Does Google+ help influence website rankings?

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Rank Fishkin founder of Moz has been undertaking some considerable testing on whether Google+ helps influence website rankings.

Rand thus far has concluded that there is no evidence that Google+ activity helps to improve a websites search engine rankings. The testing showed a small increase of 3 places, only to return to its original starting point (position 24).  You can read more about Rand’s findings here.

My position on this matter is as follows: I personally at this stage do NOT think Google+ shares, facebook likes, tweets etc play any significant role in website rankings. The common sense within me is saying, why would Google rely on such metrics when these can be so easily manipulated? For $25 I can but 10,000 facebook likes, shares etc. On the face of it does not appear to be any different from a company offering 1000 links spammy links.

Whilst I like the idea of Google determining my rankings based on who follows me and what they are saying, these metrics I believe are unreliable. Google themselves recently announced that they tested a version of their algorithm without counting links and they didn’t like the results. This leads me to believe that links are still the primary ranking factor. What has changed about the link landscape, is the importance of relevancy and the reduction in exact match anchor text phrases. But links still determine search engine rankings and for the foreseeable future I do not envisage this changing.

It’s common knowledge that Google is issuing far more penalties now than ever. If Google+ and other social metrics played a significant role in rankings, there would be no need to issue these penalties or remove websites from the SERPs due to their unnatural backlink profiles.

The clue here is ‘unnatural backlink profiles’. For me, this suggests that backlinks are now more important than ever. It’s just about having the right backlinks, from the right websites, avoiding keyword rich anchor text phrases. I might of course be completely off the mark here, but I see no point in Google investing the time and effort to issue unnatural backlink profile penalties, if backlinks did not considerably influence the SERPs.

That’s not to say that Google+ cannot bring inbound traffic, because it’s quite the opposite. Google SERPs (including page 1 rankings) are now full of Google+ posts on search subject. Google+ therefore provides another opportunity to bring inbound traffic to your website, exactly the same as facebook, linkedin, twitter etc does.  It should form part of your inbound marketing strategy as it presents an opportunity to engage and reach out to customers. It also helps build your brand and provides the possibility of achieving page 1 rankings for search terms that are perhaps competitive and out of your reach.

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