Back in August, I ran several experiments to try and find out whether Google’s +1s had an impact on search engine rankings. The results suggested that in almost all cases Google +1s did have a positive impact on rankings. However, a lot has changed in the past four months, so I’d like to share where I think Google is going with the impact of Google+ on search rankings.
It’s clear that Google is going all out with Google+ and it’s no secret that it’s becoming the central hub of all their services – Google Search is beginning to integrate with Google+, as is Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, and AdWords. It’s only a matter of time before we see Google Maps, and Google’s other services beginning to integrate into the social network.
What’s interesting is how Google is starting to connect the dots between people and businesses with their related content, topics and online activity. Who you have in your circles will give Google an idea of how influential you are about various topics, which, as a content creator will allow them to position your content more accurately in search results.
Google recently made a big jump in connecting the dots between people and content with the introduction of the rel=”publisher” and rel=”author” tags.
How rel=”publisher” and rel=”author” tags will impact rankings
Over the past few months, Google has introduced the rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tags to webmasters as a way to connect your website with your Google+ profile in search results. There have been several case studies already suggesting that the images shown next to search results with these tags increase click-through rates, but I think Google has plans for these tags to become far more profound than just impact CTR.
Below are some examples of what the new rel=”publisher” and rel=”author” tags look like in search results for my website TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk.
One of the most profound signals is that Google will be able to tell apart content written by people with a relevant community from those who don’t. If an author of a blog post on scuba diving has an online network with no one interested in scuba diving, Google might question whether that author is actually relevant to that topic. This means Google will be able to further drop the rankings of low quality content sites, and replace those rankings with websites written by people who genuinely participate in a community around the topic they write about. Using Google’s logic, that person is likely to be more knowledgeable.
This means that Google will also be able to recognize content written by influencers who are highly respected in a certain niche and reward them with higher rankings.
Google +1s will become one of the most accurate ways of ‘voting’ for a website
Likes and tweets are both great signals for determining a site’s popularity, and while there is a very good correlation between how much a site is shared on Twitter & Facebook and how it ranks in search results, both tweets and likes are incredibly easy to manipulate, as I’ve proved in previous experiments, making them a highly flawed method of voting.
Google +1s and what I’ll call ‘Google + signals,’ on the other hand, are incredibly hard to manipulate. This is because Google can tell whether you’re a real person or not by investigating your Google account history, such as the videos you’ve watched on YouTube videos, the e-mails you’ve sent in Gmail, and the searches you’ve made on Google. They can then determine whether you’re a genuine vote or not by looking at the context of your interests and relationships.
I think Google is onto a real winner with the data they’re collecting from integrating Google+ into search results and I think what we’re going to see in 2012 is an incredibly personalized search experience based around whose circles we’re in, who we add into our circles and what activity we participate in online. As the dots become increasingly connected, Google can only become more intelligent about how they position search results for us.
It’s hard to know exactly what’s around the corner for Google+ at the moment, as every week there seems to be some exciting new development. That said, I think it’s fair to say that Google+ is going to become more and more of a ranking factor as Google continue to integrate it with their existing offerings. My advice? Get on there now, start growing your network on circles and get your tags implemented.
If anyone else has any thoughts on what Google might be doing with Google+ from an SEO perspective, I’d be very interested to know, you can either drop me a tweet at @MarcusATaylor or leave a comment below.
Marcus Taylor is the head of social media at SEOptimise, a digital marketing agency based in Oxford, England. He is co-author of the book Get Noticed and regularly speaks at online marketing conferences. Marcus is also passionate about the music industry and runs TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk