Google+ rockets on search-engine promo

— -- Google recently deployed its popular search engine to boost the company's Google+ social-networking site in its battle with Facebook, a move that has paid off.

Visits to Google+ jumped thirteenfold last week, spotlighting the power of the search king's Internet real estate.

Visitors to Google+ shot up to nearly 15 million last week from the previous week's 1.1 million, according to Experian Hitwise, after Google opened the site to everyone. It had been "invitation only."

Google promoted the change with a blue arrow that pointed from its search-engine box on to Google+ in the upper left corner of the search page.

The maneuver, in quick order, demonstrated how Google can flex its search-engine might to boost its social standing.

"That had a lot to do with it," says Matt Tatham of Hitwise.

Google, the No. 1 search engine, accounted for 11.1 billion searches in August, according to ComScore.

"Theoretically, Google has the edge" over Facebook, IDC analyst Scott Ellison says.

"Google has search, Android, YouTube, Gmail," Ellison says. "Facebook just doesn't have as many assets."

Facebook has some 800 million members but has been complacent on a number of fronts, including sharing options, analysts say.

Google, meanwhile, has been cranking out features, such as sharing circles, video chats and games. Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering for Google+, noted last week that the social site has made 91 improvements in three months.

The Google+ rivalry drove Facebook to pump out features at its F8 conference last week.

In addition to a massive makeover, Facebook launched Timeline, which will allow new forms of media-sharing and game play. The social giant also struck music deals with Spotify and Rdio and online video agreements with Netflix and Hulu.

"Facebook is going to have to up their game," Ellison says.

Paul Allen, Google+ tracker and founder of (not to be confused with the Microsoft co-founder), estimates Google+ has 50 million users. He points out that Google+ hit this number in 88 days vs. the 3½ years it took Facebook.

"Until a few months ago, there was widespread skepticism in the tech and investor community about Google's ability to 'get social,'" he wrote on his Google+ page on Monday.

Google, which reported 10 million Google+ members in July, declined to comment.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.