To what degree does Google+ help with search engine rankings? MOZ released a recent study reporting that Google+ “pluses” or activity on an organization’s Google+ account were one of the top single “influencers” of better search engine placement. “Pluses” in the Google+ environment function as endorsements similar to likes on other social networks.
Of course the more ‘pluses’ one receives, the more popular the content. Google relies on these pluses to measure how others view the value of the content or information.
After working Google+ hard for over a year now, we have come to observe a couple statistics relative to Google+ engagement. Like the MOZ study, Google+ does positively influence search engine placement. Observing a few sites where the only real outreach was through Google+ determined that improved search engine rankings were likely due to the additional ‘pluses’ for G+ content. After looking at a couple other situations though, we can report some other interesting outcomes
Original Content vs. Reposting
Using Google+ to promote new website content appears to be hugely important in not only generating attention and attracting new readers, but in improving placement for key search terms. Sites that continually promote their original content tend to perform better in the search than sites that receive ‘plusses’ for recycling or reposting others’ content.
Creating and distributing unique blog content – even short pieces that others find valuable and contribute their ‘pluses’ to endorse the content. Interestingly, the most positive ranking improvements involved a website with an attached Google+ page that had a steady mix of re-posted as well as original content. On average, it appears that linking to four to five original pieces of content per week – along with several re-posted articles, seemed to produce the best improvement in search engine rankings.
How many pluses does it take to improve rankings? There appear to be several answers to this question. Were the pluses largely earned for original content? Or were they exclusively received for content re-posted from elsewhere. These are questions unique to the algorithm, but it makes logical sense that pluses received for original content are more highly valued. In the end, there appear to be several milestones for which Google will reward the core website with better search placement.
These milestones seem to be at the 1,000 and 3,000 plus levels. Websites with attached Google+ sites that achieve the 1,000 plus level can usually notice improvements in their rankings. However, particularly at the 3,000 level for sites with higher levels of original content, site placement can improve quite dramatically. One site we’ve worked with achieved the #1 ranking for several highly competitive local search terms after hitting the 3k level. Prior to hitting the 3,000 plus level, the site ranked #1 for between six and 10 key phrases depending on the day. Reaching that 3,000 plus plateau yielded a great number of additional #1 placements.
What it Takes to Win at Google+
Excelling at Google+ management so that you can improve your search engine rankings is a long term effort. Interacting with others to build the network takes time and a commitment to be engaged. Investment in continually producing and promoting good and valuable content is another ‘must’ to be successful.
While there are circle strategies that can help grow one’s community, the core success factor remains good quality content. Creating valuable content and promoting on Google+ as part of a long term strategy can produce solid results.
Last week, we found an interesting bit of research that determined it possible to project a couple’s chances at building a successful romance by looking at the Facebook friend profiles of the two involved in the relationship. The studyby Lars Backstrom of Facebook and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University concluded that the more diverse the two sets of friend groups was from one another, the better the chance of the relationship lasting beyond a two-month period.
This conclusion runs against the commonly held misunderstanding that the more friends two people have in common, the better their chances at romantic “success.” A two-month time frame might not qualify as a successful long term relationship, but it is very significant that the relationship among friend groups may be a signal about the couple’s chances of going into the next change of seasons with the same romantic interest.
The roots of this study are also significant. The practitioners used billions of records and huge sets of data to reach their conclusions. It is in looking at how these conclusions were arrived at that provides some insight into search engine algorithms – particularly in the latest “Hummingbird” update.
The recent Google algorithm update, commonly referred to as “Hummingbird” arrived with little fanfare outside of SEO circles late last summer. Although the immediate impact of the change was minor – impacting a fairly low percentage of existing queries, the future impact could be much more significant.
Good Quality Results
The one thing all search engines compete for is of course, users. The only real competitive point then is which search engine has the best quality results for each query. Google dominates search owing to its ability to understand and deliver the most relevant results for each user search. The more relevant the results, the more likely the user is to utilize that search engine for subsequent search activity.
How do Search Engines Tell if they Got it Right?
This is where it gets interesting. The search engines understand which links and results they present to each search request. They can also monitor user behavior once the reader leaves the search engine results page and opens a page referred by the search engine. If the reader opens a referred page and then hits the return button to try a different result, the search engines capture this bit of behavior and make the judgment that their referral may not have been what the reader actually wanted. If on the other hand the reader stays on the page, consumes the content and perhaps clicks deeper into the site for more information, the search engines judge this to be a successful referral as validated by the reader.
Like the Facebook and relationship study, these analysis tools require understanding huge volumes of user history and data. However, the ability to analyze large data sets is much more possible than ever before, using powerful data sorting systems and technologies.
In order to continue providing the highest quality search results, Google launched Hummingbird to provide better and more relevant results to questions and queries that users are now submitting. Google has seen growth in the types of search requests that use longer, more conversational questions. Understanding what the user really wants is key to delivering great results. Distinguishing between what the user asks for and what the user wants is a tricky game, but Google has determined that it is one worth winning.
Longer, more conversational queries are not necessarily the only types of results that the search engine giant is trying to handle better. Readers using search terms like “animal rescue information” might also find results valuable that include “dog rescue” or “cat rescue information.” Returning the dog and cat oriented rescue websites might actually be more relevant than a result for a company specializing in getting squirrels out of chimneys. A user asking for animal rescue results may be looking for cat or dog rescue sites.
Using history and readership statistics to determine that a “cat” is actually an “animal” when used in the context of “animal rescue” seems to be a main thrust of the Hummingbird update. Understanding the actual meaning of the user query is key to delivering the best quality results.
In light of the revelations about Facebook and successful romantic relationships, it is possible to gather huge amounts of information and build models that can reasonably predict value or behavior and to understand much more about what search engine users really want.