Google’s +1 button has been around for about a year, and it is already changing search behaviors and ranking results. Now, with the recent launch of Search plus Your World, social networking is promising to have an even greater effect on SEO. Google+ is still young, so we’re likely to see even more transformations, but here’s what we know so far:
+1’s Indirectly Influence Search Results
When someone +1’s online content, members of their social circles aren’t directly notified (as they are with Facebook). Instead, the +1’s are meant to help guide Google searchers in choosing relevant content.
For example, let’s say you read a DIY article for how to paint cabinets. You conclude the information is very worthwhile and decide to +1 the article. Now, anytime someone from your circles searches “how to paint cabinets” the article you +1’d will show up in your friend’s search results. Google uses this method because they feel, “content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers.”
Additionally, +1’s are also visible to non Google users — only not in quite the same way. If someone without a Google account (or not signed in) performs a search they will see results as usual, but will also see how many people +1’d each listing. Although they won’t see the names of the people who +1’d the content, it stands to reason that searchers will click on popular listings as they appear to have more value.
So, Google isn’t exactly giving more credence to +1’d content, but they are influencing searchers by showing them what is liked by others.
But, do more +1’s equal higher rankings?
Google has not come out and said that more +1’s, likes, or other forms of sharing directly boost a page’s rank on SERPs. However, several SEO experts have tested how shares via social media sway rankings and have found a direct correlation. Most of this is simply from link sharing — more sharing equals more inbound links, which results in higher CTR and ultimately better rankings.
Of course this is nothing new, but you also have to consider the kind of “favoritism” Google is showing to its social followers. Google is by far the most popular search engine on the net, and they are not showing “like” or “retweet” numbers to their millions of search engine users — they’re showing +1’s. Assuming people will click on results from their “World” or based on +1 popularity, Google+ users have a clear advantage in terms of SEO.
Essentially, +1 content is getting more screen time, which gives it more opportunities to be shared and build its reputation; and we know these things lead to higher rankings.
What Should You Do in Terms of SEO?
To put it bluntly: if you have a business, you need a Google+ account and should put a +1 button on all your content. Considering the online pull Google has, it’s definitely a company you want working in your corner. There’s simply no denying that +1’s (even if it is indirectly) have a significant effect on a site’s visibility. Plus, there’s no telling how Google may integrate their social network with search results in the future. It’s better to hedge your bets now, and get on Google’s “good side” so you are prepared for what’s to come.