Yes he did. As you can surely imagine, this little announcement spurred a lot of discussion and left a lot of SEOs and small business owners wondering what it all means. What is the value of a +1? If not a +1, what social factors does Google take into consideration when ranking? Are people actually getting SERPs based on their connections, or was that a misunderstanding as well? It’s important to understand how search and social (particularly Google+) work together in order to create an online marketing strategy that really works. There are many differing opinions regarding this subject, so why not turn to the guy in charge: Matt Cutts.
How it Started: The Battle Between +1s and Ranking Positions
This particular controversy has Moz, one of the most authoritative and well-respected blogs in the industry, in one corner, with Google, the world’s number 1 search engine, in the other. The rest of us are of course in the middle of the fight, and with such big players things are bound to get messy. The story goes something like this:
Moz published a blog post that stated that there was a direct correlation between these two factors. This article never mentioned that any of this might not be true, and because Moz is such an influential website, people believed it. The article even used findings from their 2013 Ranking Factors study claiming that now, in 2013; we have reason to believe that +1s do affect rankings.
There were of course skeptics in the comments, but many took this seriously, which spurred the debate and brought head of Google Webspam Matt Cutts into the picture.
What Matt Cutts Says about +1s and Google Rankings
Cutts started his argument by bringing us back to the SMX Advanced search conference in 2011 and discussing the false ideas that Moz (then SEOMoz) made about Google using Facebook data for rankings. Now dealing with a very similar situation, Cutts explained that he wanted to “preemptively tackle [this] perception.” The end argument for Cutts was this:
“If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking. Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spend making great content.”
So how did Moz respond? Like any good blog should, they corrected themselves and gave readers all of the information possible. They linked back to Matt Cutts and ended the post with a one-sentence blurb about what is true in the article and what should be taken away:
The point is not to go out and accumulate a bunch of +1s. The is, and the evidence seems to suggest, that earning a link on Google+ is like earning any other type of editorial link, and these links have actual value with real benefits.
In the end, what is interesting about this whole debate is the idea that you never quite know who to believe. For now, the smart thing for businesses to do would be to listen to Matt Cutts and focus on creating quality content. We know this to be true. Still, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the coming years.