There have been a number of recent articles on influential SEO websites alluding to the relationship between gaining ‘likes’ from Google social media platform Google+, called ‘+1s’, and the sites’ corresponding organic page rankings in relevant search results. These articles have raised the question of whether this relationship is one of correlation or causation, with Google’s thought leader Matt Cutts confirming it to be the former while much evidence points to the latter.
The most striking results of recent page rank correlation studies came from a recent Search Metrics study, with social media links constituting eight out of the top ten factors. More surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly depending on your personal views of Google, was Google +1s topping this list. The finding that social signals influence rankings is not a new one, having been picked up in previous studies in the USA and Germany – however Google+ topping such lists is a new phenomenon. The similar recent study by highly influential blog, Moz, has yielded similar results, showing the number of Google +1s to be the second most powerful factor correlating to search rankings after Page Authority.
Further analysis of these findings using our own seo software tools suggests that the major factors driving this correlative relationship include the strong link equity associated with social media sites and the high quality content both within the posts and within the comments below the post. This does not necessarily explain why Google+ comes out on top of Facebook, with the latter having much larger audience and hence higher link equity than the former. This is likely due to the fact that the Google+ platform has many features that optimise it for superior SEO results.
For instance, Google+ posts are crawled and indexed almost as soon as they are posted which is a testament to Google’s use of Google+ for discovering new content. Furthermore the link equity of links posted in the comments section below any particular post is passed onto the site mentioned in that post which does not always occur with other social media platforms, likely due to more restrictive privacy settings, among other factors.
Hence the Google+ social media platform does offer many benefits for improving site rank. However such optimisation should not be prioritised over SEO fundamentals, such as seeking backlinks from a variety of sources with high page authority, as Google and other search engines ultimately reward sites with highly relevant, original and regularly updated content that people find useful and of interest.