Study: Google +1 boosts organic clicks (and SEO)

Published on
by Brafton Editorial
A study from SEO Effect indicates that +1 content catches more clicks, though the question of whether consumers will adopt a "+1 mentality" is still on marketers' minds.

The Dutch firm SEO Effect has released a white paper on the impact of +1's on SERPs, reporting that its website saw 20 percent more traffic after it garnered +1's. While the study's methods leave something to be desired, the highly desirable results are worth investigating.

The company asked readers to +1 its website on SERPs in exchange for a service valued at $9, and 73 consumers responded. Once users who were logged into their Google accounts gave experiment pages a +1, they were then asked to retweet these pages to let the company know they had participated.

So what share of increased visibility comes from +1 and what share might be a result of the retweets? SEO Effect is the first to state that its methodology is somewhat unreliable. “It is impossible to measure the effect of the +1 votes on rankings in isolation,” it says. The company also acknowledges that 73 participants don't offer conclusive evidence on the value of Google's +1 service.

All that said, the company reports that it saw a 20 percent increase in rankings and corresponding gains in clicks and visits for various keywords following the +1 experiment. SEO Effect hypothesizes that the +1 data can boost rankings (and Brafton has reported that Google's Matt Cutts has suggested +1 will become a ranking signal).

The company also points to some issues it found with the +1 button that other marketers will want to watch. For instance, SEO Effect learned the hard way (after changing the name of a blog post to be more SEO friendly) that +1 data is lost on pages with 301 redirects. This seems like a wise move on Google's part as transferring +1's could be a way to abuse social currency.

SEO Effect's white paper also points to the current limits of having +1 data visible on SERPs. Google users must be logged in to their accounts to see +1 data, and even then, the company did not always see anonymous +1 data in search results for pages within the experiment.

This study monitoring +1 effects may be lacking conclusive evidence, but the white paper joins the growing buzz for +1 in the internet marketing community. Perhaps what marketers should be monitoring is whether consumers seem to adopt the idea of +1. It is positioned to be a service comparable to Facebook Likes on Bing – and Brafton has reported that many searchers are expressing their interest in Bing's insight on social relevancy. Brands might also want to focus on their content marketing approaches and produce web pages that are social-friendly, encouraging shares via +1's, tweets, Likes and any other social platform consumers choose.

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  • http://www.brandignity.com Brandignity

    That would be pretty interesting to see if Google made the +1 part of the ranking signal but I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean if the button can’t grow on it’s own make it part of the equation right?

  • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

    what a crock and totally whacked testing. Just tweeting could account for the increase. As to +1 as ranking factor. You might want to pull your head out of your poopping orifice for a minute and think why that doesn’t work. Please do tell specifically where Matt Cutts has said this could be a ranking factor. Are you aware of how social search works? Apparently not!

    • http://about.me/evanjacobs Evan Jacobs

      The bottom line is Google is determined to further evolve the relevancy of its products, and the +1 button is addressing a “social” void that Facebook “Likes” have filled for Bing.

      Whether or not it will be successful in the long run is a completely separate issue – if anything, I would suggest directing your comment at the original source, as they wrote the white paper.

    • Katherine_Griwert

      Hi, Terry. You asked for evidence of Cutts indicating +1 could become a ranking factor. He suggested it during a live Q&A session. In the related Brafton article we reference, you’ll find this link to Search Engine Land: http://searchengineland.com/googles-matt-cutts-live-webchat-78570 SEL quotes Cutts saying:
      “It’s definitely a signal we’re paying a lot of attention to … It has tons of potential. It looks very promising.”

      • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

        “It’s definitely a signal we’re paying a lot of attention to”

        Ummm really…. they also seem to pay a lot of attention to blog comment spam signals does that make them ranking signals? Signals yes, but do they move rankings… sure if you tweet the content too. ;-)

        Man that is so spammable as to be laughable as ranking signal. Of course you may be right as they are also the same guys who came up with cross domain canonical and seemed surprise it was hacked… laughable to call it a hack.

        JusSayin’ people might want to consider looking in the SERPs because tweets move ranks… actually re-order ranks (sometiimes radically) and +1 add info on who shared some content. I strongly suggest you do search with Social on and signed in…

      • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

        “It’s definitely a signal we’re paying a lot of attention to … It has tons of potential. It looks very promising”

        It has merit as a QDF signal. As a ranking signal it’s terribly inappropriate.

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    I like the SEO Effect guys, I really do. But this research shouldn’t actually be called research. The figures being looked at are so marginal, that 20% boost could just as well be a natural variation and/or, as Terry said, due to people clicking on tweeted links.

    It’s way too soon to draw any conclusion on what effect +1 has on rankings, if any. As a signal it has a terribly signal-to-noise ratio so I don’t think it’ll ever feed directly in to rankings. It might however have merit for other purposes.

  • Alex_Worthing

    Cool study. While I think the Google +1 will be beneficial to SEO, it will be interesting to see how much that 20% decreases once/if +1 begins being used by the mainstream (and not just search engine optimizers).

  • http://blog.goswire.com Zack Swire

    I’d like to check it out, but Google likes to penalize their paying Apps users. Not available for us yet. I get the attached image each time I try and I can’t authorize it yet because it’s not ready for Apps users yet.

    • Katherine_Griwert

      Others feel your pain. Here’s a related Quora discussion: http://b.qr.ae/jXmGtj

  • http://www.electroknol.com/ Technology,Social Media Blog

    Google plus button can plus your traffic. better then any small task done for seo . Google search also included google+ button so you can plus your presence on searches