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Matt Cutts says Google +1s Don’t Improve Ranking

by Paras Singh, Aug 23, 2013

Google has never been very specific about anything related to SEO. It doesn’t tell us what improves ranking and what does not. It does lay down some guidelines and lends advice from time to time though regarding what may be a futile SEO practice and what may backfire. In one such rare occasion, Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts openly quashed a popular blog’s claim that Google +1s improve your website ranking in Google. Moz.com reported a strong correlation between +1s and high ranking in Google. Moz said –

“Every two years, Moz runs a scientific correlation study to discover the qualities of web pages that have a strong association with ranking highly in Google. This year, for the first time, Dr. Matt Peters and the Moz Data Science Team measured the correlation between Google +1s and higher rankings. The results were surprising. After Page Authority, a URL’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor. In fact, the correlation of Google +1s beat out other well known metrics including linking root domains, Facebook shares, and even keyword usage.”

But Mr. Cutts has come out in the open against the report, after the post sparked a lot of debate and discussion. The post had claimed that there are multiple reasons why this correlation is correct, for example, the fact that posts shared on Google+ are crawled and indexed almost instantly. Mr. Cutts has stressed that instead of collecting a lot many +1s try and make the content great which has more chances of being shared the world over and in turn makes the post, webpage and the website popular. This statement stays true to what SEO experts and webmasters have believed for long now, that creating good content and then sharing/marketing it well is the best way to do SEO and improve rankings in Google in the long-term. “Most of the initial discussion on this thread seemed to take from the blog post the idea that more Google +1s led to higher web ranking. I wanted to preemptively tackle that perception,” Mr. Cutts added, reiterating his belief. He also said that another SEO had been conducting research on whether +1s and ranking are correlated or not, and that the report should be out in a month or two and it would provide substantial proof backing up his claim.

Mr. Cutts wrote –

“Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let’s start with correlation != causation: http://xkcd.com/552/ But it would probably be better to point to this 2011 post (also from SEOMoz/Moz) from two years ago in which a similar claim was made about Facebook shares: http://moz.com/blog/does-google-use-facebook-shares-to-influ… . From that blog post from two years ago: “One of the most interesting findings from our 2011 Ranking Factors analysis was the high correlation between Facebook shares and Google US search position.” This all came to a head at the SMX Advanced search conference in 2011 where Rand Fishkin presented his claims. I did a polite debunk of the idea that Google used Facebook shares in our web ranking at the conference, leading to this section in the 2011 blog post: “Rand pointed out that Google does have some access to Facebook data overall and set up a small-scale test to determine if Google would index content that was solely shared on Facebook. To date, that page has not been indexed, despite having quite a few shares (64 according to the OpenGraph).” If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking. Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.”

This should clear the air to quite an extent and provide webmasters and SEO experts with enough confidence and faith to get back to the old school method of SEO, which is great content.