Ever since Google+ was launched, the search industry has been studying it closely to figure out if there are any benefits of using it for search engine optimization. At a time when Facebook shares and Twitter favorites were claimed to be helping in search optimization, Google+ votes and shares were speculated to be of higher importance but there wasn’t any scientific study to prove it. Until now.
First off, let me clarify that there are several claims made by SEOs and research firms that tells that Google+ shares and votes have direct impact on search engine ranks. Moz has a study here, Searchmetrics has one here. My stand on these claims is that, while some of the claims make sense they cannot be entirely true and cannot be trusted unless you’ve seen the results yourselves.
Let’s consider some of the claims regarding Google+ and search engine optimization benefits.
Claim 1 : Long posts on Google+ rank better on Google
This is one of the claims made in several studies (ex: the one above), that if the post shared on Google+ is long enough, they have a better chance to rank on Google compared to smaller shares and posts. I have seen many Googlers post long posts, much like an actual blog post on Google+ but haven’t seen those posts rank well on search engines always. One off cases, yes. But all long posts appear on Google ? I doubt. There must be other relevancy factors that goes in to decide whether a post long or short should appear on Google. However, this is one of the consistent claims in most of Google+ related search engine optimization studies.
Claim 2: Google+ Links pass Google PR and Link juice
If you check the number of followed and unfollowed links on Google+, you’ll find that the actual link shared on Google+ does pass Google Juice and this is supported by the fact that some of the posts itself, which acts like blog posts (unlike Facebook or Twitter) accrue Page Rank.
This is possibly right claims, but I fail to understand why this is significant in SEO. Because unless you can really carve out or sculpt Page Rank, this is a random thing. If every post shared on Google+ gets the advantage of Google Page Rank then there is in effect no value passed at all. However, it might be technically right in assuming that some links if shared widely, can accrue some authority.
Claim 3: Google+ Posts are like blog posts, technically
Google+’s site architecture is unlike Facebook and Twitter and it is built in such a way that it automatically makes every post shared as a stand alone entity, much like a blog post with its own dedicated URL, page title and other factors. This indicates that if the content is shared enough, it could grow in relevance and might pop up on search results for relevant queries.
Claim 4: Google Authorship will help perform better
I’ve seen this happen many times, and I’m sure you’ve seen it too. Where very recent articles pop up on top of top authority websites, sometimes even Wikipedia and News articles on Google search results. This happens sometimes when you’re looking at public results and logged out of Google as well (I’m not talking about personalized search here).
It makes sense that if you are an authority, then having your authorship markup in place makes you more relevant. However, this isn’t a trend that I can extrapolate or replicate anywhere. I’ve seen that this kind of result appear mostly on very relevant search queries, not broad ones.
Claim 5: More Google+ votes = Better ranks
This is probably the most widely popular claim about Google+ and its SEO relationship. Sadly, this isn’t true and I can almost certainly say that Google+ votes (button clicks like faceook likes) will not directly affect search results. However, this is to say that, if the content gets shared (people sharing links on their Google+ profiles) then yes, there is some significance that gets built around that content piece but just beefing up your Google+ votes (or Facebook likes for that matter) haven’t been seen giving any direct effect on search engine results. If the content is really good, then more votes also mean more shares, and if this correlation is missing, then there is pretty much no significance I’ve seen.
So, essentially, what I understand is that Google+ do have some significance in search engine optimization but it isn’t always how the claims are. Google+ is a great platform that has some level of “smartness” attached to it unlike Facebook and Twitter, in the sense that if a content piece (post or link) is good enough, and gets shared widely then the system can probably easily identify it for its relevance and add some importance to if adding to its significance, but when you think about gaming it by getting votes or simply assuming a “more votes/shares = higher ranks” equation, then clearly that is the wrong inference to make.