Despite its relative youth, Google+ now has over 100 million signed up user accounts and many big brands have at least created a presence on the site.  

But you might expect major media sites to be leading the way, given the potential to share content and drive traffic. So how well are national newspapers in the UK and US doing when it comes to Google+, and who’s leading the way?

To find out, we at Searchmetrics studied the Google+ visibility of the top 13 UK national newspaper websites and ten leading US counterparts.

We checked each newspaper to see if it had a Google+ page, how many followers it had and finally how often  content from its web site is recommended (through the +1 button), using our global social media database.

Comparing the data we found three key points: 

The Financial Times has most followers 

As of 26 April 2012,  the FT had by far the most followers of the newspapers we looked at, with 637,724 having the newspaper’s brand page in their Google+ ‘Circles’.

Next up was the New York Times with 370,043, the Wall Street Journal with 173,993 and The Guardian with 130,629. The Daily Mail, normally at the top of any web charts, had just 53,110, behind the likes of The Independent (108,969).

The FT’s high percentage of international coverage could be a significant factor in its leadership when it comes to followers.

Google + is expanding incredibly rapidly in the UK

We originally analysed the UK papers on Google+ in w/c 19th March, while for the US papers it was on 2nd April. When we updated the data for this blog post, we found that the growth has been impressive.

From 372,159 followers in March, the FT has added over 250,000 followers to bring it up to 637,724 by 26 April 2012. Other UK papers have made similar gains, while the U.S. papers we studied show less rapid growth (over an obviously shorter time period).

However despite this growth there are still four national UK newspapers,  The Times, Sun, Daily Express and Daily Star, without Google+ pages, meaning they are missing out on potential followers and traffic.

SiteGrowth in followers:

  • FT: 42% growth (372,159 to 637,724).
  • The Guardian: 42% growth (75,255 to 130,629).
  • Daily Mail: 33% growth (35,490 to 53,110).
  • Wall Street Journal: 14% growth (149,905 to 173,993).
  • New York Times: 3% growth (360,032 to 370,043).

Following isn’t the same as sharing

While the FT has the largest number of followers this doesn’t necessarily equate to content sharing,possibly due to its paywall restrictions.

Our weekly data shows that content from the New York Times ( and Daily Mail ( websites received the most +1 recommendations., which drops its paywall for links from Google+ and other sites, received an average of 26,665 +1s per week, while in the UK the averaged a weekly 10,493 +1s.

We all know that getting your content shared or recommended on social networks such as Google+  helps to generate traffic. But, the search industry is increasingly aware that it also has an impact on how sites rank and are positioned in search results.

Google is now showing personalised search results which incorporate online content that people’s Google+ followers have recommended, and its “rel=author” mark-up feature is now highlighting content from specific authors in searches using the author’s Google+ accounts.

I think we can expect more of the same. So media owners and other big brands who are not fully embracing Google+ need to get in on the act.