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Don’t Panic! Google Friend Connect and Google Reader: What You Need to Know

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When Google announced last week that its popular, but evidentially not that popular, RSS feed, Google Reader, would be retired later this year after a bout of ‘spring cleaning’, our Blogging Edge Twitter feed became something of a flurry.

There was confusion over what this would mean for the popular Google Friend Connect (GFC) widget that allows bloggers to follow each other, and speculation over GFC disappearing too.

We figured that if you use GFC you might have been left scratching your head, so put the kettle on, relax and read up on the future of GFC and what you need to do next to retain your readership.

The story so far…

GFC and Google Reader are two separate tools. When GFC users follow a new blog, it’s placed in Google Reader and on their Blogger Reading List. The latter will still exist on your dashboard beyond 1st July, when Reader will be retired.

Google actually announced that Goolge Friend Connect would be shut down all the way back in November 2011. The service was retired for all non-Blogger hosted blogs and it was suggested that any bloggers affected by the loss should set up a Goole+ account, but more on that later.

So on 1st March 2012 GFC was no more for WordPress, TypePad and Tumblr users, to name a few. Meanwhile, the bods at Google were busy ploughing all their energies into Google+, so last week they announced that they’d trimmed the fat again, and this is when the news broke that Google Reader would be shut down, as of 1st July this year.

GFC still exists on Blogger sites for now, and the widget isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Alternatives to GFC and Google Reader

If you want to find a replacement for Google Reader or GFC there are numerous free alternatives. Here are some of the most popular, user-friendly sites and apps that will help keep all your favourite blogs and followers in one place.

Google Friend Connect replacements:

Both Hellocotton and Bloglovin’ have experienced spikes in their traffic since the news that Google Reader was to retire, and both offer great ways to keep tabs on your favourite bloggers, as well as providing readers with a way to follow your blog. Hellocotton is aimed at female bloggers and unlike Bloglovin’, followers are publically displayed.

Bloggers.com, not to be confused with Blogger, is another site that acts as a community where bloggers can create profile pages and share their latest posts. Followers are displayed clearly and members can comment on individual profile pages as well as blog posts.

Google Reader replacements:

While the above sites are good replacements for both GFC and Google Reader, Feedly is only a Reader replacement. According to the site, more than 500,000 Google Reader users have already switched to Feedly since the announcement on 14th March, and that number looks set to increase further. Google Reader accounts can be imported so no information is lost, and the site also offers customisable themes and layouts.

For a more visual RSS feed, you should consider Pulse and Flipboard, both free, for a fun way to get your morning hit of news and entertainment. Only available on tablets and mobile phones, Flipboard allows users to skim through content, their personal ‘social magazine’, while also keeping them in the loop with Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Speculation for the future

The disappearance of GFC is more a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ and Google have been pushing their social networking site, Google+, as a replacement for some of their retired services since it launched in 2011.

With the ever so slightly mythical Author Rank tipped to be the next way for Google to calculate search engine results, the use of Google+ Authorship is becoming increasingly important for bloggers who want to see their sites at the top of the page.

If you’re resistant to signing up to Google+ then make sure you’re not putting all your eggs in one social media basket. You need to make sure you’re socially active across the board, so that readers can find you anywhere and follow you in a way that suits them best, from Twitter and Facebook to Google+ and Pinterest. Giving your readers several ways to follow you is the best shot you have at maintaining and growing a readership.

Hopefully that clears up any worries you had about losing GFC, but if you have any questions just leave us a comment below, or find us on Twitter, Facebook and, of course, Google +.

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