Google Friend Connect

by Martin Malden

Check out the new widget at the bottom of the right sdebar. Google Friend Connect (GFC) is a great way of running a small community from your site or blog.

Which, in turn, is a great way of developing a following and some extra traffic – particularly for static sites.

I’m still pretty new to GFC, so I’m not by any means an expert.  I’m doing my best to rectify that, though, and one of the ways I’m doing that is through Chris Lang’s free Google Friend Connect tactics course.

So what is Google Friend Connect?

It’s a part of Google’s drive to create online communities, other parts being Gmail, Google Chat, Picasa, Google Knol, Google Reader and so on.

Once you set up GFC on your site, visitors can join right from the page on which you set it up. They can then invite their friends to join without leaving your site.So if a visitor likes your site they can now invite other people who have similar interests right there and then.

What a great way to start developing a following and extra traffic!

I’ve discovered some great new sites through browsing the profile information of people who’ve joined my sites.

Joining GFC is easy.  If you have a Google, Yahoo, AIM or OpenID account you can join GFC right from the site you’re visiting.  If you have one of those accounts, click the join button on the GFC widget and then sign in to your account.

Once you’ve joined GFC the next step is to put the widgets on your site, so others can join you.

From the GFC page in my Google account I configured the widgets (a member’s widget and, if you want, a (currently) small selection of social widgets).

You can configure the size and colours of your widget to fit in with your site design.  Google will then generate the code for you to copy and paste into wherever you want it to sit on your site.

You also need to upload 2 small files which Google will give you.  These enable the widgets to run on your site and interact with Google’s database, which contains the details of your site members and friends.

There are still a relatively limited number of social widgets available, but the invitation is there from Google to develop your own –  so doubtless the list will grow.

I have GFC on my travel site as well as my blog, and I think the benefits for static sites are actually greater than for blogs.

This is because blogs already have commenting functionality. Static sites generally don’t, so adding GFC allows you to add this and start generating a discussion around pages on your static sites.

There’s nothing to stop you, for example, pasting the comment widget on each page of your static site.  Then you can ask for comments, questions or feedback (and from there start a discussion) on the content of each page.

It’s not blog functionality, but it does make the pages on your static sites much more interactive than they were before.

And all this leads to more traffic.

Finally there are now quite a few GFC directories – another way to spread the word about your site and get more traffic.

If you join GFC through this site, make sure you leave in your settings a link to where you’ve set up GFC on your own site.  If you do that I’ll hop over and join your site in return.

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