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Matt Cutts: Google +1's have no ranking influence.

 11:43 pm on Aug 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Commenting on the Moz Blog article: "Google +1's Correlation with Higher Search Rankings"

Matt Cutts:
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: [xkcd.com...]

Hacker News https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6243451 [news.ycombinator.com]

What's your experience with +1's and social in helping sites to rank? How do you use them successfully? Thoughts?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:24 am (utc) on Aug 21, 2013]
[edit reason] fixed link, added context [/edit]



 1:57 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I always thought that it helped with personalized search. I am surprised it doesn't? Or it "correlates" with personalized search? It just adds to the confusion.


 2:06 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

IMHO really good content attracts backlinks and naturally generates strong usage signals. Those items help a page to rank well. It will also likely develop a few Facebook likes and Google +1s so you might see a correlation when you look at the top ranking pages but I would not say it is close to a causation.

If you look closely at the chart that Moz uses to proclaim an "amazing correlation" it shows Google +1 at .30 and Facebook at .27. Yet the article mentions that Facebook is "likely not directly related". It seems weird to me that a .03 difference would cause something to move from not directly related to amazing status.

I do think it is wise to spend some time on Google+ because there are some side benefits (like having a pretty image in the serps) that will help an integrated online marketing campaign.

PS Thanks to Moz for conducting research and sharing it. I just wish the analysis was a little more even keeled IMHO.


 2:29 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Lol. I think someone over there just needed something "amazing" to meet their blog quota, found this blog <snip> and ran with it.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 3:10 am (utc) on Aug 21, 2013]
[edit reason] removed blog link [/edit]


 2:31 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm glad because my target audience don't use social media much. I get a lot of traffic and have great content, but few social media shares because of my target audience.


 2:41 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm glad because my target audience don't use social media much. I get a lot of traffic and have great content, but few social media shares because of my target audience.

The same is true of my information site. Readers are far more likely to send thanks or compliments by e-mail than to click a Facebook "Like" button, never mind a Google "+1" button.


 2:43 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is the Moz article on correlations which has stirred the more recent controversy, including comments from Matt Cutts


 5:22 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well, I mean don't forget that 3 years ago a competitor couldn't possibly ever hurt your website with links.


 5:30 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Matt could also mean to say that G+1 is so unsuccessful that it is not having any ranking effect at all.
Just saying.


 7:47 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have always said that +1ís would have little effect on SEO. It is a factor that is very easy to manipulate.
Itís possible that if you participate fully in G+ your profile page will gradually gain page rank and if you have it linked to your web page will help SEO. There may be other factors Google could take into consideration at a later date, like how many shares, how many people in your circles, the ranking of the people in your circles, how many original words you have posted, the options are endless so it is a good idea to ignore the amount of +1ís, you can even buy them these days.


 11:25 am on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

To my mind, saying 'more +1s doesn't mean higher rankings' might be like saying 'more links doesn't mean higher rankings'.

It's true. But there might be shades of meaning in there.

And that's not really what the article says anyway. It says that:
- as Google+ links are mostly dofollow, and
- as many people share the page on Google+ after they +1
- therefore +1s often lead to dofollow links

If you were Google, would you NOT want to try to measure social sentiment on the web? What other purpose at this stage does Google+ serve?

Maybe they did/do seriously intend it to only be a service that they can monetise once ubiquitous and not a data source that helps their algorithm.


 2:24 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

it's hard to see what's in it for google, then. why encourage people to put all these buttons on their sites if they're not going to use the data for ranking?

presumably it must just be another way to track the user, to try and glean what sites they are interested in, for adverts.


 2:55 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

They do not deny that G+ will give you more relevant ads served to suit your interests. I suppose they have got to make money from it somehow. There is no indication that ads will be served on G+ but they have not ruled out the possibility.


 3:03 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

+1's help with your rankings but only for the searches done by those in your circles and only if they have personalization on and only if they are searching for a keyword you rank for anyway and only on the third Sunday of the 9th month every other year. Sorry, but that's just too little of a window to devote any resources for and expect gains from them. Besides, most non-webmasters do not have a G+ account anyway so from that point of view Matt is right.

Still, whenever Matt says anything it's first and foremost in Google's best interests so while I have no doubt he is telling the truth his words are well chosen to get the desired effect... for Google. If webmasters latch onto something that works it's his job to penalize the sites who figure it out so his helping hand can only extend so far, if you get too friendly the other hand has to reach over and slap you.

I'm thankful Matt says anything at all but consider his words website building advice and not ranking advice.


 3:15 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

If I understand things correctly, somebody just pressing the +1 button does not effect ranks according to MC. However that was not the assertion of the article. They found a correlation between people hitting the +1 button then hitting the share with circles button and rankings. Those are two different things.


 4:05 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

I was under the impression that bloggers with lots of G+ and in lots circles have a higher lever of Authorship Authority, and hence editorial links on those blogs have more value...


 4:19 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

You can easily check the PR of your Google+ profile but how they work this out is known to them only. As for Google authorship authority, maybe it is related to the PR of your profile but I doubt if many +1's will effect it. I would think that how much interaction with other good ranking profiles and how many articles shared would have a greater influence than how many circles you are in. The amount of circles you are in can easily be manipulated.


 4:31 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Re Google "authorship authority":

Google recently announced a feature called "In-depth articles" on informational SERPs that supposedly uses author reputation in its selection algorithm, but most of the Authorship/AuthorRank mavens (people like AJ Kohn and Mark Traphagen) seem to think that authorship hasn't yet been implemented as a ranking factor. That stands to reason, since Google is having enough trouble just getting author bylines and photos to work properly.


 4:48 pm on Aug 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

The general thought is that Author rank has not been implemented as a ranking factor and if it is it will only play a small part in SEO.

My thoughts on this, and it is only speculation is what data would be implemented if they did use it as a ranking factor. It would be interesting to see how a high PR profile on G+ linked to your website would effect SEO as it stands now.


 5:48 am on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well, I mean don't forget that 3 years ago a competitor couldn't possibly ever hurt your website with links.

Taken with a dose of improving authentication, of known sources as a strong signal:

Will Google be evaluating the use of rel="author" moving forward [youtube.com...]

You'd have to be considering this as part of the overall " authority " mix going forward. But there's no real commitment, just yet, by Google to it's future as a core product as far as I'm concerned. It hasn't become a compelling "must have" success communicated generally, I think, so much that it can be relied upon long term for anything, except as an interim tactic. Even Facebook has some way to go, and that's a core social product with complimentary add-ons.

We may even see Google+ not survive in it's current form. Who knows.


 10:47 am on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would focus more on the core issue and less on the symptoms.

Google+ having a correlation with high rankings is a symptom.

Having great content on a website with a solid user experience is the core issue. If you have this you will more likely attract backlinks, Google +1s, Facebook likes, Twitter mentions, Pinterest pins or whatever is the latest flavor of the day.


 7:49 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Several commenters have already chimed in with what I would have said, but I'll just add this much. (And I speak as someone who has studied Google+ and its affect on search intimately since joining it on its third day. I also have some of the most visited and shared blog posts on the topic, and own the largest and most active Google Authorship discussion community on the web - just establishing my creds ;-)

Along with Joshua Berg on G+ I've studied intently how G+ profiles build search authority. After extensive testing (which I will publish after the next time G updates toolbar PageRank and I can get up to date data), profiles and pages acquire PR in two ways: via internal Google+ links (which are mentions of them by other users, engagement by those users on their content, and reshares of their posts) and external links from pages on the web. In the latter case, Google Authorship helps contribute to the PR strength of a profile because most Authorship content contains a link to the Author's profile.

So...if there is any value to the correlation shown with +1's, I'm with Cyrus in thinking that it most likely is the result of a number of the plusses on a site resulting in Google+ share posts, which of course have a followed link back to the shared site.


 10:47 pm on Aug 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

@marktraphagen - appreciate your valued input.

There's no direct ranking impact from Google+ at the moment but there is indirect ranking (from clickthroughs) and if you're already in there you'll be at an advantage later. Ex Googlers [wordtracker.com...]

Some added perspective. Don't use it to spam, and engage with it cautiously until more commitment is shown from Google IMO. Others may see it's emphasis differently.


 2:07 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Whitey thanks for the reply. I'm reluctant to put a lot of weight on an excerpted statement from a live event blog. Often when I've read those from events I've attended, I see that a lot of context is left out, or even blatant misquotations.

I'd want to know who those ex-googlers were, how closely connected to Google+, etc. Also the context of what exactly they mean by "no direct ranking impact." Too much left amguous in a one-liner like that.


 3:13 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Very true, and it helps to have folks like you around that can add value and substance to the discussions that are specific.

On a personal note, would you invest strongly in g+1?


 10:03 am on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Whitey, Yeah, I need to get more active here, thanks.

Would I "invest strongly in g+1?" No not at all. But I would (and have) invest heavily in Google+.

To me, the most helpful thing about this whole discussion this past week is if if dispels the notion that just chasing +1's is going to get you anywhere. You can buy, or otherwise obtain, all the +1's you want and I don't think they'll move the needle much if at all.

If those +1's aren't resulting in shares with followed backlinks by a good variety of good-to-great authority G+ users, then they aren't doing anything for you. And most schemes to run up +1 counts don't result in those kind of quality links.

Google is wise not to give the +1 much (if any) weight as a ranking signal. It's very difficult to gauge the intent of a +1. It's too easy an action to take, with no real commitment to the content. Matt Cutts has said this is why they removed the +1 buttons that were experimented with in search results for a while. They found it impossible to discern what people meant when clicking a +1. He even said they observed a significant number of people who would routinely click +1 on every result on the first page!

(By the way, this is why I think Facebook's Graph Search, at least as it exists now, is low-value. Basing it largely on Likes gives me no useful information. What does it mean that a lot of my friends "Liked" a certain restaurant? The restaurant could have run a contest for Likes. Maybe they post funny photos that my friends like to see. What it doesn't gaurantee is that they thought the place had good food and service.

That doesn't mean +1's are totally without meaning. For one thing, Google+ works hard to help you accumulate them. Google "dustin stout this changes everything" to find a recent post where Dustin Stout demonstrates how deeply and completely Google+ tracks every possible +1 on your content and accumulates all those numbers on to the displayed +1 button on your page.

I believe that having a lot of credible plusses from real G+ users over time acts as a trust signal for Google. Not a direct ranking signal, but more of a confirmatory signal that "people trust and like this brand." Single plusses or sudden large inflows of plusses without other good signs around your site probably mean nothing, but accumulating a good constant flow of plusses probably makes the G algorithm feel a little better about your site.

By the way, we've seen some Google+ pages get a sudden larger reduction in the number of +1's shown on their page. This indicates to me that Google is getting better at detecting false or scammed plussing schemes, and is taking them away.


 12:26 pm on Aug 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think that some people are confused about the difference between G+ and +1 and Mark has explained it very nicely. He has explained in a very eloquently way exactly what I had been trying to say previously, Iím an Artist and express myself better with my Artwork.

My work will even show up in Marks stream but thatís his fault as he decided to add me to his circle.

Google+ is the ideal platform to show off my work by the way.


 4:41 pm on Sep 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

So, what exactly happens when someone presses the +1 button. It is not analogous to a Facebook like, is it? A Facebook like gets recorded on the Facebook Page or generates a link to the "liker's" personal FB profile. But what happens to a +1? On some of those buttons I see it says "Publicly recommend" this page. Is that true for all +1 buttons if you have a Google+ profile?


 5:02 pm on Sep 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

@mjtaylor It depends on where the +1 button is clicked.

A +1 button on a web page can initiate several actions or results:

1) The clicker can share the page to his/her Google+ stream.
2) The overall +1 count for the site is incremented (as reflected on its connected Google+ Page).
3) The web page could be elevated in personalized search for people in the clicker's Google network who are searching Google logged in. Such elevated results appear with the legend "[your name] +1'ed this" below the search result.

Clicking the +1 button on a post on Google+ also has multiple possible outcomes:

1) The displayed +1 count for the post is incremented.
2) A large number of +1's on a post may cause it to be shown in more people's home streams (similar to Facebook's EdgeRank).
3) A large number of +1's in a short period of time may contribute to a post getting shown in Google+'s What's Hot section.


 10:03 pm on Sep 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks, Mark, that's very useful, and exactly what I am interested in. I suspect that +1s are actually indirectly a ranking factor, and not merely highly correlated.

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