When Google launched the Google Plus One button, many webmasters and SEO professionals were curious as to how this tool would affect their web page rankings. Most bets were placed on it being important; after all, the social signals coming out of popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook carry so much weight these days. But no, Google Plus One clicks carry very little weight and, according to a recent interview with Matt Cutts (head of webspam at Google), have very little effect on your rankings:
In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is. Right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher.
The failure of the +1 clicks to provide accurate social signals stems from Google’s dismal social network. Over a billion people now use Facebook and its ‘like’ button to give search engines a wealth of social data. In contrast, hardly anyone uses the Google Plus social network and its associated +1 button. Search engine users may be confused by + 1′s, which differ from the Facebook ‘like’ button which directly shares content to a user’s social stream. They may also be put off by the spammy nature of the buttons, which appear next to search results in Google and on websites fooled into teaming up with Google Plus.
The +1 feature was designed by Google to help people discover and share relevant content from the people they already know and trust. However, because so few people are using the feature to give their vote to search results, websites and advertisements, Google has no choice but to largely ignore its own creation.
Although Google +1 clicks have no direct impact on your ranking in search engines, they may offer a very slight indirect benefit by helping to increase click-through-rate (CTR). The logic is that people will be more likely to click on a search result that display a higher number of +1′s, or click links that are recommended by your friends (the catch being that you have to be signed into Google Plus and your friends have to be using the service for this to work).
This is not the first time Cutts has downplayed the significance of the +1 button with regards to ranking. At the SMX Advanced conference in June, he said:
When we look at +1, we’ve found it’s not necessarily the best quality signal right now.
Matt Cutts comments on authorship show that this could be a more important signal in rankings factors in the future. If your website contains content that can be attributed to a particular author, author verification could help your site:
There are things like, we have an authorship proposal, where you can use nice standards to markup your webpage, and you’ll actually see a picture of the author right there, and it turns out that if you see a picture of the author, sometimes you’ll have higher click through, and people will say, ‘oh, that looks like a trusted resource.’
So there are ways that you can participate and sort of get ready for the longer term trend of getting to know not just that something was said, but who said it and how reputable they were.
If you look further out in the future and look at something that we call ‘social signals’ or ‘authorship’ or whatever you want to call it, in ten years, I think knowing that a really reputable guy – if Dan has written an article, whether it’s a comment on a forum or on a blog – I would still want to see that. So that’s the long-term trend.
However, the effect of a verified authorship on the rankings of your website seems to be quite low at current and could simply be an attempt to get more Google+ users.