I often get excited when new studies and findings reaffirm experiments already carried out by our team here in Fuzz One Media and discussions with other professionals in the SEO industry.
Searchmetrics recently released their SEO Ranking Factors for 2012 Whitepaper that shows a close correlation between the volume of Facebook shares a web page receives and its rankings on Google search (remember Correlation does not imply causation). Their research also came to the conclusion that too many Google AdSense ads on a page are likely to have a negative impact on search visibility on Google search.
Their study utilised a dataset consisting about 300,000 websites and 10,000 low to high volume search terms from Google.com.
According to Searchmetrics’ whitepaper, the top three ranking factors that correlated with successfully ranking higher on Google are:
- Facebook Shares
- Number of Backlinks
Searchmetrics goes further on to highlight the following key findings:
- The most competitive search terms are dominated by top brands as they appear to have a ranking advantage
- There is a very high correlation between Social media signals to pages and high rankings
- Sites with too much advertising do not seem to fare well on Google search
- Quality of links are far more important than the Quantity of links
- Keyword domains also dominate the top results (although I have personally observed that with Google’s recent over optimisation update, sites that have diligently built up their brands have fared better)
What About Google+
Although the Searchmetrics report admitted admitted that Google +1s has the strongest correlation to improved rankings as compared to any of the other metrics, there surprisingly did not illustrate its impact. They also admitted that their Google+ findings might be unreliable because,
“Google+ does not currently have enough users and the possibility of a +1 leading directly to changes in SERPs follows accordingly, since pages receive +1s in the order that they would already be placed without them. When Google+ has values that are stronger and more independent from SERPs, these values will also be included in the overview. That Google is trying to make Google+ an important player is indisputable and therefore SEOs should be sure to keep an eye on further developments.”
Even, Google’s Matt Cutts recently admitted at the last SMX conference that “When we look at +1, we’ve found it’s not necessarily the best quality signal right now.”
In a liveblog session, search marketing Journalist, Dany Sullivan asked Google’s Matt Cutts if you have to be on Google+ to rank well in Google and his response was, “No!!!! It’s still early days on how valuable the Google+ data will be.”
If Google+ continues to grow, then its importance and impact on search would inevitably grow. Remember that Google+ has already started to impact personalised search and that some brands have noticed a significant increase in traffic as a result of its adoption.
At the moment – the real value lies in Facebook Share/Likes and Tweets (even though at it’s infancy, watch out for Pinterest traffic as a ranking signal). Just don’t expect +1s to be as valuable as Facebook likes or tweets.