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Sites that have a high number of social shares, comments, tweets and +1s tend to rank better in Google, according to a new report from Searchmetrics.

And of all the four main social networks it appears that Google+ actually has the strongest correlation with high search rankings.

The report is based on analysis of 10,000 search terms from Google UK, using the first three pages of results.

It’s important to point out that this is a correlation rather than causation, so we can’t necessarily say that social signals definitely lead to higher search rankings. But it does seem to suggest that there’s some relationship between the two.

Websites that rank in the top positions for Google usually have a large number of social signals, but then it could just be that people naturally share popular, well-ranked sites.

The correlation also holds firm at the other end of the scale, as sites with low rankings also have a lower number of social signals.

The data shows that +1s from Google+ tend to have the strongest correlation with high rankings, followed by various types of Facebook shares.

Pinterest has the lowest correlation of the four main social networks.

Google+

The emergence of Google+ in the report is of particular interest. When Searchmetrics produced the report last year it was not possible to make any meaningful statements about G+ due to insufficient data, but in 2013 G+ signals are just behind tweets in absolute terms.

But more significantly, +1s show the highest correlation with good rankings.

There are obviously caveats to this though, not least that it’s still far more common for people to share things on Facebook than on G+. Therefore it stands to reason that sites lower down the rankings will have more Facebook shares than +1s.

Furthermore, the new Econsultancy/Netbooster UK Search Engine Marketing Report 2013 shows that 51% of agencies say Google+ has had no impact on their search campaigns, so clearly the jury is still out on whether there is actually any causation between high rankings and a high number of +1s.

Even so, is it time for businesses to begin taking Google+ more seriously? We’ve previously looked at how top brands use Google+, and overall there seems to be little interest in maintaining an active brand page.

Among the most indifferent brands are Walmart, Best Buy and LL Bean, which have established brand pages but done nothing with them.

David Moth

Published 1 August, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (4)

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Sam Gill @ Digital Spikes

I will start working on increasing my Google+ circle even though i have good social shares and comments. Thanks for the post and details provided David

almost 3 years ago

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Jason Darrell

Of the 51% who say Google+ has had no impact on their search position, it would be interesting to see how much time they've actually applied there before stating they've seen no traction.

If they've blindly posted the odd article without engaging, they're not likely to see an impact. Unfortunately for most UK companies, they'll miss out on the benefits of G+.

Google+ truly is about engagement and not simply pumping out posts and tweets through Hootsuite and waiting for the flock to RT or Like. It calls for intellect, honesty and a genuine wish to help other members.

Can you say that about any of the other social networks? Erm, no.

On a totally selfish level, let the rest of UK biz stick around facebook and twitter; just means more G+ UK juice for YT and the other Brits who are seeing five- and six-figure followers.

I'll be looking backatcha from #1, Page 1 in the SERPs...

almost 3 years ago

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Saad Munir

For those who say that their rankings does not increase due to Google+, that can be because of the low authority profiles and circles. The more engaged data on Google Plus and +1's the more preference to the links as per my understanding.

almost 3 years ago

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Webtechads

Concluding the point above:

It is as though the threshold of relevancy vs. insignificance of social media is based on exactly how your social media pertains to your overall brand.

So, if you are a random guy running a shoe store. You build up a Facebook page and get a bunch of fans, get a couple of reviews, but you lack a website, Google will see this and measure you successful because engagement is good especially if you don't have a website. They will align it with your outlier profiles that are searched for (Yelp and Google+ page) and give those pages authority.

If you are a huge shoe company, with a website full of content and products, with reviews from recent newspapers and blogs and links all over, but you're social media is shallow and non-existent, Google will only use your social media cues for affirmation or defining new content (is new content on Company Blog A relevant for specific keyword search b?)

If you are a growing shoe company that approached your online business with a website and content, along with social media, Google will relate your "web" authority with your "engagement" authority, and with that ratio will adjust your ranking accordingly (old website = new engagement = reaffirm standing OR new website with no content = little engagement = push down a little until SEO/Social Media is better.).

Most people say social media aren't the only markers, and I would say no, but they are very important. There are those who say social media could be highly weighted in the SERPs rankings, and I would retort no, because I think the algorithm would look for a relation of social media to the overall existence of the brand online.

For this, I would say social media is VERY important, but would have different types of importance for different types of marketing. Considering that "sharing" of links are not all public/accessible by anyone (Facebook wall etc.), some aspects of engagement can't be measured.

But, social media's importance to SERPs would be more for burgeoning businesses that need to affirm their fan-base beyond do-follow link content. The algorithm probably measures and weighs importance up to a threshold where it would be merely use to affirm value (ie Huge company, many good links, if social media doesn't respond, is huge company gaming system?).

But seeing that companies with only social media presence get defined in some local 7-packs speaks volumes that for most businesses social media markers have SERP influence. And for bigger companies with a strong SEO background, it may only be needed as an affirmation of their brand and future content to be a valued in the SERPs as a whole.

almost 3 years ago

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