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Google +1's and Higher Search Rankings: New Study

Here's the thing that many will miss if they don't read +Cyrus Shepard's post carefully. It is not the +1's themselves that are causing the high rankings of posts but the fact that most +1's on a site result in a shared post on Google+, which creates a followed link back to the post. It's instant organic link building.

Cyrus has just brought to Moz what I wrote about in my most-read post ever: Google+ pages, profiles, and communities have PageRank. Thus not only getting lots of +1 shares helps you, but getting some from high-authority Google+ users helps even more. This is why people who have built strategic networks with Google+ influencers have a huge legup in their SEO.

Because people will misread a post like this, you are going to see a whole new wave of people gaming and selling +1's. But they are wasting their time and money. The real takeaway here is to do all the to-do's in Cyrus's post (which I have always told you to do) AND work hard to build a strong network here on Google+. It's that network of people who love your great content and will share it out here that builds the SEO power of your site's posts.

Recommended: If you want to take the real deep dive on this topic, I highly recommend reading the extensive series by +Joshua Berg on Google+ SMO (Social Media Optimization). The link below is to Part 6; scroll down to the bottom and follow the links there to read the other five parts:
George Karboulonis's profile photoNeal Schaffer's profile photoMichael Bennett's profile photoDeb Robichaud's profile photo
I can attest to what +Mark Traphagen is saying. Because of the amazing relationships I've built here with genuine authorities, my rankings have gone up for posts that ultimately tie into the services I provide. This should also put the "+1 recommendation" feature into better perspective for everyone. Great find Mark
It is indeed a great post. What I found very useful is the comment +Cyrus Shepard made about images and the fact that posts with external images do not pass link equity. I always thought that the more shares a post can get the better and so I used images to make the posts more attractive. While this works great is seems that in terms of link value is not the best approach.
+Mark Traphagen Brilliant clarification in the intro as the knee-jerk reaction to the post heading and its correlations is "Whaaaa?" but yes, it is right that the most actively reshared posts lead to a higher number of +1s naturally. It is interesting to see how much Google uses G+ to create sentiment mining moments where "people" instead of "websites" drive search rank. This is an excellent post and share.  
+Mark Traphagen you said its "the network of people who love your work and will share it... Is that one of the big takeaway's from this post?
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I may not have a deep understanding of SEO but I have a pretty good handle on how to interact with others and that seems to be paramount to how we are indexed and ranked on Google+. 
+Alex Chris for another take on the image vs. link thing, check out my comment on the blockbuster post by +Dustin W. Stout this past weekend:

In my comment on that post I describe why I am now reversing my position (which was "always better to share the followed link to my own blog posts") to "always create at least the first shared post from your own blog as a featured image." Read my comment to find out why I am doing that, and why I believe in the long run my posts will end up with more followed links by my sacrificing the first one.
I just saw this +Mark Traphagen and I was thinking, how ironic. I've been carefully watching when MOZ would "break" the story about PageRank in Google+, because I actually tagged & referenced +Cyrus Shepard's post in my original PageRank in G+, Part 1

I was referring to an earlier article when he observed they took the PR away from G+ in March, 2012.

Then my story broke the news and how to see it about March 11, 2013. Yet all these months, nothing.

Then today they come out with the big story & referenced your article Mark from months ago, which oddly enough references my article from 6 months ago, which is the article that references Cyrus article a year before that. LOL.

I'm glad they got with it, we've had hundreds of articles & thousands of shares circulating about this. I just kind of think that, people who write the news, should read the news. But that's just me...rambling. IMHO. ;-)
+Mark Traphagen I love how everything with Google+ comes back to relationships... I especially love how our "Experts" like yourself and +martin shervington and +Jesse Wojdylo and +Dustin W. Stout and +Mike Allton all push relationships... No tricks or dirty tactics like many experts pushing Facebook strategy. It's all about building street cred the way it's supposed to be done... just like it's done in the real world.

+Joshua Berg 

+Cyrus Shepard has become a sort of friend of mine over the past year (though we have yet to meet in person) and I know he has been carefully following our work on this topic. I think the trigger for this article was the Moz correlation study.

This makes me really,really eager for the next toolbar PR update. I am poised to pitch a major article to +Moz with a study showing high correlation between the authority value of the external back link profiles of Google+ profiles and  their PageRank. My initial sampling on this showed strong positive correlation, but I need lots more data to confirm, and the current PR is too far out of date.
+Cyrus Shepard is a fabulous SEO writer, so don't get me wrong. You'll see I often include his in-depth articles in my SEO news roundups, etc. Was just a little surprised they took so long to catch onto this one, but now that you mention they were aware of it, I can relax. :D

Yes, they did use that funny correlation study, which shows the +1's but not the all important shares & then shows FB shares that are all nofollow. :D  But I see they did get it right further down in the article & that's great.

+Mark Traphagen I look forward to that new study you're doing, it sounds super.
+Lee Smallwood if the NSA doesn't get to your first...

YOU are exactly who I am coming to ten seconds after PageRank gets updated ;-)
+Mark Traphagen Thanks for pointing out +Dustin W. Stout post, his findings are fantastic. What you are saying in the comments about the use of images makes perfect sense and certainly it worth's sacrificing the first link of the post for more exposure and 'domain' diversity.

What I would like to take though from his post is also the comment that the post with the image needs to have only 1 link and no mentions or other links for the link connectivity to work.

Thanks again for the share, both posts are great and very useful for the use of google+
+Joshua Berg I'm kind of sad that Cyrus didn't link your series as well, but as you say, at least it's linked in my Google+ SEO article, so you're getting an indirect boost anyway.

And would you please link to that series here in the comments? I'll edit into my post above as well once you do.
+Mark Traphagen I thought he should've mentioned you in the article. But you know, this is not a charity business.
Sure +Mark Traphagen, this ought to be enough. :D

Pt 1: Is Google+ Page Rank the culprit behind the current...

Pt 2: How PageRank in Google+ is Earned. G+ Link Myths...

Pt 3: Why PR in G+ Matters To You & Your Connections.

Pt 4: PR in G+ - PageRank is Still Guts of Google Search.

Pt 5: PageRank, Link Juice & SEO for Google+ Communities.

Pt 6: Balance Returns to PageRank. Avoid The Dark Side.

[Update: HOA PageRank - Executive Summary video.] (with Mark Traphagen & Ronnie Bincer)
+Joshua Berg sorry to bug, but do you have "one post to rule them all" (i.e., one post somewhere to which I could do one link, that links to all those posts)?

And I was completely pleased that Cyrus linked to my post as one of "these three will give you 99% of what you need to know" recommendations at the end of his post. As an SEO guy, I'll take a link over a name drop any day ;-)
Good point +Mark Traphagen, Pt 6 has all of them. I haven't grouped them together anywhere else yet, cause I was still going to add 2 or 3 more to the series.
Now this is truly valuable content! Even by just reading the comments I educate myself.

As +David Amerland has said and written this is the era that a "lonely blogger" will make it to rise up to the search engine results!

Thank you +Mark Traphagen for sharing.
+Mike Coday that's a great question! We tend to emphasize "influencer marketing" because that's where the biggest bang for the buck is going to be. But it is not the only way to benefit from this.

To Google, niches tend to be relative. If you're in a highly competitive search niche with tons of volume, it frankly probably is going to take getting more authoritative links and shares to move your needle.

But in smaller niches (or more localized results) a little can go a long way. It may be enough just to get a good number of shares from a diversity of less-authoritative people, just as a lot of links from less-authoritative (non spammy) sites can sometimes move the needle better than a few from high-authority sites.

So all that to say, don't despair! Develop whatever network you can. Every share and link you get that your competitors haven't earned is something you have over them.
+Mark Traphagen +Mike Coday I have found this to be true with my insurance agency... We're small and local and we work to get links from our clients through guest blogging or adding a page about us as a vendor. Most of their sites are tiny, but as we continue this process we're getting very authoritative in a local market of Albany, NY.
Thanks for that confirmation +Ryan Hanley - It's a myth that we in the SEO community are probably guilty of unintentionally fanning, that you always need BIG things to move the needle in search. 
+Mark Traphagen what I've found through my work it's all about relevancy. A small local business can gain drastic improvements in their local market by having even obscure (white hat) links from other local businesses...
+Mike Coday I wasn't necessarily going that deep ;-). I simply meant that if you're in a niche or local market where the competition isn't at the national or global levels, it doesn't take a log of signal to get you above the competition if they aren't on top of it. 
+Mark Traphagen  I would love to see an opportunity for us to test out a scenario where a Google+ user in an industry that has virtually zero representation here on Google+ breaks some news about their company...and what type of effect it could have on their footprint in search because of the relationships they've built with influencers that have nothing to do with that industry.  
I don't mean that as a challenge by the way, more as an "let's keep our eyes open" type of thing :)
I think the next question is - how long will this last?

Will Google allow G+ to keep providing followed links galore when things are shared on its network, in order to attract new interest?

Or will they quickly shoot it down in furious anger now that they realise those no-good SEO'ers might want to use this for their own gain?

By the way +Mark Traphagen thanks for summarising this so eloquently over on, really enjoyed your summary. Plus the initial study from +Cyrus Shepard of course.
Good to see there's actually a correlation here. There's always some sort of reward for doing it Google's way.
Couple things after keeping up w/the awesome comments on this thread. 

+Joshua Berg would you mind if I threw those 7 posts in drive for you? That way you never have to worry about them being updated, you can just update them and BAM they will always be that way in the deck. :)

If Josh agrees, would that work for you +Mark Traphagen.

Lastly, I caught a comment by +Stephan Hovnanian that is right inline w/a post I just put up. I have recently taken my company +Michlin Metals Inc through the certification process of becoming AS 9120 (aerospace quality standard) and ISO 9001 (international quality standard) certified. It was a gigantic undertaking and one in which I am super proud to have accomplished.

We just got our official certification yesterday and I actually have a press release coming out tomorrow if anyone does want to see a company who is flying solo here on G+ do something that no one else has done...we could fit that bill...Again, just thought I would mention it. Either way guys, let me know about the drive deck.

Oh and Mark check Inconel Round Bar and let me know what you see on the SERP (not logged in of course). Just trying to be as good as the rest of you! :)
This answer the question I had yesterday, about why I got automatically connected to a Teenage Only Community.  This is not how I want to opt into a spam ridden Community, and I cannot find a way to opt out of it.  Does anyone know how to opt out?  Nice thread...
Wow, an hour ago I was debunking the correlation causation effect studies on my share of this post and then Matt's just came right out and said it. Thanks, +David Quaid for pointing that out.

I've been saying for a LONG time, +1's are not a serious ranking factor and Matt's just confirmed that they are NOT a ranking factor.

Hmm... funny how he didn't say anything when everyone else was putting up the studies, but came right out with it for +Moz. LOL.
I was gonna do something else first, but who knows when I'll get around to it so. Sure, go ahead +Michael Bennett.
Going ahead +Joshua Berg thank you! Will have it done sometime soon...kinda slammed but I like to help so I will figure it out! :)
Makes sense, Google's search engine favoring Google's social network ;)
An insightful post... but is Google running the risk of forcing brands to use G+ purely for SEO reasons?... Ultimately are consumers using G+??
Google really needs a way to look at all a users social activities to give them a trust rating
+David Quaid  No no no. The ONLY thing Cutts "refuted" was the idea that +1's are a direct ranking signal. That's NOT what Cyrus's article was claiming and it's never been any claim by me.

What I said in back in March, what +Joshua Berg said before that, and what +Cyrus Shepard says in his new post is that the reason +1's show this correlation is because a lot of plusses on pages end up generating Google+ shares, and those shares contain followed links back to the page. It is those links that cause the ranking boost. Nowhere, despite being asked to, did Cutts refute that in his Hacker News thread.
I just wrote a post on the Moz article by Cyrus-Shepard your post  +Mark Traphagen about the +1's so I went to google's history site to try and put all this information in context. 

Google + started 2011 I think? I looked over the history of google
I could not find the definitive date for the launching of Google + 

June 2011 Google + 1 was released to sites across the entire web, so you can more easily recommend websites to friends.

Also the same month, a collaboration among Google, Bing and Yahoo!, supports a common vocabulary for structured data markup across the web is released. 

The beginning of authorship. 

By August of 2011 you could  +1 a website and choose to share it with your circles on Google+.

May of 2012 Google+ Local was launched providing the simplest way to discover and share local information, and Hangouts were on Air worldwide.

The reason for the short abbreviated history lesson is to place this article in context of Google +, Google Authorship, and the changes to the landscape for all SEO services. 

We only know what we know. The majority of civilians and even those in the SEO web content, web development industry are unaware of the titanic shifts occurring regarding the future of Organic Search Results, SEO. 

Creating quality content now, which is shared, is a must

Hope it adds to the conversation 
+John Allen Google+ was launched 28 June 2011.

I joined 1 July 2011.

Not that the latter needs to be in your history ;-)
Y'know, at the end of his post, just before he linked to my Google+ SEO post, Cyrus said "a book could be written about this." Hmmmm..... ;-)
+John Allen, the last three paragraphs of your comment could not have been said better! Right on..
Yo I heard this before! It's true! Google plus rank way better than Facebook 
The most fun post of the day, and its sequlae.
A great share and Kesw interesting read. Thanks.
A lot of strong back and forth on the the moz blog too. Good write up and it's true. I have seen more share equaling more links and more bumps in SERPS. Simple more + inspires more shares and traffic. More links equally more juice. More juice equals higher rankings.
Google loves themselves most, not surprising to me.
This ones a real eye opener. 
This ones a real eye opener. 
Hi Mark, can you take a hop over to my area, and check out the impact Cyrus has on me from sharing one picture I thought was great, now I have an account full of CRAP from 2 days, maybe not even 2... Do you know who can get rid of this for me? 
Very interesting, I know for a fact, shortly after posting an article on G+, when searching for similar keywords, it appears shortly after...
+Deb Robichaud what you see in your stream is dependent upon who you circle. Either uncircle the clowns posting junk, or move them to a circle with a setting not to show in your home stream.
+Mark Traphagen  great article and very insightful information on how G+ works so that us newcomers can get a grip of what's going on.
I understand that Google with G+ tries to shift things in the world of social networking by supporting the truly valuable content.
In the new era every little bit of detail plays an important role because of the semantic indexing. So personal authority will be the next big thing and has to be built carefully. Am i looking it the right way?
Thanks and congratulations (again) +Mark Traphagen ! Amazing seeing your journey, and ecstatic that nice people don't always finish last ;-)
+Mark Traphagen and +Joshua Berg the drive deck w/all the links in 1 place will be published tomorrow at 9am CST. It's got a unique spin on it as this will be the single new deck addition to an already planned master deck.

The master deck is a compilation of everyone who has gone for a drive up to this point (obviously including both of you). So keep your eyes peeled as this will be the most concise effort and densely packed deck I have ever done. Thanks again to the 2 of you for making G+ smarter (and elsewhere of course).
Thank you all for the education.  I just think it should come at the start up of your account...Maybe I just missed it.
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