I’ve gotten the privilege to play in the new, shiny, nifty GooglePlus for a few days now. I’ve been circled, shared, +1ed and darn near everything else, less huddled with. I, too, have circled and +1ed in return, as is only to be expected, given that those of us hanging out together were indeed a part of a small and geeky community and we obviously knew each other from other social interactions. For those who jumped in to engage and explore, the days were well spent making accidental new friends, sharing stories, photos, cartoons or anything else shareable, and just learning the ropes.
There is a pretty cool aura about the thing so far, where people share generously, there is no pitching of products and services and no spam yet that I’ve encountered. So all in all – and a few minor tech glitches aside, it seems like a great product. That said, I wonder what happens months from now with all the data that we freely shared, how all those +1s get calculated into the bigger picture and to what extent our popularity or lack thereof on a social network owned by the search engine will affect our rankings for various things.
In my mulling over all these things, I happened to run across a few posts on AR and elsewhere stating as fact that +1s are the new backlinks/keywords/magic bullets of SERPS success. There are groups being formed in a hurry with the sole purpose of reciprocal +1-ing, and all sorts of advice dished out on how to essentially use this tool to beat Google. The sad thing to me, or rather what I perceive as an irresponsible thing is that much of this activity is promoted or indeed started by SEO and web consultants. Sadder still that some of this advice has been featured on AR’s dashboard for one, and I am sure is getting traction in all the other places folks hang in.
I would not be surprised to find a few bran new e-books and webinars on the loopholes in Google and how to take advantage of Google+. Here are my unsolicited and brief thoughts on the subject of +1 exchanges and such. I think that the folks at Google are pretty darn smart, or at the very least brain cell for brain cell, a heck of a lot smarter than the people providing SEO coaching/advice in these forums, and certainly a heck of a lot smarter when it comes to their own search engine than anyone who sells real estate or most other things for a living.
I think that when the +1 thingy was first conceived of, the Google nerds envisioned every possible way in which that button would be abused in an attempt to score better. I also think that should the +1s affect page rank, and I think they might to an extent, it will take a few months for new algo to come out, as all the new data gets compiled and added to the equation. If I were Google, I would use the data as follows: Folks who are closest to me in my social circles +1’ing things I write would net me little or negative results vs people who are not connected to me in any way. If I were Google, I would put much more weight on a +1 from someone who had no anterior (friendly) motive for the recommendation. After all – there is already Facebook for those indiscriminate thoughtless likes on most days and there would have been little reason for Google to imitate all that’s wrong with Facebook, in my humble opinion. My socially connected friends might see my stuff first, but their results would just be theirs, and not at all reflect how the rest of the universe sees my sites. At least that, to me, is how it should be.
I also think that at the end of the day those who routinely +1 each other’s stuff will find themselves in the same place as those who use link-farms. It may take a while for the algos to catch up and some might not get penalized at all… Or none of this may happen and those engaging in reciprocal +1’ing may actually gain in the SERPS. But I can’t help but think that there are easier ways to make a living than by hunting for a loophole.
I can’t help but think if 10% of the energy devoted to looking for tricks to beat one thing or another was devoted to simply providing your site visitors with useful information, you’d all score better not just with Google and Bing et. al. – but with people who click on your site in the first place. There is a new shiny object born every minute, and with each new thing, there are consultants willing to teach you how to manipulate that new thing. Wouldn’t it be easier and much more rewarding to just do good work, provide the service and information to your customers and visitors that you’d want, were you in their shoes, and worry about things that truly matter – if you must worry about anything at all?
Because chasing a loophole in Google isn’t going to get you anywhere. They will always be smarter than you, and they will always frown upon the seekers of easy fixes and magic bullets. Because at the end of the day, Google wants to provide most relevant results to their customers, and anything that would infringe on that will be justifiably weeded out. So to my real friends – don’t +1 me, unless something I wrote truly touches you and merits a share in your mind. For everything else, there are phones and emails and greeting cards, and I’ll take those any day over an obligatory click of a virtual button.
Originally published on Google+ and my Blog at hamedia group.