SEO News: How Important Are Social Signals?
Just how important is Google + in terms of SEO and search results? Should we be going through and +1ing all of our sites and clients’ sites in order to improve their rankings. In light of a seemingly insignificant change made to Google’s results pages last week, I thought I’d consider this question for a moment.
On Friday many in the SEO industry noticed that Google had removed the +1 button from its search results. Where previously you could see the button next to every listing, you now had to hover over said listing to even see the button. Only when you hover over the button itself did it reveal itself in colour.
Your response to this might be: who cares? Well, when you consider that in marketing and advertising ‘out of sight’ is very much ‘out of mind’ you begin to puzzle at this latest move from Google. Why go from having your social media platform’s button on 10 listings on the page to having it on none at all? Surely this will diminish the online presence of Google + and work contrary to Google’s well laid plans to challenge Facebook and Twitter for social supremacy?
You could argue that having the button appear when you roll over a listing has more impact as it draws your eye which might be true, but I still feel that this will lead to fewer listings being +1ed.
If Google are content to reduce the impetus on Google +, then it suggests that their intentions to include it as a major ranking signal are less fierce than first thought. Google has of course stated that the amount of +1s is already a ranking signal, but this latest move suggests that’s all it will ever be.
Even if Google aren’t intentionally reducing their focus on the +1 ranking signal, by hiding it from the SERPs their arguably still doing this. Less visibility means fewer clicks and fewer clicks will inevitably inhibit the growth of the social media platform, and without a healthy and well used platform there’s absolutely no use in Google using +1s as a ranking signal, let alone a major factor.
Finally, to throw an additional spanner into the works, Google also announced last week that they were inviting social media platforms and similar networks to work with them to create improved social analytics for users. You can’t help but view the search engine as a cautious player in the online community, moving one chess pieces to distract their opponent from others. What does this mean for social signals in search? Is Google looking to create a social analytics platform which it can use itself and integrate into the ranking algorithm?
I think that although these changes and announcements are an indication of Google’s intentions, we can’t know for sure until we wait to see what happens. In the meantime, I think integrating social buttons into your website, engaging with your customers via social media and maintaining a rounded online presence will all be enough to help your site when it comes to social signals and SEO, at least for now.