Social signals such as +1s, Facebook shares, and tweets were a better predictor of a Web page’s search rank than other technical and content factors, according to a new Search Metrics study.
In fact, seven out of the top eight factors correlated with higher search rank were social signals. Among these, the number of +1s on Google+ was the single element most highly correlated with better rank.
That may indicate that Google has given unprecedented hierarchy to Google+ activity in its search algorithm. Search Metrics is careful to note that “correlation does not indicate causality,” and that no outsider can know how the search algorithm is really organised. Still, content marketers should take note.
Web pages associated with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter actions also performed well. After social signals, the number of backlinks — other pages linking into that page — had the highest correlation with better search rank.
Interestingly, Search Metrics didn’t even factor-in +1s in a similar study last year (Search Metrics said there was insufficient data). Now it’s the most significant factor.
It’s worth noting in connection with Google+ signals that user activity on the network is skyrocketing in absolute terms: A separate Search Metrics study found that the number of +1s has grown over 750% since January 2012. This growth is driven largely by new Android smartphone users.
All of these findings further solidify the notion that Google is holding a very strong set of cards when it comes to social media. Many individuals, businesses, and brands will flock to Google+ if they feel that it will improve their overall visibility on the Web.
The Search Metrics study considered 44 factors when analysing search results for 10,000 keywords. The researchers then compared website characteristics with Google U.S. rankings to arrive at a coefficient that indicated how correlated with high rank each factor was. The chart below shows the top 26 factors.
(Click on chart to enlarge.)
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