Controversy over the impact of Google Plus buttons on search engine page rank is the latest news story associated with Google’s recently introduced social network. Will it benefit large websites to the detriment of small or specialty sites, particularly blogs? Since Google page rank is part of the mysterious world of search engine optimization, speculation is plentiful.
I found this attractive rendering of a Google Plus button on the Flickr page of a Second Life resident.
The image was used as the illustration for a mysteriously de-listed Forbes article* about the effect of Google+ buttons on website page rank. The article URL was supposedly removed from Google search results. Based on the error returned when I checked just now, I think it is more likely that it was deleted by Forbes. Whether accidental or by intent wasn’t obvious to me.
Yet it is not easy for anyone, not even Google, to erase digital footprints. Alternative search engine Blekko has the article in cache. Publication date was 18 August 2011 (Forbes Online). I will amend this post with a cleaner URL for the web cached result from Blekko. The article didn’t seem objectionable to me, upon first glance. But I am not an SEO expert.
* Thanks and attribution given to a Google+ user discussion of 31 August 2011.
Here is the Blekko web cached URL: http://blekko-webcache.com/cache/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fkashmirhill%2F2011%2F08%2F18%2Fstick-google-plus-buttons-on-your-pages-or-your-search-traffic-dies%2F
The author is Forbes staff writer Ms. Kashmir Hill. The article is time stamped 11:21 AM on August 18, 2011, Technology section. The title is Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Dies. The content of the article is not as dire as the title. These are the salient points, and possibly cause for concern by any website involved in e-commerce, publisher or otherwise:
Though recommendations from contacts in your Google circles will be weighted more heavily, the number of “+1″s overall will now be a factor in search whether you’re part of Plus or not…. The Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’ was the answer.
This was not surprising, but still unsavory:
Some traffic scammers are already onto this. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic reports that SEO shops are already offering bushels of +1 votes for $9.99 a pop.
Ms. Hill then suggested that the Google+ buttons will benefit users of online services and those active in social media:
There are going to be lots of benefits to this… I just gave a hotel I liked in TownN a +1. Should I miss a Facebook status update from a friend going to TownN in the future asking for recommendations, this is a built-in back-up, so that this hotel will rise up in the search results should they Google “TownN hotels.” That’s pretty cool… And I can do that even though TownN doesn’t have a +1 on its page, since these buttons are also available from the main Google search page.
Additional web analytics information will be available to sites that include the Google+ button. But similarly, sites that choose not to place the +1 button on their pages will likely fare worse in search results than competitors who have included the button.
Is this a problem?
Facebook “Like” buttons have a similar impact, though not through Google search engine results directly.
What is the downside?
The Google Plus button is free to use, just like other social media services. There will be some work for the web maintenance staff, decisions about optimal placement. Page load speed? Uncertain. Yet it would be very unwise for Google to penalize sites in search results due to incremental delay from using one its own products! Overall, Google+ does not seem to be a cause for concern– merely the addition of another social media button to the already ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter icons.