Google has rolled out a major update to Google Friend Connect, its service that lets small Web sites (and some not-so-small ones, such as the Huffington Post) easily add community features such as comments, reviews and ratings, and the ability to friend other visitors.
There are a bunch of new features, all of which you can add to a site by pasting in code that creates gadgets on your pages.
- You can create a questionnaire that asks new visitors about their interests, then puts their answers in their profiles and helps you customize content:
- You can send out newsletters, using features that don’t compete with the richness of a MailChimp or Constant Contact but which do let you target visitors with specific interests and automatically roll in fresh content from your site:
- You can insert a gadget on your site that automatically links to your content which Google thinks a visitor will like based on the questionnaire he or she filled out;
- If you have Google AdSense ads on your site they’ll use the questionnaire info to try and increase their relevance to that particular visitor;
- You get new analytics features which help you understand who’s visiting your site and what they’re doing there.
Here’s a video in which Google explains what’s new:
Eleven months ago, I wrote about the first version of Friend Connect, which I found needlessly confusing. I still don’t understand the service’s Members gadget, which presents me with a list of friends that includes easily-identifiable ones, vague ones (I know multiple Dennises), and totally confusing ones (who are you, Mr. Bad, Bad Man?):
Overall, though, today’s Google Friend Connect is neat–it does a lot more than the initial version, and Google has mostly taken care of another complaint I had back then–that the explanations of what the gadgets did tended to be cryptic. The company says that nine million sites now use Google Friend Connect, so it’s clearly caught on…