While Google+ may have launched to a lukewarm welcome in 2011, three years later, the social network is well into its second act. That’s because Google+ has grown far beyond a simple social network and into a powerful engine for promoting content and potentially boosting your website’s search rank. Consider this: in 2013, Moz ran a scientific correlation study to determine what factors Google uses to determine their search rankings. Moz’s study found that the greater the number of Google +1s, the higher a page’s ranking. Additionally, individuals who are logged into their Google accounts when performing a Google search also see more personalized results based in part on their Google+ activity.
Does your business’s SEO strategy take Google+ into account when optimizing your website for a higher search ranking? Here’s what you need to know about Google+ and how to leverage it for more effective SEO.
More Google +1s Correspond with Higher Site Rank…
According to Moz’s 2013 scientific correlation study analyzing different qualities that have a strong association with web pages ranking highly in Google search results, Google+ makes a huge difference. In fact, Moz found that after Page Authority, a URL's number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor. So, Moz’s team asked the million-dollar question: “Can Google+ activity help your pages rank higher?” The answer: maybe.
First, let’s be clear that Google does not use the raw number of +1s directly in its search algorithm, but Google +1 posts do have SEO benefits, unlike posts on other search platforms like Twitter. (Note: Twitter chose to cut off Google’s access to its data in 2011.)
Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that Moz has found a correlation between social platforms and search rankings in the past. Back in 2011, Moz’s correlation study found that there was a high correlation between Facebook activity and higher rankings. However, this correlation may have simply been due to the fact that overlapping factors, like high-quality content and high links, naturally occurred for content with high Facebook activity. However, in the case of Google+, Moz’s SEO team felt strongly that Google+ activity really can help improve page rank.
For starters, Google+ is a platform that was built from the ground up to be SEO-friendly. Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which hide data from Google or direct it not to follow, the search giant can easily discover new content and trending topics with Google+ posts. Posts on Google+ not only accumulate PageRank, but since these posts are followed, they can pass link equity on to other sites. In order to effectively pass on PageRank, keep in mind that when you share a page, the title of this shared page becomes the anchor text, so you’ll want to choose page titles carefully. Additionally, Google+ posts are naturally optimized for semantic search. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, each post has its own URL and its own title tag.
Even better, if the post is re-shared within the Google+ ecosystem, the post will continue to accumulate internal link juice, sending an even stronger signal to Google that the content is fresh, relevant and meaningful – exactly the type of content that Google seeks to rank highly in its search results.
…But Correlation Does Not Equal Causation.
On the flipside, it’s important to keep in mind that some studies have suggested that the impact of Google+ on SEO is far more limited that Moz’s exclamatory “Amazing Correlation Between Google +1s and Higher Search Rankings” found. A 2013 SEO study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting found that there was, in fact, no connection between Google+, website rank and more effective SEO. Eric Enge, the president of Stone Temple Consulting, stated definitively “Google Plus Shares did not drive any material rankings changes that we could detect.” And Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts has long claimed that Google +1s don’t lead to higher ranking. Cutts, like Enge, pointed out that correlation does not equal causation and reminded users that, rather than “chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.”
While the jury may still be out on whether Google+ truly improves PageRank, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between the two. Consequently, Google+ is essential to include in any effective SEO strategy. The good news is that doing so doesn’t need to be complicated. Start building relationships on Google+ with customers, clients and industry professionals. Follow people, comment on their posts, and share great content. Sharing great content will naturally attract links, which is clearly correlated with an increase in site rank.