Google +1s Was A Ranking Factor? I Doubt It.

Sep 5, 2017 - 8:13 am 7 by

Google 1

I cannot believe I am writing this but Gizmodo published a story last week named Yes, Google Uses Its Power to Quash Ideas It Doesn’t Like—I Know Because It Happened to Me. The story was mostly about how Google uses their power to bully reporters, etc. The story has an update to it but I am not covering that part of it...

The part that stands out is the part around that Google said +1s impact search rankings. Here is that part:

The Google salespeople were encouraging Forbes to add Plus’s “+1" social buttons to articles on the site, alongside the Facebook Like button and the Reddit share button. They said it was important to do because the Plus recommendations would be a factor in search results—a crucial source of traffic to publishers.

This sounded like a news story to me. Google’s dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers. By tying search results to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network.

I asked the Google people if I understood correctly: If a publisher didn’t put a +1 button on the page, its search results would suffer? The answer was yes.

After the meeting, I approached Google’s public relations team as a reporter, told them I’d been in the meeting, and asked if I understood correctly. The press office confirmed it, though they preferred to say the Plus button “influences the ranking.” They didn’t deny what their sales people told me: If you don’t feature the +1 button, your stories will be harder to find with Google.

With that, I published a story headlined, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” that included bits of conversation from the meeting.

Let me take you back to this confusion, which is to be blamed directly on Google and their pushy marketing people around Google+. 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.

Matt Cutts then in August 2013 clarified +1s are not used for rankings and then later in the year Stone Temple Consulting did a study that confirmed what Matt Cutts said.

So what I think we have here are a bunch of pushy Googlers trying to push publishers to add the +1 buttons to their sites back then. There was a ton of confusion, likely done on purpose, by a group of Googlers, to push +1 buttons on large publisher web sites.

In terms of Googlers being bullies to reporters... I write negative things about Google all the time and I never felt bullied by Google for doing so. Of course, I heard from them from time to time when they were not happy but they never pressured me to update or change any of my stories.

Forum discussion at Black Hat World.


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