Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let's start with correlation != causation: http://xkcd.com/552/
But it would probably be better to point to this 2011 post (also from SEOMoz/Moz) from two years ago in which a similar claim was made about Facebook shares: http://moz.com/blog/does-google-use-facebook-shares-to-influ... . From that blog post from two years ago: "One of the most interesting findings from our 2011 Ranking Factors analysis was the high correlation between Facebook shares and Google US search position."
This all came to a head at the SMX Advanced search conference in 2011 where Rand Fishkin presented his claims. I did a polite debunk of the idea that Google used Facebook shares in our web ranking at the conference, leading to this section in the 2011 blog post: "Rand pointed out that Google does have some access to Facebook data overall and set up a small-scale test to determine if Google would index content that was solely shared on Facebook. To date, that page has not been indexed, despite having quite a few shares (64 according to the OpenGraph)."
If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn't mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking.
Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.
Thanks Matt, I think we both agree that Google doesn't use +1's directly in your algorithm. But are you implying there are no SEO benefits to posting popular content on Google+? Google does use PageRank and anchor text, 2 things present in Google+ posts that aren't passed as easily in Facebook and Twitter. It seems to me that a popular post on Google+, shared and linked to by well known authorities, is just like earning a high authority editorial link - and this is a bit different than most other social media platforms.
Now, if you tell me you treat Google+ differently in a way that blocks link juice, blocks anchor text and doesn't pass link equity, then I think I would have to rethink my thesis. Regardless, I think we're both on the same page here. The goal is not to accumulate a massive amounts of +1's (and I'll amend my post to make that clear) but to share high quality content on Google+ and build your influence through this channel, and this can lead to real world success.
My argument is that Google+ as a platform passes actual SEO value, and I don't think this is a bad thing or something that needs to be debunked. Feel free to disagree if I'm way off base here.
> Thanks Matt, I think we both agree that Google doesn't use +1's directly in your algorithm.
> Now, if you tell me you treat Google+ differently in a way that blocks link juice, blocks anchor text and doesn't pass link equity, then I think I would have to rethink my thesis.
> My argument is that Google+ as a platform passes actual SEO value, and I don't think this is a bad thing or something that needs to be debunked.
Huh? You first say it doesn't pass directly in the algorithm ("blocks link juice, anchor text, and equity"), but then argue that it does ("passes value")? What part of the argument am I missing here?
If you're arguing that overall exposure to content goes up because social media sharing, then I'd be inclined to agree. Overall exposure then translates to better SEO because links are being used more often outside of non-seo-algorithmic social media (for example in blogs), hence the correlation.
A Google+ post passes SEO benefits (through linking) independent of the number of +1s it has. So although Google doesn't use +1s directly, it does use the link signals found naturally in the Google+ post itself. Because these link signals are by design blocked by Facebook and Twitter, this makes Google+ a superior platform from an SEO perspective.
Perhaps I have missed something here, however does this mean that a Google+ post that has zero +1s will pass the same amount of link juice as one that has fifty +1s? I guess this would be dependent upon the author that posted it, so let's assume these two posts are both by you, Cyrus Shepard.
As far as I'm aware nearly all social networks require you to join them before people can 'follow' you on them. So I don't see how what you said contradicts my point : if you don't make a G+ account you are going to lose out in organic search ranking.
> Back in 2011, folks may remember the controversy that erupted when Moz found a similar correlation between higher rankings and Facebook activity. At the time, Google claimed they didn't use Facebook shares for ranking websites. Dr. Peters concluded that the relationship between Facebook activity and higher rankings was likely not directly related, but probably caused by overlapping factors such as links and high-quality content.
> Now in 2013, there's strong reason to suspect it's different with Google+, and that the relationship between +1s and higher rankings goes beyond correlation into the territory of actual causation.
While Facebook / twitter are lagging signals from google's access perspective, G+ is contemporaneous: "Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately"
Pointing out that Facebook likes don't increasing rankings doesn't debunk Google +1s. Obviously you know if they do or do not affect rankings. I'm not sure you would tell us if they actually were used as a signal in rankings because that would lead SEO's to focus on +1's in a way similar to what happened with pagerank. It could also lead to +1 spamming/exploiting.
Not that I'm going to believe you anyway, but I just want to clear this up. Are you, Matt Cutts, saying that +1s make no difference in Google rankings?
Agreed - perhaps he could have used more explicit language but, as you rightly said, I think he had answered that question already. I know he's public enemy #1 amongst some SEOs but people should stop being so rude to the guy!
I don't know if your comment is directed at me, but I don't feel I was rude to him at all. I do see a lot of hate for Cutts from SEOs, but they hate Google anyway. Cutts is just a face to Google that they can focus on.
But that is not saying the same thing. Your interpretation of it is "Yes. I am saying that +1s make no difference in Google rankings." but that is not what cutts said. His answer leaves it up to your interpretation. He could be saying "people who say +1s have an effect have no way of knowing that for sure" because we don't have access to their algorithms.
I may be misunderstanding the basics, but the article implies that putting a post onto plus gives you a "perfect" page for SEO. Which means that any links to it will raise it's score more than any other page hosted anywhere else.
(They fail to follow through with posts on G+ are naturally likely to get more +1s than likes, thus presumably debunking the whole correlation issue like you say. But anyway)
So my takeaway (which I am not sure if you are challenging) is that posts on plus.google did better than a presumably control sample on facebook - and the article incorrectly ascribes this to +1s. You seem to be saying, yes it did do better but its not because of +1s, its just better. But is it better content or is it better SEO-ness of the page.
Thats the part I would like to see these studies show - how they manage the control portion. How they control for quality of the content? Because if posting the same content on G+ and on a.n.other site gets you significantly more pagerank, then its really hard to argue not to do that.
(I quite accept the "its not +1's goddammit" argument)
Which is why all of those points were addressed in the article! In fact, that's why the article didn't make the claim that Google is doing anything unusual in handling G+ links and shares - just that G+ is laid out in a way that makes it more relevant to existing SEO techniques.
Of course, for personalized results, Google+ activity can have a huge impact on rankings. At times, it can trump any other factor. For personalized results. Important caveat, but then again, we're probably at the point where more people see personalized results than don't.
I agree. Mechanistically, I'd speculate that +1's follow and reinforce pre-existing web rankings. It seems very probable to me that people are most likely to +1 the pages that are found first in web searches (i.e. those that have high rank).
What about the claim that G+ links pass value? Clearly they're no-followed, but has Google prevented them in passing value in some other way (algorithmically, perhaps?), as is widely believed to be the case for affiliate links?
My experience has been that making better content is great for getting more readers, but not for SEO, which in the long term is fine because it removes the risk of having to chase algorithm changes.
When I switched from writing to fill holes in search results to writing for specific communities (including g+ groups) my readership shot up, but the SEO part has stayed pretty flat. It's possible I have something set up incorrectly, or that what I'm writing isn't something people are searching for, I'm not really sure. I put some charts up here that show this-
>Great content is often succinct and simple to comprehend.
>SEO wants your content to be full of unnecessary keywords that match the search terms which conflicts with this.
That's where it pays to have an awesome copywriter who can craft in those keywords, keep it succinct and unnoticeable to the reader yet let Google know what the post's about.
People are associating all the old SEO tactics to the new search. They're incompatible. SEO is more about quality content than ever - and that doesn't just mean writing something that makes sense and isn't stuffed with keywords.
Just a thought:
When publishing correlation articles, maybe responsible authors should set up some kind of verification system where the reader must demonstrate that they understand that correlation does not equal causation before they are even allowed to read the article.
Otherwise, we end up with all these knuckleheads running around saying "Moz said that +1s are the key to high rankings and you have to have lots of them! Who wants to buy 10,000 plus ones from me?"
Yup, I love that the correlation for "Facebook shares, like, comments" (though those are three different things) is listed as 0.03 less, even though I've pointed out multiple times that Facebook doesn't exactly make it easy for Google to crawl Facebook to see that data.
Your point #3 is critical: high quality things get more +1s (and tweets, and Facebook likes or comments or shares).
Indeed, it's a little embarrassing. The tenuous conclusions reached based on correlation in the SEO industry are out of control. It should not be surprising that any metric of popularity (+1s, shares) will have some sort of correlation to another metric of popularity (links, brand searches?, editorial coverage, etc.) that Google might use in rankings.
The short answer is, "no, but it depends." If sample size is large and the sample is representative of what it claims to show, .5 is very significant correlation.
The .3 correlation with a large sample size means something is happening. I agree with what Matt is saying: that content that gets +1s also gets links and mentions and everything else that Google might use to calculate rankings.
The pearson correlation, when squared, gives the % of variance (in the strict mathematical sense) that is explained by this variable alone.
So how much is 'weak' or not depends on the situation. If you have something that is influenced by multiple causes, then it is impossible to have any single high correlation. But any correlation, if statistically significant (i.e. highly unlikely to be caused by chance) can be important.
The question is, how much is an 'interesting' amount of the total variance, in the given situation.
(In the topic under discussion here, I have no idea.)
Maybe rephrase "high quality things get more +1s" to "high ranking results get more +1s because they're found more often than low ranking results"
This brings up the interesting question of why other social media is used less for promotion of effective pages. More zombie / spammers / scammers / PR firms manipulating facebook likes than +1s? This seems extremely likely given the known "underground" like-market and incentives WRT FB.
I Like number 3. I think there's two ways this works: 1) Killer content is created and social shares quickly give signals of freshness and quality within an area. Combine that with early user metrics as the content moves up and you have a good idea of it's quality. However, if this content is not soon backed with corresponding signals (links, etc.) the ranking can fade. This is likely dependent on the industry and topic as to how it plays out.
The other possibility is a good piece of content earns links, has great user metrics for certain keywords, lives on a great site, etc. and ranks well. It then accumulates social shares on top of that, further confirming the quality of the content. Thus...you get a situation like #3. Social signals make sense for indexation, but beyond that, until you start to understand the importance of the author (cough, AuthorRank, cough) then you can't use them for much more then understanding what the "mob" is finding valuable at the moment. And it might be a very fleeting fascination on a subject that really doesn't deserve to hold a ranking.
IMHO, no. Its easier for Google to use +1s as an indicator to measure social reach since it is their own data. Contrast this to:
 Facebook and LinkedIn: most shares/likes are private by default
 Twitter: Google would have crawl Twitter's entire corpus and tweet stream. It could do it, but Twitter's increasingly restricting access to this data.
So it makes sense from a technical perspective that Google can use only the limited information available to it in terms of social strength of an article.
Patents are a legal monopoly. To say a company has a monopoly just means that it is extremely difficult to compete. In search, the market naturally created a monopoly.
Not only does google have twice the market share of anyone else, they likely have more than twice the number of advertisers as well. This means they are making more money on each visitor. That's why Yahoo and Ask both had to outsource their ads to Google, even though they had large market shares. Blekko has cited this as a huge reason they are having trouble competing.
Creating a real search engine (not a meta-search like Duck Duck Go) from scratch is very expensive. Blekko started out with 700 servers. Until you get to a very high scale, the server costs are prohibitive.
IIRC, Google tends to have more "real" searches. A lot of Bing and Yahoo searches probably have the query string "Facebook" because people have it as the default engine, or are already on a Yahoo / MS property (like their web mail). A lot of these people will then type "Google" into the Bing / Yahoo search box, when they need to find something.
Google has plausible deniability here: "Unlike Facebook, which hides data from Google, or Twitter, which directs Google not to follow most of its links, Google+ data is immediately and fully accessible to the company that built it." Neither can turn around and argue about monopolistic practices because google can say that twitter and facebook refused to give them data (and they would use those sources if permitted)
> Add Google authorship information to your online content
I can't find the reference, but I remember reading here on HN that someone investigating a large drop in traffic to pages with #1 organic rankings traced it back to the profile photo that got added to pages with authorship attribution. There didn't seem to be a traffic drop on pages with #2 or #3 etc., so the author came to the conclusion that the profile thumbnail was causing their listing to be mistaken for an ad.
I have found enormously high correlations - as high as 99% in some industries - between links and brand-name searches in Google. I've also found enormously high correlations for non-commercial phrase rankings and social shares. I have used Google finance for public companies in the same industries and found correlations between sales and links to a site. I suspect you can compare almost any popularity metric and find huge correlations with other popularity metrics.
Equating correlation with cause is one of the main problems I see in the modern SEO industry. Many SEOs are so obsessed with links, for example, that they have lost sight of the importance of building content, awareness, and products that real people will care about. I can't wait to see SEOs wasting their time spamming links on G+ and buying +1s after skimming this post.
This post highlights some of the reasons why I don't like Google+, and dislike it even more than facebook.
> Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately
I used to use RSS feeds for quick indexing. Well, I guess we all know how that turned out when G wanted more users for G+.
> Add Google authorship information to your online content
The technique for this really disgusted me the first time I read about it. The easy method is basically linkbaiting to G+, not to mention that no other provider of authorship info is supported. Why do we have microdata again?
> Make your content easy to share on Google+ with relevant social sharing buttons
Yes, no, thanks. More intel and links for G.
> Completely fill out your Google+ profile with relevant and engaging information
Yeah, because people should rather publish good content on G+ than their own sites.
> Make your posts public
Of course, you only get all the benefits if your stuff is public on G+ and generates more traffic for them.
All in all I have to say well done Google. Good for you anyway. And good for people who want to hire a social media.. err.. ninja. Not so good for people who want to publish their own content on their own sites or even other social sites.
Not understanding why I got downvoted other than a lack of explanation.
A lot of easy "tech" work honestly consists of using google to find answers for people who refuse to use google for themselves. It never fails to amaze me. I was born knowing how to change the battery in a 2nd gen Prius keychain remote? LOL no I merely use a google search because you're too lazy to do it for yourself (or learned hopelessness where they're intentionally outsourcing the labor to me and I'm being the sucker)
I would imagine someone who's annual review consists of how well they've SEO'd their page will be enormously more interested in how well they're doing SEO than a kid writing an essay or a possible future customer, or really anyone else at all. Money is a powerful motivator.
I can pick 300 random real world friends and guarantee that 99% of them never use Google+, even the ones in tech. I have an account and in 1 year I have posted 2 things to an audience of practically no one.
Compared to other social metric's (facebook, twitter, etc), it's empty.
You can't just say that Google+ is not empty when it is so tied to your social structure. I have 3 friends on Google+ and 300 on Facebook. My Google+ is completely empty. Could well be the same for the OP.
"Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content."
I don't get it... Are +1s not good enough of an indication that content is good? If Google is not looking at social signals how can they justify good from bad content? Natural links are just as easy to manipulate Google with as unnatural. Instead of anchoring an exact match we use a brand.
Without social it makes it way too easy to game the system which some of our competitors are doing and getting away with after penguin, panda, and all the other updates.
We've been finding companies that rank for "ABC" and all they do is build a bunch of blogs ("abc1.com""abc2.com""abcGreen.com""abcBlue.com" etc..) and keep building them on "free platforms" like wordpress/blogger/weebly and the other hundred sites.. Create a bunch of crap links for Google to index and rank. All google needs to see is a "natural link profile", some onsite SEO and viola.
Lately we've been finding some articles that suggest changing published dates of pages/posts to get them reindexed with freshness. Some are consistently gaming Google, and the ones of us who are creating good content and get some +1s (by sharing it in relevant communities otherwise how will it be found) are going to lose to cheaters. Perhaps it's not as easy to game specific SERPs nationally. However, locally its a piece of cake. Just try looking for a locksmith, the way it's set up now the cheaters are still on top.
My question to Matt Cutts is: if you were an internet marketer and you created good content that got a great amount of real interaction, and that awesome content you created is not getting any SERP love because of others who are cheating the system, what would you do? How long would you wait? and what if nothing changes after the next algorithm change?
Does this mean I have to put a +1 button on my site if I don't want it to come after all the sites that do have +1 buttons (unless I'm a canonical source like Wikipedia)? If so, it seems like a gross abuse of power on Google's part.
I would imagine Facebook could file an anti-trust suit over this.
Thanks for all the info, so Matt says Google is not considering G+ as ranking factor, I don' believe this. All social media engagement have a correlation with rankings. I think now a days correlation value of Google+ is increased(this is why they index everything ASAP).
Guys Need help:
We recently faced a situation where we replaced the Facebook like button with Share button from our internet marketing blog(company site/blog).
Still I personally feel ‘Like’ was getting more engagement than share button, what will you advice for me. Implementing both Like & Share button is a good idea? I believe since our site only deals with particular industry i.e. Internet Marketing, less people will be sharing the blogs. We feel Facebook share is much valuable than Like, but we are confused here.
It's hard to think of what the lurking variable could be here if you want to make the argument that this is purely correlation and not causation. With Facebook likes, that could also indicate overall traffic levels or other popularity-based metrics, because everyone uses Facebook. Only the tech/news industry really uses Google+ though. So considering how few pages have a lot of +1's, this is a very high correlation. e.g. If +1's were just an indicator of # of unique linking domains, you'd expect that correlation to be much higher than +1's, since almost all sites have links but few have +1's.
Ah, this may help explain why so many sites have +1 buttons while they get so little use (often on the order of 1% of the Facebook Like activity).
So Google uses its search monopoly in such a way as to incentivize site operators to advertise its social network (in the form of those buttons), which encourages growth of its social network — and as a separate issue, allows them to track people, be they Google users or not, across more of the Web.
No anti-trust issues here, move along... </sarcasm>
I have fired a quick Google search for "Google correlate". This site came up second which is high considering the first result was a product by Google called correlate I found this way that makes search data correlations. Interesting.
I think it makes sense that Google +1s is used in high search rankings. It's the one social signal they can audit to see if people are cheating on it. They own the whole Google+ social graph and can easily detect if it's being gamed.
Or it can just be that the more +1's you get, the more links you get, which boosts the rankings. So it may just be an indirect correlation.
No, I don't think so. Humbly, my best articles are the one with less +1s while the ones with relatively high +1s are related to my success or luck promoting them.
Also I don't see a correlation in my blogs between more retweets and more Google's +1s. It is most probable because my blogs don't have many visitors and didn't cross the charm, but I expect search engines like Google to leverage the long tail instead of smashing it.
I tend to see negative correlation between shares on any social media platform x and any social media platform y. The audiences just differ so much that anything that'll grab the Twitter crowd will tend to put off the StumbleUpon crowd, and so on.
There's some crossover between a very few platforms, e.g. posts which get a lot of InShares will also likely get Tweeted a lot. It's quite rare, though, in my experience.
When sites.google.com first came out it ranked their own pages much better than a new site (they've since turned it down a bit). Many tech reporters say the only reason they use Google+ is to post stories on there because Google will rank it more highly than their own site.
it's really quite simple. The pages that get more +1s and likes and comments and whatever metric you want are the ones that are good. The ones that are good also get more links and other signals that are used in algorithms. The hidden middle-factor here is "quality."
That, or simply: "the pages that have more +1s have them because they ranked and got more traffic. e.g. nobody's +1ing pages that they can't find."
I think that Google is not magically adding their +1's to PageRank whilst not doing the same for Facebook likes etc. But rather that google plus has been designed by Googlers for Google's engine. As such a post on a plus account will attract percentage-wise far more +1s (same way a facebook post will get more likes).
And so if you compare two posts, one on facebook, one on plus.google, and they both have the same number of backlinks (likes/+1s) then the plus post will be better SEO friendly and so outrank.
The fact it out ranks so much suggests that something screwy is going on - either there is a lot of cash left on the table for SEO-friendly pages, or that something like being on the google root domain helps in ways that have not been corrected for.
I would doubt if Google is out and out cheating. But a lawsuit would force them to say how facebook could up its pages...
Edit: I know I'm not supposed to but really - why the down votes? I would be very surprised if Google is trying to kill the golden goose.