BrightHaus Digital Marketing Agency

New Study Suggests that Google +1s Don’t Improve Rankings

September 19, 2013

OK, hold the phone. In my last blog, I casually mentioned towards the end that “new research suggests that Google +1s can be highly influential on search rankings.” Well, fast forward a week later and another study has come out suggesting that Google +1s have no direct ranking benefits.

I’ll probably date myself with this but it reminds me of a series of commercials in the 90s (or was it the 80s? I can’t remember…yikes) where the Egg Council talked about how eggs were lower in cholesterol than previously thought.

Here’s a picture of an egg. Your argument is invalid.

My point is studies can be confusing. What was once good is now actually bad and what was once bad is now actually good. The same applies for SEO. Practices that were once en vogue, such as keyword stuffing, are now passé.

But anyway, I digress…on to the study!

The study by Stone Temple Consulting is incredibly in-depth but fairly dry, so I’ll try to get to the meat of it. The conclusion they reached was that great content produces some correlations in that more +1s will mean higher rankings. However, this is because people like to share great content, not the either way around. In other words, the +1s aren’t responsible for the higher rankings but rather the quality of the content. In fact, Google can not even “see” who likes a specific piece of content.

I found this particular graphic they posted to be especially telling:

Endorsement Commitment Chart

Clicking a +1 button indeed requires a low level of involvement versus implementing a link, which is a much more involved activity. So it’s easy to see why backlinks from quality sites play such an important role in determining a site’s ranking on Google SERPs and +1s probably do not.

This study also seems to support what Matt Cutts has already stated, that Google does not use +1 signals when ranking websites. Cutts suggests that time is better spent creating “compelling content” rather than getting Google +1s.

Of course, this study is just that: a study. It’s not the gospel truth and if you read the comments section at the bottom of Stone Temple’s page, the debate rages on, with many commentators swearing that +1s do in fact influence rankings.

The bottom line is everybody is looking for a magic shortcut in SEO to skyrocket their site to the top of Google page 1. However, given the sophistication of Google’s algorithms, I have to concede that it is at best wishful thinking and at worst incredibly naive to assume that something as trivial as clicking a +1 will have a measurable or notable impact on website rankings in Google.

There’s no easy way to top of Google but maybe that’s all a matter of perspective. Creating quality content and an excellent user experience sure sounds a lot easier to me than outsourcing spammers to +1 content on your site.


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