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Yes Virginia, Google+ Can Directly Impact Your Search Rankings


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  1. Totally agree. I am one of those who has stated that +1s IN ISOLATION don’t appear to have an impact, and we made an attempt to measure that to prove the statement. But, and it’s a big but, G+ impacts rankings in many ways!

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Yeah – the part that drives me nuts is that people hear Google+ as an entity has no effect on search results vs. hearing “+1’s” alone. Hopefully this showed some folks why that’s not the case.

      Also, for anyone interested, the measurement attempt Eric referenced in his comment is here.

  2. Hi Rae,

    I also feel a lot of people confuse +1s with Google+ as a whole. Even though it’s nice to have lots of people to like what you’re posting, the fact that your presence is more visible to your target audience is far more essential. From working at Brand.com, an online reputation management company in Philadelphia, I’ve learned ranking on the first page of search results is crucial if you’re a business owner, especially since about 75 percent of consumers never go beyond the first page of search results. There’s an unspoken belief that if you’re not listed on the first page, you’re insignificant (even though we know that’s not true).

    Anyway, thanks for clarifying this up! I hope more people hear about this.

  3. One of the key things to realize is that Google+ Shared links are NOT NoFollowed, and Google deliberately sculpted G+ that way for a reason. I still believe that the links there are not treated the same way as a web link (and we all know that PageRank is a poor measure of, well, everything), but the way they architected that was intentional.

    So, it must do something beyond personalization. Also, you can see G+ posts themselves ranking on their own merits, even with personalization off (ala incognito mode).

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Yep, I’ve seen G+ posts ranking on occasion via proxies as well. But, the altering of the ranks as with the Raven Tools and Authority Labs example is something I only see when logged in – with web history off. I don’t use Gmail at all, etc. The only Google product I use on the regular (of those they say influences results) is G+.

  4. Vinny O'Hare says:

    Glad to see someone is reporting the right thing here. On G+ I have been interacting with “The Brand” with this exact thing in mind.

    People now searching while logged in will see my site more often than not because of my interaction on G+ while logged in. To me this isn’t something new it is something that makes perfect sense.

    Side note: Never believe what Matt Cutts says when he is wearing a dark shirt in his videos :)

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Hopefully I didn’t imply that this was new – it’s been going on for quite some time. My hope was to get people to realize that a “+1” is not the same as Google+ in it’s whole form. :)

  5. I agree and especially when you read this sentence from Google’s own Documentation;

    “Linking your Google+ page and your site …. also gives Google information we can use to determine the relevancy of your site to a user query in Google Web Search.”

  6. So, not to be the contrarian, but doesn’t this all just prove that “personalization” is working? There’s no evidence *yet* that +1s influence personalized results. So then isn’t this just personalization like it always has been?

    Not saying you aren’t on to something, it just seems like typical “personalization”, like it always has been.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Hey Joe – dude, I love good questions / thoughts / debate / being made to think. :)

      To be clear, I am not saying “+1’s” have a direct effect on search results. The whole post was about how it’s not about that – as Eric put it, an isolation of “more +1’s = higher rankings” – but that Google+ as a whole is incorporated into and thus changes search results for active users of the service – and therefore Google+ usage does have direct impact on SERPs… which is separate from giving a post a +1.

      My web history settings are turned to off – you should know I’m paranoid. Haha :) If they were going by cookies despite me having those settings off, then me being logged in or logged out should have returned the same results (but it didn’t).

      Additionally, when I logged in as Sean on my laptop, the results were identical to the proxy results… his web history was also off and his results were also set to “private results” by default. However, he rarely ever uses Google+.

      By default, Google includes Google+ input into your search results unless you turn them off https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2410479 … the real question then becomes “how much?” so to speak…

      I don’t think the average person will even realize what’s “going on”, much less figure out how to turn it off. But, that’s just opinion. :)

      • Oh ok, I didn’t realize you had web history settings are turned off…..this is interesting then.

        • Rae Hoffman says:

          Yep – was to me too when I first noticed it happening. And, as an aside, the more active I am on G+, the more I notice it. I often will see my own recipes from my personal blog show up in the top 10 results when searching for new ones while logged into G+. :)

    • Melissa Fach says:

      Joe, I am in Authority Labs everyday and they didn’t display for me, which makes me think personalization isn’t an issue.

      • Rae Hoffman says:

        Yeah Melissa – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find that one a little weird considering you write for them. But, the real question may be how much you engage with them in a way Google can use to make assumptions. :)

  7. I came to your site after a long long time. What you said above resonated with what you said in an interview years back that I saw on YouTube long time back. Google is thinking big and trying understand the intent of the user. What you said in that video is exactly how it turned out to be with the google plus example. Good one.

  8. Jeremy Rivera says:

    Ha! I didn’t know I’d have such a big influence on your search results. Makes me feel a little special.

    That being said, I appreciate you doing the legwork to put together these examples. It’s way too easy to get lost in the echo-chamber that just repeats Matt Cutts verbatim and doesn’t analyze it any further.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Jeremy – I think what Matt stated is true at the present time. I think people just hear getting a lot of +1’s doesn’t directly impact search results and assume Google+ usage as a whole is being discussed. My experience as a searcher says that’s not the case. :)

  9. Kate Gramlich Roumbos says:

    Really enjoyed the post, Rae. I also appreciated you taking a step away from this ‘tech savvy’ industry in your example — makes a great point for users outside of the SEO/etc. community. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Said another way, if you think of G+ as an ecosystem instead of yet another social platform, you’ll better understand potential impact on search visibility. Gave a talk earlier this year about local SEO and had a bit about some ways to take advantage of Google+. During Q&A an attendee wearing a smarmy grin on his face raised his hand and asked (with a snicker) if all my clients serve SEOs & tech people exclusively since those are the only people that use G+. I pointed out anyone using gmail is logged into google and hooked into the G+ ecosystem. Perhaps more importantly, android device users have their google accounts with them 24/7. Whenever they leave reviews while mobile on a business’ G+Local page, that’s part of the G+ ecosystem. There’s definitely a misunderstanding among marketers about plus.google.com and Google+: the former is just part of the latter. You could argue, though, that so long as the misconception persists, it leaves folk that “get it” at a competitive advantage ;-)

  11. William Gomes says:

    Right but does anyone actually own a site that has no links to it but magically is popular on 1+ and ranks well? Because everything I am seeing is just correlation…

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I don’t think I stated nor implied anywhere in the article that you could have a site with zero links and have it magically become popular on Google+ and then rank in the general public SERPs due to utilizing Google+. So, there’s really no way to rebut a claim I didn’t make nor do I believe occurs.

      I’m seeing a lot of correlation too – so is Google – which they’re using to alter my search results.

  12. Hey Rae, I think you’re onto something, and this is further evidenced by the recent changes in Google Analytics. Now they’re breaking out “social” as it’s own traffic channel, independent of “referral.” I’m still digging into it a little bit, but no question social in general and G+ specifically will begin to play a larger role, if they aren’t already.

  13. David Vidgen says:

    Hi Rae, excellent post. It is clear that Matt Cutts is very careful about what he say’s and often his comments are taken out of context. I think we can safely put this to bed by saying:

    “When your customers search on Google, the results to the right may include relevant posts, photos, and videos from your Google+ page. Get found across Google, right when your customers are most interested.”

    Furthermore: “Think of your Google+ page as your brand hub. Your page, along with your profile image and recent posts, is eligible to show on the right-hand side of our results when relevant to a customer’s search. Relevant posts can also show up within search results for your page’s followers.”

    These are quotes directly taken from http://www.google.com/+/business/

    There is no suggestion that having a Google+ page, and +1’s will improve the rankings of your own website. There is every suggestion that posts, pages and videos created in your by Google+ account could be served in the SERPs. So, Google+ provides ‘another’ source for exposing your brand to potential customers.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I definitely think Matt is careful on how he words things – with good reason. :) That’s why I try not to read too much into what he says. In this case, I believe too many others did, so I finally wrote the post. ;-) Thanks for the input David!

  14. Michael Martin says:

    No matter how many +1s I still dont see the Bucs listed as a legitimate NFL team ;)

  15. In my humble opinion I think that the more popularity that google plus service gets the more impact it will have on search engine results then it currently does. The other day I made a post about free marketing services giveaway and then search free marketing services to behold my google plus account post with the link to my web page. I like the thoughts of google plus weighing in on search ranking, making it harder to manipulate serps in my opinion, I may be extremely confused on this subject but I think I’m thinking in the right direction though.

  16. What’s the search impact of a Google+ follow versus a +1?

    If you had to choose one, which would you choose?

  17. I think that Google + does affect rankings as long as the plus ones are not manipulated and are genuine. Where you get that plus one also matters a lot.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I’m not so keen on believing +1’s in and of themselves affect rankings – but I do believe Google+ as a whole entity does. :)

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