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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.

No autoposts

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.

Kelvin Newman

Published 26 July, 2011 by Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman is SiteVisibility's Creative Director and is the editor of the UK's most listened to Marketing Podcast. He also spends his time at conferences, tweeting too much and working on top secret research and development projects. He's also on Google+

21 more posts from this author

Comments (16)

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James Docherty

James Docherty, Consultant at ePro

Nice article Kelvin. I have no idea how much Twitter wanted for their firehose when the time came to renew that contract recently but I can't help thinking Google having access to G+ AND Twitter would be better than just 20m G+ users. Surely the more data sources (signals) the better?

about 5 years ago

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Matthew Oxley

I'm in agreement with you regarding the use of the cicles - the biggest problem for Google with Link analysis is understanding context & relevance, because Anchor text has been abused so badly - assuming they can control Spam on the Network, Circles could give them the badly needed off-page relevance indicator.

about 5 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

@James Would they like to have both? yes. Do Google want to continue to fund long term one of their rivals? No

about 5 years ago

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Matthew Read

Great article Kelvin, interesting to see the correlation, even on a small scale, of the sharing buttons.

I think Google will definitely continue to put more and more importance on Google+ but I think Twitter will still be incredibly important.

Google now have an extension to add the +1 button to the Twitter timeline and if they can work out a global implementation of this Twitter may continue to be just as important as Google+

about 5 years ago

Malcolm Slade

Malcolm Slade, SEO Project Manager at Epiphany Search

Hi Kelvin, I did an almost identical post that went live this morning at http://www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk/blog/bye-buzz-hello-google/

Google plus seems very well thought out but I have my suspicions that its launch may have been rushed to allow Google to fill the Twitter fire-hose gap quickly.

Regarding the comment by James, the Twitter / Google split may not have been one sided. Twitter, Facebook and Google are all taking chunks out of each other at the moment so they probably don't want to be doing anything to help each other out.

Also lets not promote anything that may cause Google real-time results to re-appear. They are one thing we won't miss :)

about 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

"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."

I never thought of it that way. I want to be able to automate blog post updates to my Google+ account just to make it easier on me, but you raise a valid point. If you can't automatically link your Twitter and Google+, Google+ users have to actually take the time to submit something, meaning they really want it shared.

about 5 years ago

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JennyLynnSEM

Agreed. We all knew that Google wants Google+ to provide signals of quality and importance. Thanks for sharing.

about 5 years ago

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George Engelberger

I'm concerned about the spamming situation. I do believe that Google will continue to be tight about it and the invitation only policy is working right now. Also, we won't see the peak of G+'s influence until it gets picked up by the masses. Even if G+ has a lot of influencers on it as of now. I don't know. This may be obvious to you guys. But great article. Thanks.

about 5 years ago

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Jake Davidow

@George - I kind of get the feeling that controlling spam is equity that Google has built over the years. It will be interesting to see if this equity is transferable into the social realm. Cleary FB and Twitter haven't figured out how to control this beyond manual marking of accounts as spammy. I just got followed by about 10 credit card, house loan, work from home tweeting bikini models (at least according to their profile pics they are) in the past half hour - so clearly its a miss that Google has the potential to be all over...

about 5 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

Yeah the spammers will come, that's for sure!

At the moment though the ratio must be better than Twitter?

about 5 years ago

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Peter Young

I would suggest its already started, certainly the +1 facet of the Google+ project already seems a haven for potential wide boys and spammers.

Whether this translates across to the + Social tool itself seems a natural extention - however as Jake has already said one can't help feeling Google are far better equipped to manage this than Twitter/Facebook given their history within Search.

That said Social is a different animal - and its going to need to go between simple volume metrics to ensure spam is kept to a minimum

about 5 years ago

James Docherty

James Docherty, Consultant at ePro

@kelvin & @malcolm I guess I'm just concerned about the silo-ing of 'real time'. 1 place to search all the updates from FB/Twitter and G+ would certainly seem to be useful to users. Google's mentality is typically "build something useful for users and we all win" (not to mention that old mission about organising ALL the world's information). It seems a shame that they aren't carrying that attitude forward but perhaps this is the first time they're feeling truly threatened by the competition.
I'm obviously too naive by half!

about 5 years ago

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Michael Balistreri

@James
"...I guess I'm just concerned about the silo-ing of 'real time'..."

Exactly

about 5 years ago

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wctube

Google now have an extension to add the +1 button to the Twitter timeline and if they can work out a global implementation of this Twitter may continue to be just as important as Google+

about 5 years ago

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Joe

Any chance of an opening sentence that makes sense?

about 5 years ago

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George Peterson

Google is bound to give more relevance to its own social markings than those of its competitors. It may not become clear how much of a difference they will make until Google has a significant share of the social market.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter responds once Google + gains its footing.

over 4 years ago

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