Would You Use Google+ More If You Knew It Could Help Your Search Rankings?

    August 20, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Update: Matt Cutts has responded to Moz’s report. See end for update.

Sure, some of you are already using Google+ a lot, and I’m not one to call it a ghost town, but I don’t think many would argue that it doesn’t get the level of use as Facebook. But if you knew for a fact that Google+ could directly help you rank better in Google’s search results, wouldn’t you dedicate more time to it?

Would you use Google+ more if you saw direct ranking benefits? Let us know in the comments.

It seems like only yesterday that Google was telling us that the +1 button had no direct effect on rankings. Actually, it was in October.

“In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is, so right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher,” Matt Cutts said in a Google Hangout back then.

Google has not come out and officially said that +1’s will help you rank higher now, but Moz (formerly SEOmoz) has put out an interesting report suggesting that they will. Each year, they run a scientific correlation study looking at factors that have a strong association with higher Google rankings. This time, it found a very interesting trend.

“After Page Authority, a URL’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor,” writes Cyrus Shepard. “In fact, the correlation of Google +1s beat out other well known metrics including linking root domains, Facebook shares, and even keyword usage.”

Plus Ones

Searchmetics also recently found significant correlation of +1s and rankings:

Plus ones

Shepard notes that Moz found similar correlation with Facebook activity in rankings in a past study, but this was generally dismissed as not being a direct relationship, as that content likely had a lot of overlapping factors (like links and high quality content). He says it’s different this time with Google+, because it’s “built for SEO” in that posts are crawled and indexed “almost immediately,” Google+ posts pass link equity, and Google+ is “optimized for semantic relevance.”

Basically, Google+ posts are very similar to blog posts.

It doesn’t hurt that Google recently made +1s a lot more visible within Google+ itself, showing +1’d content more (which could lead to even more +1s).

Plus Ones

But +1s aren’t the only Google+ property that could be helping sites’ search rankings. Search Mojo CEO Janet Driscoll Miller recently made a pretty compelling case that Google authorship is substantially impacting rankings.

None of this is officially acknowledge by Google, though in that Hangout above, Cutts did talk up the possibilities of authorship.

Google is clearly doing just about all it can to keep from having to point users to third-party properties. This is most evident with its continuous expansion of the Knowledge Graph, but it also means pointing people to Google+ among other properties.

As I mentioned in a previous article, Google is already sometimes ranking Google+ URLs for content shared on the social network better than the actual URL of that content.

Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t seem to be a bad idea to be utilizing Google+ as much as possible if you want to improve your rankings. It certainly can’t hurt. That is unless you find a way to abuse it, then Google will surely find a way to make it hurt.

Have you seen any direct relationship between rankings and Google+ activity? Is this a good direction for Google to go in? Let us know in the comments.

Update: Matt Cutts responded to the new Moz report on HackerNews (h/t: Search Engine Land). This is what he said:

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.

Shepard, the author of the report responded back:

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.

  • marty

    I stopped using google+ because I don’t want my real name shown publicly. They won’t let me use my shop name. It’s a matter of privacy. I have a google checkout account so google already has my personal info.

    • http://invenio-solutions.com/ Marie

      I’ve only just started using Google+ for the past 5 or so months I post out content and am gaining +1’s – jury’s still out to whether this actually helps my rankings, as of yet I am yet to see any impact. But it’s another platform to share my content on and engage with followers so I’m not complaining :-0

  • http://na Rex Hudson

    I’m not going to use Google for nothing anymore. As far as I’m concerned they are “anti small business.” They are constantly changing things and sabotaging small businesses like mine. These constant changes are not supportive of good business practices or business models–they only help Google. Moreover, I don’t use them for search anymore and I know a great many others that don’t use Google for search or traffic!

  • http://allthingsparchmentcraft.blogspot.com Vickie D.

    I would prefer not to “have” to use Google+ at all, but Google links Picasa (which I have always used for my business)directly to G+ and there’s no way we even have a CHOICE about it. I lost tons of business when Google did this and have never been able to gain it back….even via G+. So, bottom line for me is…if G+ wasn’t forced upon those of us who depended on Picasa, I’d have nothing to do with it!!! End of story.

    • Marc

      I’m just curious what specifically happened that caused you to lose business? I had been an avid Picasa user (for personal use) for years and didn’t enjoy the switch to G+ photos, but now that I have adapted I’ve found it to almost be the same.

      To me it just seems like almost the same product with just a different name now so I don’t understand the issue.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/BrightgemsTreasures?ref=si_shop patricia grant

    I have noticed a rise in my Google search rankings since I began to use G+ more. I like it better then facebook myself;0)Google+ rocks*****

    • Joe Isuzu

      Then Im sure you’ll love their privacy policy too. LOL

  • Robert

    Why bother they’ll just charge for it later on down the line after you’re hooked on it like a Heroin Addict ?

    • Marc

      Like they did with Gmail and Maps and Search and Chrome and Android and…hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever been charged for a single Google product come to think of it.

      • Joe P

        FREE – means you are the product being sold.

        Advertisement based Media is Kabbalist philosophy one among many of their failed ideologies Communism, Socialism, Gold Currency System etc. Fiat Currency System, Donation based Democracy are on the brink of failure.

  • http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/increase-website-traffic/ Ana Hoffman

    Of course, Matt Cutts already came out to debunk the myth that Google’s +1’s have any correlation to search engine rankings: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115854344437995415484/posts/AxS6d2immEd

  • http://e-marketingpartner.com Bob

    Of course I would use G+ more if it helped search rankings, but the reason I don’t use it now is the difficulty of use. Google has managed to make things even more complicated the Facebook has when it comes to maintaining a business account.

    If they ever clean up the mess they have I might be inclined to use it regardless of it’s SEO potential.

  • George

    To be honest I like Google+ as a social network, but I will start using it more to generate more traffic to my company website.

  • http://www.adovationz.co.nz Digmen1

    Of course I would
    I have tried it and its too hard and far too expensive and they keep changing the rules.
    So I don’t bother now.

    Why do you bloggers ask such lame questions?

  • jimmy j

    This is a complete manipulation on the part of Google to encourage the use of their social network and keep their competition at bay. Frankly, it isn’t right. Google has always prided themselves on serving up the best results, but have been slowly weening away from that motto and giving boosts to their own properties.

    Remember when they displayed twitter results in the SERPS? that was actually the right thing to do, those results are extremely relevant, especially in the case of breaking news. But they pulled the plug on it for their own interests. With the huge impact Facebook, Twitter and other networks have had on the web, the results are no longer pure. They are opposing social network censored and should come with a *.

    They don’t give near enough attention to Facebook pages – which in many ways are the new websites for small business. Of course they’ll give you some b.s. that because of the way the content is presented, it’s more difficult for their web crawlers to determine exactly how to deal with it. IF that’s the case they also don’t put any effort into figuring it out and fairly presenting all content on the web.

    If +1’s have weight, then retweets, favourites and likes should have identical weight. Do they? Doubt it.

    Between this and their recent updates that have web masters in panic, questioning who’s linking to them, trying to police incoming links and worried about linking out – they are actually disrupting the organic results.

    Everyone has to stop blowing smoke up Google’s butt and realize it’s not 2004 anymore. “Don’t be evil” no longer applies. Stop doing things to appease Google’s algoryhtm. Especially if it means using ghost town networks and sneaky +1 and authorship tactics. Google has to be called out for this nonsense, or we’ll just become their puppets.

    Smarten up Google.

    • Marc

      What you are suggesting is like asking an insurance company to give quotes for other companies side-by-side. They can if they want, but it’s not unfair if they only show their own product. And it it turns out that showing only their own products causes them to lose business than so be it.

      Google is no different and they shouldn’t be forced to return any results. The search results they offer are their opinion of what is the most relevant, and if we don’t like it we can choose other alternatives.

      The difference is that the market has spoken thus far and has no issue with how Google is operating. I am sure if they started losing business they’d quickly change their methods but evidently the market as a whole doesn’t agree with you on this one, so perhaps its not Google that needs to smarten up.

    • http://www.NaturalDogTraining.INFO Paul Anderson


  • http://www.houseoflingerie.com Fredrick

    I would continue using G+ as I have been doing all this while. But won’t bother to go hard at it because of Google’s ever changing ranking algorithms.

  • http://www.websites4accountants.com Kenny

    Kind of a silly question. It was never a secret that Google was using the link between G+ and page rankings as a club to force participation. Of course I use it. I have to. Of course I try to convince my clients to participate too. Google has us by the short and curlies and they know it. Until the State Department starts sniffing around again with anti-trust allegations they are going to continue to press their advantage. In the meantime I’m going to continue to politely ask every happy client that crosses my desk to +1 my site.

  • http://www.coquitlamchryslerdodge.com Cliff

    I used it and continuously use it. However, I feel that Google Plus is hardly user friendly, and Google is ever changing and it’s hard to keep up with whatever is “hot” right now.

  • Joe Isuzu

    When are you going to rename WPN “The Matt Cutts Show”?
    Seriously, just get it over with already.

  • http://bestmoviesevernews.com/ Curt

    I think what’s most frustrating for many of us is that when we started our websites it was more about having fun and writing what we were passionate and interested about. Some of us got lucky and had sites that grew into something we didn’t expect, and now with all of these ‘suggestions’ from the G, it takes so much of the fun out of writing good content.

    With the G+ plus thing, I definitely use it, but not nearly as much as Twitter or Facebook. It’s one of those things that if you feel forced to use a social network you’re not so crazy about in the first place, you just don’t put as much effort into it.

    I’ll be glad when G gets back to focusing on the good original content along with all of this other stuff that’s gotten many great websites caught in the crosshairs.

    By setting so many guidelines and forgetting what they’re original purpose was, it’s easy to see why Bing is slowly creeping in on their turf.

    Thanks for pointing the G+ out as many still don’t know about it or what it even wants to do. Sometimes I wonder if G really has figured that out yet.

  • http://blog.brandshare.us/ Christine Kennedy

    We do our best to be active on LinkedIn, Google +, Twitter, and other key blogs. We believe the best results come from being actively engaged in your community. So far, it’s worked. Bring insightful posts to a author’s blog, they tend to reciprocate back from time to time on yours….. IF your blog is relevant and thought provoking.

    I have noticed a small trend too……. it seems that affiliate ads help some of the big stars in the industry too….. has anyone done a study on the number of affiliate ads a website has in their industry vs their rankings. Could this explain the large ranking surge for Amazon?

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    G+ was a ghost town so some one started this rumour that if you use G+ it will help your rankings.
    So much so I attended a marketing conference and this was stated by the main speaker at the event as a must do. “If there is one thing you must do today is to sign up to G+….rankings blah blah.

    And of course so we all did join up like happily little marketers.

    Of course the more circles and plus you get the better it is so its just another version link building.

  • http://swimmingpoolslides.net Steve Cee

    Question – does Google want me to spend my time
    providing the most and best content or should I
    spend my time time playing on G+, FB, Twitter and
    all 60 or 70 other useless websites ? I believe that
    my customers would prefer the most best content and the
    most reliable and rapid responses to their requests for
    Help ! Not sure what all Google is doing, but it can’t
    be the best user experience when Walmart outranks me in
    my speciality niches ! (Can it be that their advertising
    budget is helping with their Google page ranks ?)

  • http://swimmingpoolslides.net Steve Cee

    My time is better spent providing quality content and
    helping to solve my customers problems- G+, FB, Twitter,
    and the rest are simply for those people that have nothing
    better to do !

  • http://newscanada-network.com/ jadtechnic

    I don’t Believe its any secret that G+ has an effect on a site I cant say it has so much an effect on Ranking as it does Helping search for your site stand out they have always been clear on that ..

    BING is now on the same path as Google with help your search stand out according to your activity on face book fam pages, Groups and events ..

    Some one asked Does Google really want you spending time producing Content or using Google and G+ I think they have always been clear with this in Stressing Good content write for Reader NOT for search ..

    today anything that stand out on social media goes trending or viral Stands out Mote on search ,the one thing they stress a lot that they don’t really Live to in my mind is Sharing Content they push everyone to share more and more there site links article and story’s all over Social media the more you share on twitter Facebook and G+ MSN the better your site wil do and they all Encourage this over and over

  • http://www.steveblanchard.com Steve


  • http://www.cjhmultisourcing.eu Clive

    I try to stay away from Google if I can they are not my search engine of choice. I have never used G+ I stick with more professional media.

  • http://www.paymentway.com.ua Sava

    Maybe G+ good instrument for strengthening of positions Google however not sure that it likes to plenty of webmasters.

  • http://seopros.us Shawn H

    I have actually started getting business leads by recommending content through Google+. It’s establishes you as an authority as long as you use it properly. Don’t just Google+ everything you see that has a button next to it but actually + content that reflects what’s important to you.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/full-service-seo Nick Stamoulis

    I have a hard time believing that Google+ (be it +1 or authorship) has no influence on the SERPs in some way, shape, or form. Google is sitting on a mountain of data and something has to come of that. Perhaps it’s not a huge impact but I would imagine there is some lingering influence.

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  • http://BillysHVAC.com Billy McCormack

    I would not use google for SHIT ! they suck ! Google needs to remove my website from all your ads ! I do not want or need anything you have to offer, EVER !

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  • http://bamahuskies.com Jim

    Matt Cutts tells you what he wants you to believe and not what the actual truth is sometimes. It’s a no brainer that google plus would be valued more than facebook. It’s a google product!

  • Vicky

    I don’t know if I might use it if it helps ranking. I have an issue with privacy.

    Regarding Google+ not being a ghost town, it is a ghost town! Nobody uses Google+ but spammers, hackers, blackhat marketers and the like. I can almost guarantee you that they have less than 80 thousand legitimate users around the world who come, post and don’t come back until a week later. I laughed when Google reported that they had half a billion users. I have no doubt of it. Sign up for Youtube, Gmail account or other service and you automatically get awarded with a new Google+ account. I have around 20 Google+ accounts I have never used. Hundreds of thousands of G+ accounts are created everyday just from blackhat jobs at digitalpoint, Iranjava, gurusecret, warrior forums, Fiverr and many other marketing sites and forums. Doesn’t mean people use them. Google + is DEAD.

  • Vicky

    Well I don’t know if I might use it if it helps ranking. I have an issue with privacy.

    Regarding Google+ not being a ghost town, it is a ghost town! Nobody uses Google+ but spammers, hackers, blackhat marketers and the like. I can almost guarantee you that they have less than 80 thousand legitimate users around the world who come, post and don’t come back until a week later. I laughed when Google reported that they had half a billion users. I have no doubt of it. Sign up for Youtube, Gmail account or other service and you automatically get awarded with a new Google+ account. I have around 20 Google+ accounts I have never used. Hundreds of thousands of G+ accounts are created everyday just from blackhat jobs at digitalpoint, Iranjava, gurusecret, warrior forums, Fiverr and many other marketing sites and forums. Doesn’t mean people use them.

  • Goo

    Never forget this, Google is good for nothing. They are a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. If they don’t buy the product already made, it has 99% chance of not going anywhere. They got lucky with Google because there wasn’t any good search engine back in 1998 and they also had other mentality. Google+ will fail like all of Google’s products. You can’t expect people to like Google + by forcing accounts onto them every time you open a Youtube or Gmail account. It’s annoying.

  • http://www.kasperskycoupon.net Stephen Brian

    This is really interesting. The debate still goes on whether +1 has any correlation with PageRank. Still the findings has not come to a final conclusion but since it doesn’t bring any negative value in SEO, I would rather like to see more +1 for increasing rank in SERP.

  • http://www.llewellyneurope.com/ adr course uk

    I would definitely love using google+.That’s it.

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    Hello!!! Great! I have to try this too!!1

  • http://www.llewellyneurope.com carlslater

    Hello!!! Great! I have to try this too!!!

  • http://www.seodotjuna.com juna id

    Hi Great article i would love to say that Great bloggers and entrepreneurs are using Gplus and Google Author ship to improve page rank of their blog it’s really Great work i have not done yet but i am gonna do it thanks for helping and motivating me.