Home / BlogDirect Impact of Google Plus Shares on SEO
February 17, 2014

Google Plus impact

A study had been conducted by a team of researchers to find out a direct impact of Google Plus on Page Search ranking. It focused more on finding causative effect, rather than correlation, between Google+ shares and Google search result pages, in terms of discovery, ranking of content, and indexing. In other words, the study aims at determining whether Google+ shares cause changes in search result ranking. The result of the study is pretty shocking, since it did not find that the Google Plus Share could lead to ranking changes in Google search results. However, the study itself was not free from limitations. The following are more details about the study.

Design of the Study

The study made use of three different websites as purposive samples. All of the sample websites have been in operation for two years or more. They are:

  • BuyVia
  • Stone Temple Consulting, and
  • Travel New England.

The basic premise of the study is that Google+ share is a direct ranking factor. Therefore, the number of shares is hypothesized to have direct impact on the rankings. The researchers wrote two different but relevant articles for each of the sites. The first article was used for Test Page while the other was used for Baseline Page, without any external links.

Test Pages

The Test Pages were given 6 initial Google+ Shares and the Baseline Pages on August 4th, 2013. During the study period, the researchers gave additional links in two different phases. The first took place on August 14th, 2013, involving 25 shares or more. The second phase involved 4 more shares between August 28th and September 1st, 2013. Then, the researchers monitored ranking behavior by using a number of different keywords.

Baseline Pages, or Control Pages

The Baseline Pages received 40 shares or more at the initial phase of the study and did not receive additional shares during the study period. The researchers simply monitored the indexing and ranking movement patterns.

Courses of the study

The study was conducted using some steps. The researchers eliminated accesses to the webpage by human beings or third party tools, before the page was discovered by Google. They also prevented the Test Pages from receiving external links during the study period. Then, the researchers hired some participants to help with the study. The participants helped much in controlling the Test Pages’ behavior. The following are detailed step the researchers took during the course of study:

  • Picking 3 different sites for the study
  • Publishing two relevant articles for each site with zero external links but with some internal links in the website
  • Eliminating the use of Google programs, such as Google Analytics
  • Keeping the Test Pages and Baseline Pages from anyone else’s recognition; only the research knew the page URLs
  • Sending additional shares to the Test Pages, on August 14th 2013 and between August 28th and September 1st, 2013
  • Working to eliminate or at least to minimize third-party visits to the pages, and monitoring all pages to make sure that no links were given to the web pages by using Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO.

These steps were taken to make sure that Google+ shares were the only element that leads to content discovery, rankings changes, and indexing of the Test Pages.

Possible Limitations of the Study

There are three possible limitations of the study. They might originate from Missing Links, Ranking Churn, and other environmental factors.

  • Missing links, there were some possibilities that the pages did have some links, which were not displayed in the monitoring equipment used by the researchers. However, it is not a significant problem since the Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO could only identify about 50% of the total links, and the number might be smaller.
  • Another more significant risk is vulnerability of the study to ranking movements and adjustments, which might not be identified on the Baseline Pages.
  • There are many other factors to influence Google’s search ranking. There may be hundreds of them. Therefore, results of the study might be affected by various problems even though the researchers had worked hard to prevent third parties from accessing the contents.

Results of the Study


The researchers wrote two articles about online shopping experience for Test Page and Baseline Page in this website. Test page was given 6 shares as the baseline value. It was found that the search ranking of the Test Page got worse within 20 days after the study was initiated. However, it suddenly improved after the first-phase share addition on August 14th, 2013. Since the first addition, the search result ranking remained steady even after the second-phase share addition. In other words, no significant changes were found in the search result of the Test Page. So, what happened with the Baseline Page? The study found that the Baseline Page did not show any meaningful movement on August 24th, 2013. However, a movement was found after August 31st, 2013.

Stone Temple Consulting

The baseline condition of the website page was similar to that of BuyVia. A Test Page and a Baseline Page were used without any external links and with 6 baseline Google+ shares on August 4th, 2013. Addition of the shares to the Test Page was also conducted similarly. On this site, a decline was found within 24 days after initiation of the study; then, it began to jump up and remained relatively steady after August 28th, with no significant impacts after the last addition of 4 more shares. On the other hand, ranking movement was seen after August 28th, 2013 and began to move in the opposite direction. The ranking dropped significantly, particularly since September 4th, 2013.

Travel New England

The study found slightly different results on this website. No significant movement was seen on Test Page during the course of study. On the other hand, the Baseline Page showed more movements after August 31 than Test Page did.

Analysis of the Study Results

As mentioned above, the study tested three different variables of impacts, namely, Indexing, Discovery, and Ranking.


The basic premise of the study is that Google+ encouraged discovery of the website contents. The log file on one of the websites showed relevant events in relation to Google+ sharing events. In addition, there was evidence of GoogleBot’s visit to the site after each share; no other accesses were evident, and no other visits to the site were detected since the initial shares to GoogleBot’s visit. Furthermore, Google Developers page reported that Publishers provided Google with permission to use an automatic software program, which is called web crawler. Even though the page did not explicitly state that Google Developers had the right to index it, it stated that they had the right to do so.


After the initial shares of the six articles (three for Test Pages and another three for Baseline Pages), the researchers first noticed that the pages were indexed through daily manual checking tool. After noticing that the pages were indexed, the researchers conducted re-check to make sure that no links had been received by the pages; and they did not find any. Even though it does not necessarily mean that the pages did not receive any links, the fact is that the tools used by the researchers, Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO, did not notice any of them (as the tools could only detect 30% to 50% of the total links available).

One of interesting findings in terms of indexing is the fact that it took ten days from the initial shares (July 19th, 2013) to initial indexing (July 29th, 2013). This shows that discovery of the page by Google was not immediately translated into indexing. The researchers first assumed that indexing was a real-time process when a page was discovered. It seems that the delay was due to crawling behavior. This finding brought the researchers to a conclusion that no other signals would have made the posts to be indexed.


Once the researchers noticed that a page was indexed, they were immediately able to identify search queries for the page rank. Nonetheless, it does not mean that the share drove ranking. Overall, the researchers had not convincing data that Goggle+ shares gave positive impact on ranking. However, the most important thing to note about the data is that two of the sites initially showed a negative direction movement of the rank. Then, the rankings began to hike up after a long delay, while the Baseline Pages tended to move on different days. They even did not notice any significant movement on one of the pages.


Based on these findings, the researchers come to the following conclusions:

  • Google Plus shares drive discovery of the pages by Google
  • Google Plus shares probably drive indexing, despite some possible errors in relation to unrecognized links and visits by third parties
  • The research did not find any significant evidence that Google+ Share drove ranking movements on the Test Pages.

It is an interesting finding that Google+ shares do not show Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) behavior. Indexing was seen 10 days after initial shares, and this is not a significant finding. This implicitly shows that the pages required bigger burst of activities to drive GDF behavior. They might include links from external sources.

As explained above, the test was designed to minimize the risk of distracting signals and third party visits, even though there are still some possible undetected links by the tools used by the researchers. Even though they could prevent comments or re-shares to drive indexing, common web links are not dependent upon comments and re-shares. This might influence validity of the findings. Finally, the researchers admitted that many people may not agree with the conclusion and they challenge everyone who has different data.

to see more about the result, please visit: http://www.stonetemple.com/measuring-google-plus-impact-on-search-rankings/

Andrew Teh

In Bueno, Andrew works as Chief Marketing & Service Performance officer. He focused around client services and education, service quality assurance, marketing, business development and business operation. Andrew oversees the growth of Bueno and drives the strategy development of global pitches. His industry experience span 10 years and includes software and website development, business development, business management, service quality assurance, training and support.

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