A Cloud of Uncertainty Over Google Plus and SEO

by Alex Joan Velez | @Alex_J_Velez

Companies interacting on Google Plus are uncertain if the social platform can affect search engine optimization (SEO) in a way that optimizes advertising their products and/or services. Why would any company take the risk of investing time and effort on Google Plus, a social network that is relatively new compared to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?

Despite Google Plus short existence, a number of social media practitioners strongly advise that contributing to the site and having users +1 (like) content can increase PageRank (more on this later); others acknowledge that it is still too early to make definitive statements about the effects or influence of Google Plus.

One school of thought is that Google has incorporated PageRank, “an algorithm used by the Google web search engine to rank websites in their search engine results” to Google Plus. PageRank gives links that are +1'ed a weighted vote, per se, that will increase its chances of appearing at the beginning of a search.

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Google +1s can make the difference between naturally appearing at the top of a search query rather than being page 20; by the way, who clicks through all those search pages? There are, of course, short cuts, such as paid advertising, but some would point out that free advertising is unquestionably profitable thanks to Google Plus users who push traffic on the internet by clicking the +1 button.

Companies may be asking: “How much does the online community care about what is said on Google Plus?” PLENTY. Social media platforms have become the ears and eyes of the world. The more recommendation a company’s content receives the better informed the online communities will be about a company’s products and/or services. Consider a+1 as word of mouth on steroids! People trust the recommendations of friends and companies in their social media circles.

Additionally, studies have highlighted how the use of Google Plus can boost company presence through SEO. For example, the 2013 Ranking Correlation, conducted by Searchmetrics, highlighted the relationship between Google’s +1 (similar to Facebook “like” button) to search result rankings.

The more a page is +1'd, the higher its relevancy on Google searches results. In fact, the Google search ranking indicates that a +1 recommendation has a higher association in search ranking than a Facebook share or tweet. Hence, businesses that reserve Google Plus for other companies place their company in a disadvantage. For example, when consumers are searching for TVs, diamond rings, cars, or anything companies sale, SEO practitioners predict companies not making use of Google Plus will not popup in the very first search pages.

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Google Plus should not be regarded as the crème de la crème of social media because it has a small proportion of social media users, 500 million, compared to, let us say over 1 billion Facebook users. Google Plus admirers point out that it is not about the number of users, but about SEO, and how organizations can build their marketing strategies. However, whether Google + is the gateway to your business or not, is unclear at the moment.

Matt Cutts who works with the Search Quality team on search engine optimization issues at Google stated that social signals such as +1 have no short-term impact on search performance. In addition, Mark Traphagen, expert on Google+ and Google Authorship, advises that correlation does not necessary equal causation.  In other words, there is no proof that the more +1s a page receives the higher it will appear in Google’s page rankings.

When it comes to Google Plus and its impact on SEO, there are a lot of optimistic minds. Many want to accept that Google+ is important for SEO, but cannot simply grasp how. There is a lot of content online about the benefits of Google Plus on PageRank, but is it spoof created by SEO practitioners who make a living suggesting to companies that this is the virtual Gold Rush of the 21st century?

Regardless of difference in opinion, the internet is still in the maturity stage, which only makes it right to say, a stand on social signals and its impact is still uncertain. In either case, it would not hurt companies to try and invest time and effort into Google Plus. Proceed with caution  and at one’s convenience.

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