Written by: Drew Lyon Austin, Texas
Yes—for certain—eventually. As far back as December 2010, both Google and BING introduced features that use social media signals, like information from Facebook and Twitter, to influence search results and to some extent, affect website rankings. Unsurprisingly, these updates sparked more and more companies to create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, collecting “likes,” and “followers,” in hopes of noticeable improvements in search engine rankings to come.
To a large extent, this strategy is smart. Creating a group of followers that help promote your website and services by posting your links and sharing your content certainly does have a positive effect on search engine rankings. For starters, every one of those “shares” is a link back to your website. However, simply creating social accounts and amassing followers does NOT directly boost rankings. It’s primarily through audience interaction, engagement and sharing that you’re able to show search engines you have something of value. You have something everyone wants, or at least likes.
How does Google collect social information?
So far, they’ve simply harvested information from other sources. But rather than sitting back and relying solely on third party sites (including indirect competitors like Twitter and Facebook) to offer up their valuable data, it’s only natural that Google would develop a social strategy of their own. This is all made more necessary by Facebook’s longstanding reluctance—ahem, refusal—to willingly share any non-public information with Google and just last week, the search giant allowed their partnership deal with Twitter to expire, effectively killing off their “Real-time” search feature. Hmm, do you think this might have something to do with a looming social product of their own? Well sure enough, Google did respond.
The first stone cast came in the form of a shiny +1 button, not at all dissimilar to the “like” and “tweet” buttons adorning websites across the web. Google’s +1 button is not only available to site owners but it also accompanies every search result you see on Google from this day forth. Clicking +1 on a search result (or even Adwords ad) tells Google, “Hey, you did good with that one. This result is more relevant, at least for me, than the others.”
Here’s how it looks:
How will +1’s affect rankings?
Once a URL amasses enough +1’s, Google may give that URL preference in search results. Makes sense right? And although Google denies that they are doing this—yet—it seems inevitable that they incorporate this powerful human moderation factor into a computer driven ranking algorithm that’s come under recent scrutiny for quality and relevance of search results. It seems all they are waiting for is ample time to collect a diverse sample of personal “plusing” habits so they can make sure to prevent mischievous users from ‘gaming’ the system.
To get a head start, we’d recommend incorporating the +1 button on your homepage now. Besides, what’s one more social button?
But in order for this to take off, Google must ensure that “+1ing” becomes as compulsive as “liking.” And that’s where phase two of their social strategy comes in, the aptly named: Google+…