According to new data, Google +1s have a stronger correlation to high natural search rankings than Facebook Likes, and play a bigger role in a blended natural search strategy.

Digital agency Stickyeyes has looked at the influence of both Google +1s and Facebook Likes as emerging ranking signals using its Roadmap tool, which analyses over 100m ranking signal metrics each month across a 13 terabyte database.

This study looked at over 7,000 URLs that rank in the top 20 positions across multiple competitive sectors in Google.co.uk and correlated their actual +1 and Like counts versus ranking position. 

The results suggest that +1s have the strongest correlation with search rankings…

An ever-changing landscape

Google uses more than 200 core ranking signals to populate its search results and it is constantly refining its algorithm based on these signals.

This is demonstrated in the graph below, which is a follow on from a previous post which used Stickyeyes data, ‘The effects of the Google Panda update’.

(The graph shows movement of website rankings in Google. Higher peaks indicate greater position movement across a larger number of websites.)

As we are currently experiencing an unprecedented series of algorithm updates, understanding which signals have a stronger influence on rankings and then deploying a blended search strategy with these elements is essential. 

Google +1 vs. Facebook Likes

Stickyeyes looked at the influence of both Google +1s and Facebook Likes as emerging ranking signals by analysing over 7,000 URLs that rank in the top 20 positions across multiple competitive sectors in Google.co.uk and correlating their actual +1 and Like counts versus ranking position.

Explaining the graphs

 Each marker relates to a count (e.g. Google +1s) and indicates how many URLs out of the 360 URLs at each ranking position have this count or lower.

  • Diamond represents 50% of URLs.
  • Triangle represents 65% of URLs.
  • Square represents 80% of URLS.

The linking box indicates the spread of URLs between 50%-80%, selected as the ideal starting range for a URL wanting to achieve high rankings. A smaller box indicates a smaller spread of values across URLs. 

The grey plotted area spans the gaps between 50% and 80% of where URLs fall at each ranking position.

The smoother a plotted area with growth towards position #1 and less peak and trough’s between each position, the stronger the correlation to high rankings.

Google +1s

 

  • Google +1s have a rank correlation score of 22 out of 100 which indicates a positive trend. This is one of the higher ranking signal scores out of over 200 signals which Google use to decide position.

    Go far enough back and a signal such as Meta Description Keyword Density would have scored 80+ out of 100. The correlation score is designed to expose the weightings of unique signals within the algorithm and finding the right mix of the higher scoring signals is vital.

  • There is a clear upwards trend in the count of Google +1s per URL as we move from position 20 in Google.co.uk to position one.
  • The relatively short height of the linking boxes at each position show a closer scatter of +1 counts across URLs. The absence of any marked peaks and troughs and the steady upwards trend in the plotted grey area (with the exception of position 17) show a positive correlation to high rankings.
  • 23 or more Google +1s for your ranking URL would put you in the top 35% of ranking URLs, whilst 63 would put you in the top 20% making this an easier signal to gain traction in than Facebook Likes.

Facebook Likes

 

  • Facebook Likes have a rank correlation score of 16 out of 100. 28% less than Google +1s.
  • There is, however, still a positive trend of the count of Facebook Likes by URL as you move from position 20 to one, but the greater frequency of peaks and troughs indicate the correlation isn’t quite as strong as +1s.
  • The scatter of values between 80% and 50% is significantly larger than Google +1s. Whilst this isn’t surprising given that Facebook Likes have been available for longer and with larger uptake, it does mean it takes a greater effort to achieve the same relative counts.

    35 Facebook Likes on your ranking page or more are required to sit in the top 35% of URLs whilst 155 or more Facebook Likes are needed to sit in the top 20% of URLs.

How does it compare to other ranking signals? 

Whilst it is true that Google +1s have a stronger correlation to high rankings than Facebook Likes, it is important to note that one shouldn’t be actioned at the expense of the other, and that they must always be considered within the context of a wider search strategy consisting of a blended approach that hits multiple ranking signals.

Below is a typical example, showing that the combined authority of the external links going to a ranking URL has a positive correlation to high rankings only marginally lower than Google +1s.

Summary

Google +1’s have a stronger correlation with high rankings than Facebook Likes and are easier to gain traction on due to the lower relative counts per ranking position. These stats echo some of the findings from Kevin Gibbon’s recent guest post