This week alone I have received 3 emails and two Google Plus chats asking my opinion on Google Plus SEO. Are there any benefits? Does it help build links? Do social signals help with rankings? I did some research and a little digging and came across some nice results.
Google Plus SEO Benefits
I must point out before I start that I actually came across some fantastic data and opinions as I was finishing my own research, some of it overlapped with my findings somewhat so you might also want to check out this page that +Lyndon NA wrote about the same subject.
Throughout this research I found some interesting stuff. I actually assumed (wrongly) that all/most links pointing away from Google Plus would be NOFOLLOW links. Some are, but not all. If I was asked the question a couple of weeks ago whether using Google Plus in your marketing strategy was beneficial, I would have said yes. If I were asked tomorrow, I would say yes – but for completely different reasons. Lets look at some popular questions flying around.
Can a +1 help my rankings?
Actually, yes. They can. Not necessarily in the way you might think though. There were loads of rumours circulating, talking about social signals helping pages rank. Evidence of pages ranking on social signals alone is pretty hard to find but I have no doubt that Google might use social signals as one of many (potentially hundreds) of ranking metrics and Matt Cutts has confirmed a few times that loud social signals should coincide with more links pointing to the domain. I’d like to see more data in this area and if I get time, I might try a few tests.
If a domain gets hundreds of links overnight either by spamming or by genuine, organic and natural links pointing to a great piece of content, Google have to figure out whether the signals are genuine. One simple solution could be social signals. Seeing a large number of links pointing to a site over a short period of time should also mean that people will be talking about the same page socially. Granted, there will be exceptions to the rules but more often than not there will be a correlation.
I found something interesting while having a nosey around my own Google plus profile. As it turns out, when you +1 a page, Google adds whatever it is you +1 to your profile.
As you would expect, there is a backlink to the item/page you +1’d. As you might not expect, this link does not have the nofollow attribute. In theory, there should be no reason why this link would not pass juice/PageRank through to the destination of the link. Obviously as to whether your profile page actually has any PR is another question.
If you do build a good audience of followers and avid readers who are inclined to +1 your stuff, you could see an influx of links coming in to your website. It is reasonable to expect that the majority of these might not actually pass your page much PR unless you have some followers that are authoritative and get their profile linked to. Bear in mind that if they write on blogs and websites lots and have authorship set up, this should increase their profile’s PR due to their profile gaining links as they publish pages online.
Building links with Google Plus
Obviously using the method outlined in section above will help you build links to your pages and/or content. There are other ways, however. First we can look at building links from sharing comments (or what Facebook would call a status). The important thing to note here is that links within the comment will have the nofollow attribute and shouldn’t pass PR.
Do not worry though. Write your comment about the link and just below the text field to the right, there are 4 options; “add photo”, “add video”, “add event” and “add link”. If you click the add link button and paste your link in the URL box which appears, your link will be followed by robots. Luckily, for those who do not use the “add link” button, Google Plus automatically adds the same snippet in your post but you will still only get one link and not two (one from the comment and one from the snippet). The image below should help explain.
Authorship and the so-called “AuthorRank”
Authorship is something which Google have introduced to show the author’s profile in search results. In theory this can improve click through rates. As to whether this will help you rankings is another question altogether, one answered well by +Mark Traphagen on this page here. I really haven’t had chance to look into this nearly as much as I would have liked but luckily, there are some people who have.
AuthorRank is something quite different. The theory is that authors can build up some sort of rank based on quality of content, followers, quality of pages they write on and so on. As to whether AuthorRank is something which Google actually use as a ranking factor is yet another question that needs answering definitively at some point as there are varying opinions, but there are some decent points to be read here.
Can I build up a genuine following on Google Plus?
Of course, there is no reason why not. Google Plus certainly doesn’t have the reputation or power of social platforms like Facebook (yet) but some industry’s can benefit from gathering a following on there. Two areas which have stood out for me are the photography communities and technology communities. If you happen to be in an exciting market where people actually care about your product or service then there is every chance you could make it work. It wont be easy for those of you selling window locks or paper though!
In order to harness the power of Google Plus, you need to get involved with others users who are interested in your niche. Find communities and join in (don’t just link drop!), get to know the members, comment on their posts, share their posts, +1 their posts… Before long, some will circle (follow) you. The more of these genuine followers see your posts, the more likely they are to share, comment or +1.