Do Google Plus Business Pages Affect SEO?

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Put your data where your mouth is

The SEO community has been quick to proclaim that Google+ Business Pages will be good for a company website’s SEO:

Use Google Plus for your business website and you will be guaranteed to see an increase in your SEO rankings.

-Zachary Williamson

Google will obviously monitor activity and relevant keywords on a Google Plus brand page.  This can only help to improve a business’ Search Engine Optimization.

60 Second Marketer

It’s too early to tell exactly how this will affect rankings, but it’s safe to assume it will.

Chad Pollitt

Is it safe to assume it will?
Because let’s be honest – unless you have the data to back it up, this claim is groundless – and nobody that I’ve read on the subject seems to have the data to back up this claim… YET.

Put our data where your mouth is

We at Metzger Associates are going to give you the data you need to speak intelligently about Google+ business pages and SEO. Starting today, we’re running a little test that should, if all goes well, help us to answer this question.

Here’s our hypothesis*:

Creating a keyword-optimized Google+ business page increases the SERP ranking of that company’s website.

We are running a simple pre-post experimental design with a stable domain that has not been changed for over a year. The domain’s keyword ranking is about as stable as it gets.

We have measured this domain’s ranking prior to introducing the following experimental variable: presence of a keyword-optimized Google+ business page.

So starting today, we will let the data accrue, and hopefully by next Friday, we’ll have enough data to give you at least a preliminary answer. But if we don’t have an idea by next Friday, we’ll publish updates every Friday until we can say that we do or do not see a result, so keep checking back!

Do you have a prediction? Or an idea? Join the conversation below!

Updates (latest at top):

Update, Friday Dec. 23

As Neil observed below, we’re going to have to let this experiment run for a couple of months before we’ll have enough data to support statistical significance. We’ll analyze the data the first week in February and update you then.

Update, Friday Dec. 2

A line graph of search engine ranking position by keyword, November 2011

SERP by keyword, October-November 2011

To whet your appetite, it’s time to give you a chart, with some possibly very interesting preliminary conclusions.

The experimental condition was introduced on November 14, and at this point, in a purely descriptive (read, not statistical) sense, it is beginning to look like there is either no effect or even in inverse effect (meaning that a Google+ page might actually hurt your main domain’s SERP ranking!). These data are still preliminary, and more time is needed before we can say, in a statistically sound way, that the condition introduced does or does not have an effect and what that effect might be.

Stay tuned, more updates to come.

Update, Tuesday Nov. 29

(Still) too early to tell. Cross your fingers for this Friday!

Update, Friday Nov. 18

Stay tuned! It’s still too early to tell if there’s an effect or not. We’ll update you again next Friday.

* Any good analysis starts with good definitions. For this study, we are very clearly separating the effect of so-called “social search” from “traditional search.” I notice the two being conflated a lot in the literature, and I believe that for the sake of precision, and in the service of a deeper, more accurate understanding of what does and does not work, this is a very important distinction to make.This means that, for the purpose of this study, we will control for the possible effect of social discovery (read +1s) on mean SERP position. Therefore, the independent variable we are testing is “presence of a keyword-optimized Google+ business page.” And we are controlling for “social discovery” by using a Google+ business page with 0 followers. The dependent variable we are measuring is “mean SERP position for the main website for the search terms optimized on the Google+ business page.”To test the effect of social surfacing, we will conduct a followup study that will test the effect of Google +1s on SERP position.

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