Let’s be honest: Google runs most of the internet, but a lot of users and businesses still don’t see the point of Google Plus. Is it a social network or a social layer? What the heck is a social layer anyway?? Even Google, has restarted and redesigned the social network in hopes of better understanding its audience. Each time, the same questions pop up: how does Google Plus affect SEO? Does it affect it at all?
Rand Fishkin from Moz ran a test in 2014 to determine whether +1s on Google influence rankings. To ensure that the test is fair and accurate, Fishkin used a neutral, low-ranking post, and only had people share and +1 a post on Google Plus.
The results? Fishkin found that the page went from #16 to #13, but quickly fell down to #24. This is likely due to Google noticing unusual activity on an otherwise unknown post, and decided to lower the page’s rank. Other testers noticed a more substantial leap, from #16 to #6.
What explains the difference in results? Personalized SERPs and G+ networks.
Your Google results page is a lot like your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn feed (or any other social media feed): the content you see is based on the people you follow. In the case of Google Plus, the people in your Google Plus circles make a huge difference in the posts you see.
Search Engine Watch contributor Eric Enge noticed that a link to a link building strategy post showed up as #2 on page 1 of Google’s results, but ranked as #12 when using an incognito window.
Enge believes that users that follow other who +1 the page are more likely to see it in their search results. This underscores the necessity to build out a wide but engaged Google Plus audience to help promote your content.
Another claim is that Google doesn’t just increase your ranking through Google Plus, it also indexes Google Plus posts faster. Torsten from Marketing With Torsten found that his Google Plus page was indexed in just 5 seconds.
Torsten even checked the results with another browser tab, although it was unclear whether that browser search engine was also personalized based on Torsten’s history and connections.
The Verdict: Google Plus Influences SEO, But With A Few Conditions
There have been dozens of tests conducted to see whether Google Plus influences rankings, with contradicting results. But when you look at all these tests in relation to each other, you start to see that even as search results vary per user, posting on Google Plus and getting others to engage with content has a measurable, observable effect on search engine results.
Google Plus is owned by Google, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that they tend to favor their own social website over other networks.
What does all of this mean for your business? It emphasizes the importance of having an active presence on Google Plus, building out your network, and promoting on Plus whenever you can. While it won’t guarantee a spike in traffic, it will ensure your posts are seen by more people.