphagen wrote in a blog post a few months ago:

Even if they (ads) come, they will be in some creative and well-integrated form that adds to the user’s experience, rather than interrupting it.

Are premium features on the way?

This begs the question: Is it premium features and not advertising though that will be Google’s plan of attack in monetising their service?

Certainly, with the large amount of businesses using Google+ features and the current integration with other Google products such as + Local pages, there could be a market for premium services to help these organisations (and power users) 'optimise' their profiles with advanced features and customisation.

However, with what seems like the entire digital marketing industry clamouring to personalise profiles for themselves and their clients, the news that the feature may become paid might leave a sour taste.

On the other hand, the platform is still underdeveloped, and still seen as an echo chamber for early adopters and web hipsters.

To take a quote from Econsultancy's Matt Owen:

How much revenue or awareness do we really think Ford Europe generated by running a brand promotion on G+ (a slightly uninspiring image-sharing competition), barring a bit of PR bumph because they were there first?

I'm yet to see a convincing campaign from the platform (though I'm happy to be proved wrong here).

Whatever Google’s motive is, it’s important to understand that you don’t own your nice new shiny custom URL and that, one day, Google may come calling for payment in one way or another.

Are you advising your clients to claim thier custom URL? How do you see advancements in this area going? Let me know in the comments...

Andrew Isidoro

Published 31 October, 2013 by Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro is SEO Manager at GoCompare.com and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Andrew on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

7 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

Hi Andrew,

Is that available to all now? I had a look and it wasn't obvious....

Whilst I haven't seen any interesting G+ campaigns I do think one of the interesting things that this will bring is content marketing in general, especially for more prolific publishers, in increased authority for authorship https://plus.google.com/authorship - This will benefit all content, not just that on G+ would be my hypothesis..

Presumably a good, active, vanity URLed profile with industry connections and comments will enhance visibility of content to which you are associated as author elsewhere. Google have hinted at as much at recent publishing events - Matt Cutts all but confirming it last week http://bit.ly/1aqfjte

Not necessarily a standalone campaign in iteself, but certainly worth considering as part of the content marketing strategy as a whole over a long time-scale.

I can't think immediately of any additional premium features, but if it were known to enhance content visibility that in itself has a value tat people wouldn't want to lose when they have invested in their profile.....

just a thought in passing...!

angus

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Angus if you meet the criteria, and most people do, it should be available now or very soon. I don't have it yet, but apparently you'll see a banner on your G+ page.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Actually, I've got mine now: https://plus.google.com/+GrahamCharlton/posts

over 2 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

thanks Graham, not seeing it yet...

over 2 years ago

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Eunice Coughlin

Hmmm, that's interesting about monetizing urls. Maybe they are just putting that in the T &C's as a "just in case" measure. It does not make sense to me for them to do it in the near future since they are not anywhere near the volume of users to make it profitable.

over 2 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at Gocompare.com

I agree Eunice. I don't think they will be making anything paid in the near future but it does highlight how they could do so in the future once the user base begins to grow further.

over 2 years ago

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Andy Kinsey

I've got mine google.com/+andykinsey
decent for business cards and branding in general

I'm certainly advising clients to take them if offered, it won't do any harm and if one day they do charge it will be clear whether it's worth it to that client. The other thing that strikes me about this is that it would appear premium features, inc this url, maybe offset or zero if you let them use your +1's etc in adverts... just a thought no solid grounding for it but its possible.

over 2 years ago

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Tuan

Many people asked me why they haven't got custom URL for their account yet. You will have to prepare for it. Here is the detailed guide, hopefully it will be useful for readers here
http://www.techwalls.com/claim-custom-url-for-your-google-plus-account/

over 2 years ago

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

Nice post. I think this is a huge sign that Google plan to charge for more features in the future. How long before GA and GWT become paid?

over 2 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at Gocompare.com

Thanks Oliver. You were saying...

http://www.google.com/analytics/premium/

:)

over 2 years ago

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

GWT will be next! I think the free GA version has its days numbered too!

over 2 years ago

Lenka Istvanova

Lenka Istvanova, Marketing Project Manager at Freestak

Thanks for the insights, Andrew.
Google is copying Facebook with this custom URL, but to be honest I preferred the changes and the numbers. But I'm not sure about the 'paid service' - It would be interesting to see how much they will charge for it.

over 2 years ago

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webmoghuls

thanks for such a lovely post... stats are great..

over 2 years ago

Claire Stead

Claire Stead, Head of Marketing at Smoothwall

I think for those worrying thinking 'signing up now - worry about payment later', the problem with this has been nailed by Andy Kinsey's comment that the URL is great for business cards and promotional material. If users add the Google+ URL to any printed literature, and Google turn around and ask you for payment, you are more inclined to then stump up rather than let your URL go, which could then be claimed by another user who you are still happily promoting in your printed material which is already out in the world. I think the personalised URL needed to happen, but to charge for it is absurd. I can imagine Google will start charging more for its apps and services which, although it will cause outrage to many who have enjoyed the services for free for so long, is a lot more plausible.

over 2 years ago

David Somerville

David Somerville, Head of inbound marketing at Fresh Egg

I think before Google even consider charging for custom URLs (or other services) then it first needs to find a way of increasing its active users.

I think the design and user experience of Google+ makes it potentially one of the strongest social media networks, however there is a clear lack of regular users within the UK.

Finding out an accurate figure on current UK active users from Google is impossible, which makes it harder to justify to people as to why they should use it.

over 2 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design

I do hope it's not one of these upgrades that turns into a cul-de-sac which you cannot un-upgrade from later.

However as I am the worlds only "Neale Gilhooley", should I wish to not pay for https://www.google.com/+NealeGilhooley WHO else in the world will buy it?

over 2 years ago

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John

The only thing I'm concerned about is if this will affect the authorship codes we need for our sites. I have just released a new website and want to get authorship enabled for my blogging. Will there be a new system if we get a custom URL, or will we still be able to use the original code (and if so, where will we be able to get the code from after we create the custom URL)?

over 2 years ago

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Nicole Healing

I hadn't noticed that, but wonder if Google means to start charging for new personalised URLs after a specified date? At least I hope that would be the case, or that we'll be able to revert back. It's also a great exercise in data capture, given your phone number is required, and flushing out duplicate/fake accounts as you'd need a new phone number for each URL.

over 2 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at Gocompare.com

David - I agree with you. Google have some way to go before they can begin to charge for any premium features but this might be a sign that they have a few more tricks up the sleeve. Unlike Buzz, they might even have a strategy for growing the network. #ShockHorror

Neale - Isidoro...I think I'm safe too :)

Nicole - That's a point I had thought about talking more about. They are effectively linking mobile devices to G+ accounts. For Android, who knows what that connection could open up.

over 2 years ago

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Ian Cockayne

John- In response to your query about getting your original code, it struck me that I should pre-emptively take a record of my old Google+ url. I had already starting using Google+ rel=author links on the blog I write for, so I took a copy of the old style url from the source code of one of those pages.

over 2 years ago

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