Why Google should use plus for rankings – and almost certainly will

Recently there was a bit of a stir caused by Moz.com discovering that there’s a correlation between sharing on Google + and the ranking of pages. Their data shows that pages with more shares tend to get higher rankings.

They made the case that Google + is actually something of an seo machine – that each post is like a mini seo’d article. This seemed very odd to us. Google own all that data – they don’t actually need to crawl it all with their spider to index it. It’s already in a database sitting in one of their data centers. Now – maybe they do just crawl it because everything isn’t always as joined up as we might imagine but that seems unlikely. As the article points out, shares on + are indexed way faster than most pages indicating some kind of special sauce.

But, here’s the really interesting part: The article explicitly stated that giving a +1 to a page wasn’t directly influencing it’s ranking. In a response to the article on Hacker News (later appended to the article), Google’s own Matt Cutts even took the time to explicitly rule this out:

It is not the +1’s themselves that are causing the high rankings of posts but the fact that most +1’s on a site result in a shared post on Google+, which creates a followed link back to the post. It’s instant organic link building.

This got us thinking… why on earth wouldn’t Google use +1’s to directly influence page rankings? The obvious answer is that it would be open to manipulation by spammers. That’s true, but by all accounts Google’s previous most powerful weapon (PageRank) has been demoted in relevance by them because it’s being spammed way too much. Generating spammy links is just too easy these days.

The advantage of +1’s is that they’re tied to your Google account which gives the search giant a lot of really useful details to try and hone in on and ignore the spammers. For example they could:

– Not count any +1’s generated in the x days after an account was created

– Discount any by accounts which have +1’d a number of sites deemed to be spammy

– Weight against +1’s from non-verified accounts.

That’s just a quick though experiment. Given time one could generate hundreds spam-y metrics using the data Google holds about all of us. Hell – I might seriously demote the +1’s of anyone who’d Googled phrases like “black hat seo” in the past – ooh – creepy!

But slightly sinister jokes aside – it’s clear that this data could help Google create a better search. Even if they aren’t using +1’s now it’s a good bet they will in the future. So, if there weren’t enough benefits already installing those +1 buttons is probably a good idea to do it now – you might just see a direct rankings boost from it in the future.



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