Google's Matt Cutts: +1s Don't Improve Rankings

Aug 21, 2013 • 7:48 am | comments (64) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

matt cutts google+Moz published a story yesterday showing a high correlation between Google +1s and Google's search rankings.

Shortly after, Google's head of search spam, Matt Cutts, went over to Hacker News and debunked it. He said, +1s do not have any impact on search rankings at Google.

He wrote:

Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let's start with correlation != causation:

He then went on to add:

If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn't mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking.

Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.

Yep, that does make sense. But do you believe him? Many in the industry do not. So Matt Cutts had to respond to more people in the thread. He added:

Suffice it to say that I would be very skeptical of anyone who claimed that more +1s led to a higher search ranking in Google's web results.


Most of the initial discussion on this thread seemed to take from the blog post the idea that more Google +1s led to higher web ranking. I wanted to preemptively tackle that perception.

Truth is, Google is to blame for the confusion. In August 2011, Wired published a story suggesting Google+ was tied to ranking. Google's chairman suggested it as well in February 2013. Matt Cutts did say at conference it is not used but did say that authorship is a good signal, which can be confusing for users.

Anyway, I do believe Matt when he says +1s are not used directly in the ranking algorithm.

Forum discussion at Hacker News & WebmasterWorld.

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Jonay Pelluz

08/21/2013 12:01 pm

I don't think they use it directly but maybe indirectly somehow, They just want people to go crazy, that's why one day they say, it is blue and they day after it is red... so they can change people focus in what it is really happening, less space for real, non paid results.


08/21/2013 12:15 pm

I think correlation != causation sums it up nicely. People are just looking for another white whale to chase without thinking about it for a few minutes. The numbers seem to indicate something, so it should be considered causal? The same amount of reasoning (read: not much) would go into a statement like: Information geared sites with large staffs tend to rank well; large staffs are a ranking factor for sites geared towards information. Maybe the large staff is indicative of a successful site that has generated a user base...just like many +1's are indicative of a successful site that has generated a user base. +1's, or a large staff, is the symptom, not the cause.

Praveen Sharma

08/21/2013 12:23 pm

If they don't, how do they come to know a content is useful or not? They can't read every content piece manually over the internet. If someone likes a content and shares it over his social networks including Google plus, it means that content is useful for him/her. Similarly for those who further share or like it. This gives Google an idea how valuable that content is. Now if that content is great and useful, it will be ranked higher (of course depending upon many other factors as well). These social signals (+1, likes, etc.) are the only way to tell search engines what is liked by users and what is not over social platforms. If it's not the only factor for rankings, definitely one of them for sure.


08/21/2013 12:33 pm

...did you forget that both Twitter and Facebook have great-on-paper sounding social metrics but are easily, and often, abused (followers and likes)? I would like to give the guys at Google enough credit to see how the obvious manipulation of these mechanisms translates exactly into their own 'liking' system.

Paul Shapiro

08/21/2013 12:37 pm

I think Mark Traphagen hit the ball on the head in the comments section of the Moz article. Although +1s do not effect rank changes, they are correlated with Google+ shares which are dofollow links that flow PageRank. Thus the correlation of +1s.

Praveen Sharma

08/21/2013 12:39 pm

Of course I know, but manipulation is everywhere not only at social platforms level. You can't get away from it.


08/21/2013 12:46 pm

It can't be used even if Google would like to use it. Google's social market share is 2%. Sure they don't use it. There is nothing to use. I dumped Google custom search last week. Google's social buttons will be the next, if the market share will not increase. Nothing personal, just business )


08/21/2013 12:50 pm

What do you expect him to say? Reveal the algo? Do you think its in google's interest to only publish truth? As soon as he says that google uses google+ at least in one form or the other in their algo, they'll wake up with +10000% increase of +1's the next day and going.


08/21/2013 12:56 pm

That is a fair point.


08/21/2013 01:15 pm

I tested out shares and it looks as if out of the three links generated via a G+ share (the image, title, and smaller, grey URL), the first is nofollowed and the second two are followed. Any idea why G would nofollow the first link and follow the second two?


08/21/2013 01:23 pm

What's the difference ? You found the do-follow possibility. Be proud of yourself and start the link spam.


08/21/2013 02:53 pm

I don't think Google's social market share means there's automatically nothing to use. If they are giving greater weight to their own stuff, such as Google+, it could have disproportionate impact.

Michael Martinez

08/21/2013 03:05 pm

No, Barry, Eric Schmidt DID NOT suggest that +1s were tied to rankings. He PREDICTED that content associated with profiles will one day be given better rankings.

Yehoshua Coren

08/21/2013 03:21 pm

I believe that Cyrus was saying that G+ passes PageRank via anchor text links in shared content (in the headline) in a way that other social networks do not. +1 thing aside, methinks that's a valid point that should be noted (and responded to from Matt within the same HN comment thread).


08/21/2013 03:26 pm

The Google + button was LINKBAIT for Google Plus ....what Google isn't allowed to do that ? SUCKERS !

Nick Ker

08/21/2013 04:14 pm

Just a thought: When publishing correlation articles, maybe responsible authors should set up a verification system where the reader must demonstrate that they understand that correlation does not equal causation before they are even allowed to read the article.​ Otherwise, we end up with all these knuckleheads running around saying "Cyrus said that +1s are the key to high rankings! Who wants to buy 10,000 plus ones from me?"


08/21/2013 04:15 pm

One thing is for sure - it's definitely not the only factor for rankings. I have achieved great rankings without the use of any social networks whatsoever on some websites.


08/21/2013 05:28 pm

nice to know. so we not need to use G+ anymore. dead-born child.


08/21/2013 05:32 pm

Under the Google's social market share I mean Google+. Latest figures were released just recently. G+ has even less share, than the "Other". It was last in the list. Obviously they can't use any social signals they own in anyway because it will be just statistically wrong. They want to, but they can't. That's why Panda works far from perfect - there are no enough signals to feed it. That's why Google is weak in general - it's doubtful they will be able to increase social market share. How to feed Panda? They need new bunch of signals. But I can't imagine what other signals could they use. Everything is very unstable.

Mark Higgins

08/21/2013 05:42 pm

Iam so sick of compelling content...yes...people will magically find it by the will be rainbows and unicorns.


08/21/2013 06:14 pm

"Matt Cutts did say at conference it is not used but did say that authorship is a good signal" Authorship ? What internet Matt Cutts is building ? Is it the internet of Google and those, who provide right signals to it ? When did last time Matt Cutts talk to the people outside industry ? Just small example. Many many years ago I decided, that I will build the website without the sign up process. You know, to make the visitor's life easier. I did it. No usual sign up on the website. Now, in 2013, when most of the people are familiar with the internet, I still get questions where is sign up ? In fact, there is even nothing to be signed for, but people WANT to sign up. They just can't understand how the reputable website can work without the sign up process. And Matt Cutts want them to use such things as Authorship ? People can't understand how is it possible to run website without sign up, but will use special tags to provide signals to Google ....... ???? From one hand Google wants the regular people to be involved in content creation. From the other hand Google wants regular people to have special, web related knowledge. This can't be done. Such signals as Authorship will lead just to elitism first and back to content farms later. Just elite content farms )


08/21/2013 06:26 pm

Seems to me that you are arguing in a circle. "Obviously they can't use any social signals they own in anyway because it will be just statistically wrong." By the nature of the case, if they're giving greater weight to their own stuff, that will be "statistically wrong." Doesn't mean it's not happening.

Michael Martinez

08/21/2013 06:46 pm

Works for me.


08/21/2013 07:28 pm

Well, obviously we see nature of the case differently )


08/21/2013 08:08 pm

No social signals? Welcome to the world of B2B. Ha.


08/21/2013 09:30 pm

Leave Cyrus out of this dude!


08/21/2013 09:46 pm

No-one uses google+ except bald headed middle aged men.


08/21/2013 11:04 pm

Absolutely a waste of time. Tried it myself and it did nothing. You'll have to leave up the change for months to see how it impacts or doesn't impact your ranking.


08/21/2013 11:39 pm

no it doesn't. What works for you is that your peers are tweeting and fb liking almost anything you dribble out. Some of you stuff is really good but then there is other stuff that is not "compelling" at all. Yet you still get the traffic because as I said your peers are tweeting and +1 and the rest.


08/21/2013 11:52 pm

Just realized what will be the perfect example of the fake Authorship )) 1. read other websites daily ; 2. scrap content from these websites ; 3. write it down in your own words ; 4. add funny picture, created by unknown designer ; 5. include Here it is - content by THE REPUTABLE AUTHOR is ready ! )) I have to admit, that Barry always provide links to the sources, but is he really the author of the content he summarizes ? According to Matt Cutts he is great author ) Why produce content now ? Just browse the web while you drink your morning coffee and summarize summarize summarize )

Barry Schwartz

08/21/2013 11:53 pm

Took the day off to be honest.


08/21/2013 11:54 pm

Who ? When ? Why ?

Barry Schwartz

08/21/2013 11:57 pm

I did. Today.


08/21/2013 11:59 pm

Hopefully you had a good time ) But I still can't agree with you on the rel=author you include )

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2013 12:00 am

You are right. I felt bad but I had no time. I wanted to make sure people knew about this.


08/22/2013 12:03 am

Does it mean, that you don't include it all the time ? My respect then.

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2013 12:08 am

No. It's automated.


08/22/2013 12:10 am

)) Then, probably, you have something to think about ) And Matt Cutts as well )

Barry Schwartz

08/22/2013 12:11 am

Yea. We all do.


08/22/2013 12:14 am

Thanks )

Webstats Art

08/22/2013 12:43 am

I stopped listening to Matt Cutts because his advice is hardly every useful. Matt's blog gets visitors because he is highly ranked in google for the search term "anal retentive"


08/22/2013 01:04 am

LOL - best advice I saw someone give recently is if Matt does a video about a method it is because they are worried about how affective that method is and you should try and implement it. Haven't tried this myself but thinking about it.


08/22/2013 08:53 am

What services do you sell? Theory based SEO consultation charging $300 per hour!!!


08/22/2013 08:54 am

Ok then leave +1. now it is a waste of time.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

08/22/2013 10:59 am

"Matt Cutts talk with forked tongue kimosabi." Google only looks for ways to punish websites that get free traffic - not vote up good ones. They are not the slightest bit interested in good content or user experience just using us mugs to help them compete with FaceBook.

Soni Sharma

08/22/2013 12:38 pm

Well it is good otherwise Spammers will start doing fake +1s.

Michael Martinez

08/22/2013 01:24 pm

Yes it does. You're in no position to determine what is working for me. Don't make the mistake of assuming I only operate 1 blog.

Michael Martinez

08/22/2013 01:24 pm

Sorry. This is not the venue to discuss my services.

Nick Ker

08/22/2013 02:36 pm

Hah - there's nothing wrong with Cyrus at all. It's the professional conclusion jumpers who will claim that he said something he did not that are a problem.

Nick Ker

08/22/2013 02:39 pm

And beards. I am not bald (yet), so I had to adopt a perma-stubble look to get my G+ following to grow.

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 04:56 pm

Exactly, then all sites with +1 will go down eventually same as innocent who were taken out by penguin. (Now I know many not so innocent sites were taken out by penguin)

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 04:57 pm

Yep that's what said over on the moz thread pass the Vaseline

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 04:58 pm

Its not if you have a good account just like facebook with lots of engaged followers they will read your content and its a different way to get traffic which is not from a search engine.

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 04:59 pm

Its a total crock and not in the slightest bit user friendly. If people like us are put off using it what about no so internet savvy Joe and Jane.

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 05:02 pm

Exactly the original author who is passionate about his subject and a great writer but hasn't a clue what authorship is will never be heard of in serps

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 05:03 pm

Thusands you mean billions, no Zillions

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 05:04 pm

Great trade going on at Fiverr already Nick

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 05:08 pm

Me too #1 for everything they sell they do no social whatsoever. Their market is mechanics they just produce great products instead of wasting time on Social Media.

Fionn Downhill

08/23/2013 05:14 pm

Have you noticed when somebody says my content site is doing great so social at all everybody ignores them. No story there no silver bullet just hard work. Oh well..

Gracious Store

08/23/2013 11:39 pm

Google +1s may not directly be sued for ranking, but indirectly it may be used. Since links are used for ranking, so many people who +1s a content may link to it, as such generating more links for that content and invariably to the site, which invariably leads to higher ranking for the site

Jaimie Sirovich

08/26/2013 03:55 pm

Even if this works on some level, would you expect Matt to admit it? It doesn't hurt to get your content +1'd anyway, so just do it.

Andy Drinkwater - iNET SEO

08/27/2013 09:18 am

This is a lively little discussion! I need to revisit with a coffee and cookie in a while.

Nick Ker

08/27/2013 03:36 pm

Who is "us"? I am not put off by G+ at all. I prefer it to the instant gratification, "Like this if you think killing puppies is bad", drive-by validation frenzy that is Facebook. G+ has some of that too, but in general tends to have a better quality of discussion and somewhat less of the shameless self-promotion. And virtually no fake profiles (at least none that last very long or get away with much). I'd use it even with no link value whatsoever.

Asif Ali

05/27/2014 05:29 pm

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