Don’t Bet Your Rankings On Purchased +1’s

by Jesse Langley · 27 comments

This is a guest post by Jesse Langley from TechNected.com.

There’s a corollary to the famous P.T. Barnum quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and it is: “and when they grow up they buy +1 button votes.”

The phrase itself might not stick, but bloggers who see shiny gold in any of the numerous ads by companies selling such things should stop and say, out loud, one mind-clearing word: Panda!

What are the odds that the search-engine force that introduced that most recent of updates to its own algorithm won’t be able to detect – and downgrade – sites using such black hat gaming schemes?

Google +1

No Surprises

When Google Plus and its attendant Plus 1 button were introduced nearly three months ago, masters of the obvious saw the potential for Google’s equivalent of a Like button to become a factor in search rankings.

Its own advice for webmasters certainly suggests that to be the case. The jury is still out on whether or not other social media signals, such as Tweets and Likes will be given reduced weight compared to Google’s own signal, but the question of using such information in general to affect page ranking is largely answered.

Considering Google’s enlightened self-interest, speculation about the actual necessity for blogs to include a +1 button, is likely overblown, if not irrational.

Google benefits most from producing reliable search results. To skew a user’s search experience by favoring their own social media signal over any other would work against the search engine company’s own goals. Following this line of thought, purchasing +1 hits not only doesn’t make much sense, it seems highly likely to be counterproductive.

In The Shadow Of The Panda

To paraphrase Google, a better user experience comes from high quality sites appearing above the fold in response to a reasonably intelligent search query.

Prior to the spring of this year, however, link farms, duplicated text and automated sentences chocked-full-of-keywords were frustrating both Google and its users.

Almost overnight, though, the advent of Panda downgraded, and in many cases, removed from search results, many hundreds of thousands, (at least), of poor quality links. What odds would put on the idea that those who paid out good money for link farms no longer appearing in searches, got a refund?

Content Is (insert superlative)

Panda and the ongoing variations of Google’s update represent a strong commitment to reliable content that is unique and relevant to the users.

For those focused on +1’s, retweets and Likes having some unintended effect that, by the sounds of some blogs, would directly undermine the last five months of improvement, why?Why would that make any sense?

Google considers a number of factors that indicate quality content in order to generate a comprehensive look at site quality, and therefore, site ranking. Bounce rate is one strong indicator as to whether or not a site accurately reflected the user’s intent in a search. It’s realistic to assume that a high bounce rate is a sign that the content on a search result site is, for any number of reasons, not what the searcher is seeking.

Average time on site is another factor considered, and one that presents strong evidence against the wisdom of buying Plus One votes. With so many analytics measured, compared and factored into determining content quality, +1’s, no matter how many, that don’t correspond to other analytics would, reason argues, stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, providing Google with an irresistible opportunity to downgrade or remove entirely those sites that chose a bush league SEO scheme over providing strong content.

Place Your Bets

Google’s two monumental developments, so far, in 2011, have been the introduction of its Panda upgrade and Google+.

The measure of social appeal that is the Plus 1 button incorporates itself flawlessly with the search engine company’s two major commitments.

As Google+ continues to grow in popularity, especially now that school openings have fostered initial visits by college students, and the platform itself has evolved from its beta status, +1 buttons will begin to be as common as other social networking user responses on more and more websites.

If you’re thinking about tossing some cash toward some broker selling votes, don’t approach such propositions from the perspective of how cheap the votes are, ask yourself if you could afford to lose a helluva lot more traffic through downgrade or worse?

This post is a part of SmartBloggerz’s guest blogging contest where you can win cash prizes for earning the most points. Help this guest author win this contest by commenting and sharing this post using the buttons below.

About Jesse Langley

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago with his family. He writes about technology, blogging, and the job search on behalf of Colorado Technical University. He also writes for TechNected.

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