How Does Google Plus Affect SEO

Posted by Apurva on July 16, 2011 in SEO,Social Networking

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Amidst the frenzy created by Google+ on June 28th, 2011, a peculiar event happened in late night July 3rd, 2011. Not everyone noticed it, but Search Engine Land did report it : Google Realtime Search goes missing. A couple of hours later Google spokesperson Gabriel Stricker shared this statement with them:

We’ve temporarily disabled google.com/realtime. We’re exploring how to incorporate our recently launched Google+ project into this functionality going forward, so stay tuned.

With this statement, a few things started falling in perspective and I started putting them together – this post is a result of that. Let’s start in chronological order.

On June 28th, 2011, Google had 2 major announcements. It unveiled Google Plus and the Google Blog informed about the latest design and user experience changes. (If you’re interested, have a look at Google Timeline for changes since inception). The Google Search homepage now had a smaller logo with links moved to the top and bottom edges of the browser for a cleaner look. A few other changes are evident in below image.

google result for Kennedy Space Center

  • Left-hand panel of tools has been redesigned – color of the tools is now muted and bolder colors are reserved to highlight key action buttons, tools and filters.
  • The URL has been relocated directly beneath the headline for each search result.
  • Links on the homepage have been moved to the top and bottom edges of your browser, making it notably cleaner.

Some other changes included taking the Google Wonder Wheel offline. Introduced in 2009, Google Wonder Wheel was quite popular with SEOs, SEMs, and advertisers as a way to visually identify relationships between a search term(s) and related searches using the Google database. There is no word from Google on when it would be back.

So, on July 3rd, when Google Realtime Search went missing, it’s cause was found next day when Google informed that it’s agreement with Twitter to carry its results has expired, taking with it much of the content that was in the service with it.

Google sent this explanation:

Since October of 2009, we have had an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in our search results through a special feed, and that agreement expired on July 2. While we will not have access to this special feed from Twitter, information on Twitter that’s publicly available to our crawlers will still be searchable and discoverable on Google.

Along with this, the company added :

Our vision is to have google.com/realtime include Google+ information along with other realtime data from a variety of sources.

This goes on to prove why Google+ has become even more important now. In short, Google expects Google+ to provide the insulation if the deal with Twitter doesn’t workout in the future as well. For the past two years Google used Twitter not only to power their realtime results, but also for faster indexation of content. Google says they plan on reinstating realtime with the power of Google+. But the network will have to grow significantly before this works.

Now, it has always been rumored that apart from faster indexation of content, Google also used Twitter in their ranking algorithm to calculate Author Authority. So, what happens due to expiration of Google and Twitter agreement? To find the results, SEOmoz carried an interesting experiment to find the effect of Google+ and Twitter on search rankings.

Luckily the had conducted an experiment before the agreement broke off. The findings of the experiment were quite interesting:

  1. Before the deal broke off, a non-indexed story, which was tweeted and retweeted several times occupied rank # 1 in a few hours for it’s keyword. WOW!
  2. After the deal broke off, a non-indexed story, which was tweeted and retweeted several times took several hours but eventually ranked #1 for it’s keyword. And guess what – Bing indexed the page earlier than Google!
  3. Third experiment was run to test Google+ and Twitter. Twitter was the winner as the tweeted page got indexed much quickly.

Overall outcome of the experiment :

Tweets still help with indexation, although maybe not as fast as they used to. And tweets appear to boost rankings, although the exact degree is unclear. If Google wishes to replace Twitter with Google+ in a meaningful way, they have a long road ahead of them. No evidence of improved rankings with Google+ beyond basic indexation was found, but it would be safe to assume that the phenomenon exists.

This experiment also added weight to the belief that the more retweets a link receives, the better it seems to perform in search results. Also rumored is “Who” tweets your content is equally important than the number of people retweeting your content.

How Does Google Plus Affect SEO

With Google Plus and the +1 button, the social activities are now taking place inside Google’s control, so it would be hard to believe that Google would not use this data to refine their search algorithm and provide better results. If you see just the +1 button, it’s now everywhere – posts, content publishers’ websites and search results provided by Google. It may be a bit early to confirm how does Google Plus affect SEO apart from indexing and the effect of +1 button and Google+ on Google’s search algorithm, but I’m 100% convinced that eventually Google+ will affect Google search results.

Let me know what do you think.

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