Google Plus 1 – Social Sentiment as an SEO Factor
Wow. Just Wow.
SEOMoz recently conducted their latest “ranking factor” survey and I had the pleasure to participate – can’t wait to see the results. But one of the concepts in the survey asked whether social sentiment would be a factor in search results in 2011, and if so, how much. And I need to admit I blew it. Big time.
To be clear, I DO believe social sentiment is already a minor factor, and anticipate it will become more of a factor in 2011. I did NOT, however, anticipate how MUCH of a factor it would become in 2011. Sure, Google took manual action against the guy who bullied customers for the intentional purpose of getting social mentions, with the belief he had that even bad mentions would boost his rankings. So Google knocked his rip-off site right out of the index.
And yes, they started offering the ability for people to manually block sites in their own search results not long before the Panda/Farmer update. And in that update, they compared the sites they hammered to that manual crowd-sourced list and found an 84% match – where 84% of the sites they deemed trashy in the Panda update matched those people had manually flagged.
Still, at that point, I figured there’s a huge flaw in the concept of Google being able to get a wide enough swath of real world users (outside the Geeks who drink the Google Kool-Aid) to be able to use that data to manipulate their SERPs. I mean – can we really trust those Kool-Aid drinkers to voice the sentiment of main-stream society? No frakkin way!
Then there’s the whole Facebook “Like” factor. That’s clearly a much stronger basis for gauging user sentiment right? So I figure that would eventually become a signal if it isn’t already.
Except there’s still the reality that so many businesses don’t have, use, or even comprehend how to get a Facebook Like button on their sites. So in my little world view, it’s still not enough to provide a fair playing ground in the SERPs when it comes to social sentiment as a factor strong enough or reliable enough for Google to actually use it as a very strong signal.
Well today is my Twitter stream is all abuzz over the new Google “+1” button. Danny Sullivan wrote up a good article covering the new service detailing the functionality more than I do here. I’m more focused on the ramifications of social sentiment in general in 2011…
And THIS is by far the biggest confirmation that Google’s taking another step toward social sentiment as a way to manipulate their SERPs.
While it’s still listed as “experimental”, it IS already available if you’re signed into your Google account. And according to the service’s description
Your +1’s are public. They can appear in Google search results, on ads, and sites across the web.
Wow. Really? Kind of like how Facebook is now showing ads with YOUR face on them, where if you “like” something, they stick your “endorsement” right there with the ad. To manipulate your friends into clicking on those ads.
This may be experimental for now, but since your results are public, Google’s not going to wait a few months in a private beta test loop to exploit this and manipulate the SERPs.
Sure, it’s just going to show those +1 “endorsements”, for now. So it’s not like they’re going to increase the rankings of those sites, is it? Probably not for now. But yes – this is a wake up call for sure that they’re working feverishly on crowdsourcing the whole “manual manipulation” of the SERPs.
So hey SEO community – WAKE UP – Social Sentiment is here to stay. Maybe not in its current form. Yet whatever form it evolves (or devolves) into, it’s here. Now.
The Writing Was On The Wall
Just to clarify even more – the writing was on the wall back when Google rolled out Place Page results in the main SERPs – right away it was evident that Local listings with more reviews were getting a boost in their placement. And not long after that, Google started a marketing push to get people to provide reviews of Local businesses right within Google, as a way to take ownership of what had been reliance on Yelp, CitySearch and other rating services. Now though, it’s gone to a new level…