My thoughts and findings on the Google +1 button and whether or not it affects rankings and SEO… [Updated Results]

A really hot topic at the moment is whether or not the Google +1 button affects rankings.

So what is the +1 button?

Google gives this short but great explanation:

“The +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out.

Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1′s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.”

Here you can see the +1 button in the search results next to the META title tag:

If you have never used the +1 one button before, a direct comparison would be with the Facebook “like” button.

Apart from appearing within the search results, it can also be added to websites.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I have the +1 button one my homepage.

Below you can see the +1 button in action with recommendations from people you follow or connected to.

Why would it affect rankings?

Microsoft has shares in Facebook and it was recently announced that existing likes from Facebook would be integrated into Bing’s search results – thus affect search results and rankings.

Google does crawl Facebook fan pages but the majority of profiles are “to view, login” so Google can’t crawl these pages.

In my opinion Google has introduced the +1 button, along with Google Plus, not only to rival Facebook, but to use further details from users and to find out what people are viewing and +1ing.

So… does it affect rankings?

Image from SXC.hu

In my honest opinion… yes. From what I have seen with a websites I manage, the +1 button has affected the positioning in Google.

The website in question is a site I manage but I don’t do any SEO on. Over the past 8 weeks, this site has gained eleven +1′s with no on-page or off-page changes (I also monitored many social sites for mentions, tweets, likes etc).

Over the 8 week period, the sites rankings have improved in Google by 23 positions and jumped to the top of page 2 for a very competitive term. I’ve closely monitored competitors around this site in terms of link profiles and website changes and there has been very little, if any.

So in a nutshell, my client’s site and all of the competitors around the site in Google have stayed the same, in every aspect, apart from the +1′s. This also considers the Panda updates as well.

Results Update – 19th December 2011

Since I wrote this post back in September 2011, the evidence which I shared has seen further improvements. The website which I manage has had a further six +1′s and has jumped to page 1, position 8th in Google. As I stated, I’ve monitored backlinks, on-page and off-page modifications and again there has been no changes with my clients site and competitor sites.

Further evidence…

I’ve also noticed a change in fortune with my own site, whilst it has always ranked well for 70+ different key phrases, I’ve seen some really good improvements for keywords which haven’t been targeted for a few months and there have been no changes on or off page.

It’s also important to note that the +1’s I get are spread across the site compared to my client’s site which has only had the homepage +1′d.

An observation…

Where possible, I checked out the profiles of people who had +1′d mine and the client’s website and I found that they had very active +1 profiles. But there was no correlation in terms of topics +1′d.

But isn’t it to early to tell?

Image from SXC.hu

Yes and no, whilst there still isn’t any hard evidence that the +1 button affects rankings, it does say this on the +1 FAQs page:

“This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”

Also, some companies are now offering Google +1 services similar to link building. Personally, it is something I would never entertain and if you were caught by Google, the consequences would probably lead to a penalty.

and finally…

Whilst I believe my client’s site has been boosted by the +1 button, I still think using the +1 for SEO needs to mature, and like Google says, they will be “starting carefully”.

Have you seen any differences in rankings from the +1 button? Leave your comments below.

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