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There’s no secret in the SEO world that many of us suspect that the reason why Google has been pushing Google+ so aggressively.
It isn’t just to build its own successful social network, but also to gain access to data on what content and websites are being shared socially as this could be a great addition to their search algorithm.
You have to have been living below a rock the last year to have missed out on studies which have suggested volume of shares on Facebook and Twitter having a correlation with high rankings.
There might not be causation there yet, but that certainly seems the direction we’re heading in, with social signals becoming a ranking factor.
Here are five reasons why Google+ is already finding this data more useful than the Twitter Firehose...
Without its own source of this data, Google would have to use data from other providers. It can’t be particularly comfortable for Google to consider integrating this type of data into its algorithm, particularly when some are competitors.
So the motive is clear, Google want Google+ to provide signals of quality and importance, and so far I think it must be pretty chuffed, as I’m pretty confident the data is already more useful that that it was receiving from the Twitter Firehose.
20m users is statistically significant
With any of these kinds of tools you’re taking a sample and extrapolating from there. With Google Plus expected to hit the 20m mark any time soon. I’m no statistics expert but I think we can be fairly confident that is a big enough sample size to be significant!
I’ve also done some very simplistic studies in correlations. I took 15 recent articles from SearchEngineLand. For each of these articles I took the number of Tweets, Google+1, Linkedin Shares and Facebook Likes.
I looked at whether there was a linear correlation between the number of Google+1 votes and the other social votes. There was a correlation: a really, really strong one.
This is an absolutely tiny sample of just fifteen articles, on just one website, which I imagine is far more likely to have Google + users than most. But the correlation was there.
Between G+ and FB 0.97
Between G+ and Tweets 0.94
Between G+ and LinkedIn Shares 0.95
1.0 is a perfect correlation, and this kind of correlation is pretty much unprecedented, and with more data I’m pretty sure the relationship would become weaker, but based on this miniscule sample, Google can already know a lot about how socially popular a piece of content is based on Google+ shares.
Overlap between early adopters and linkerati
There’s a group of people who Rand Fishkin affectionately calls the linkerati, these are the people who own and maintain websites and who have the ability to link to sites. These people are also very often the early adopters of technology and social networks.
In the past Google has been able to rely on this group to act as arbitrators of quality content online, if they linked to it, then the search engines could be confident of something’s quality.
The problem is that fewer of these people are actively maintaining websites as their attention is drawn towards social network sites that Google can’t really glean insight from.
There’s a cookie cutter criticism of Google+ which says “it’s alright for you geeks, but my mum will never use it” if the main aim of Google+ is to pick up the social signals from the Linkerati that may not be a problem.
Next to no spammers
I very much doubt that the invite-only approach was intended to keep out spammers, far more likely to create a false sense of scarcity. That approach increased the value everyone placed on having access to the service.
It may be unintended, but the ‘by invitation only’ policy has limited the number of spam accounts.
This will certainly change over time, the spammers go where the people are, but I have a lot more confidence in Google keeping a tight selection process than Twitter. That lack of people trying to manipulate the system currently gives the search engine a lot more signal and a lot less noise.
I autopost my blog posts to Twitter, I don’t know many people who don’t. But the stories I’ve made the effort to share by hand indicate I feel much more strongly about sharing than something I’ve set up to run automatically without my intervention.
At the moment I’m not aware of there being any automatic Google+ share tools. This is a great thing if I wanted to use the signals of someone sharing content. By making the process a tiny bit more difficult they are able to be a lot more confident that the social signal is well intentioned.
Circles give a good indication of spheres of influence
Whenever I try to explain the idea of contextual relevance in link building I fall back on a classic metaphor.
“If I ask all my friends what second hand car to buy I trust the recommendation of my friend who is a car mechanic much more than a hairdresser.”
Certain people’s opinions on certain topics are more relevant than other people’s opinion on the same topic, even on first impressions they are equally influential.
Google has been working for years refining this concept of topical authority but even with this experience it will find Circles really helpful.
To continue the analogy, someone who shares an article about second hand cars and is in lots of circles labelled 'mechanic' can give a stronger signal of quality than a article about second hand cars, even if every other signal of influence and authority was exactly the same.