Specifically, they conclude that the second most correlative factor for search engine ranking is Google+ +1s (with Facebook shares not far behind).
Despite the hype around these studies, mathematically speaking, neither of them show strong correlation for any factor, but the fact that social sharing occurs so frequently around well-ranked content is notable.
In an ancillary post about the Moz study, Cyrus Shepard elaborates on a few elements where Google Plus is different to other platforms, most importantly that each share on Google Plus passes link equity to the shared page. He confirms this by illustrating with the “MozBar” tool that shared links on Google Plus are followed by Google, somewhat analogous to a blog post. “+1s” aren’t factored into search results according to Matt Cutts, however.
So there is evidence that Google Plus shares are helpful for SEO, but shares are tough to come by. When it comes to a “+1″ a “Like” or even a Tweet, people are oftentimes far more generous with these than a shared link on a social network.
How to encourage more sharing
Before we get into what type of content people are apt to share, let’s take a look at the mechanism you can use to conspicuously encourage people to share content to Google Plus. Everyone is probably familiar with the “+1″ button, but if we’re trying to utilize the link feature of the Google Plus share, +1 is irrelevant. Fortunately Google gives you a fantastic tool to do just that: the Share button (link to Share button creation site). Here’s an example:
And that’s really all there is to it. You can customize the button in many different ways, but the key is to get people to Share your content versus a less impactful +1 (which is not to say that I think that +1 social signals are insignificant).
Before we get into sharing, let me point out two cool things that happened last week. Google Plus implemented an embed button for G+ posts and Vocus released an infographic and white paper about Google Plus best practices:
Why people share
I’m going to divert here from Google Plus and talk generally about the content that people are most likely to share.
In the SEO studies cited above, Facebook shares showed some correlation to search results, even though Google can only read comments and external links from Facebook. In other words, these posts were shared on Facebook because they resonated with people and Google understood their relevance (without using Facebook) and they showed up high on the SERPs. Resonant, relevant content will be shared, but what does that mean?
Wharton professor Jonah Berger wrote the book about virality and why people share (incidentally it is called Contagious: Why Things Catch On). In it he discusses six content attributes that make them shareable:
1. Social currency – content that is of high interest and transfers some status because of the share. If you look at the content of Mashable or AllThingsD you see examples of editorial content that emphasizes this sort of insider knowledge. A good example last week would also be all of the articles on the new iPhone models.
2. Triggers – a real-world IFTTT. Berger gives the example of Honey Nut Cheerios getting a lot of buzz around breakfast time or Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” spiking in popularity on Fridays.
3. Emotional – high arousal emotional content often gets shared. A recent example of this would be the anniversary of 9/11/2001 or the chemical weapons and potential military strikes in Syria. One of the most popular posts that I’ve ever written talked about my cousin who was diagnosed with cancer that an HMO refused to appropriate treat. Content that makes people angry oftentimes is also arousing.
4. Public – things that we see other people doing. Justin Bieber growing his new mustache would be an example of this…. just kidding. But staying within the framework of facial hair, the small group of Australian men that started Movember in 1999 saw their small effort to raise cancer awareness grow to a worldwide effort all because of conspicuous visual cues.
6. Stories – Seth Godin often reinforces the power of storytelling to offer perspective and value propositions in a palatable way. One of Berger’s examples of this are commercials for Egyptian cheese company Panda Cheese. Here’s an example:
In the effort to sell cheese, the advertisers came up with a series of vignettes featuring a literal Panda Bear.
In summary, don’t sleep on Google Plus – particularly now that you understand how beneficial Google Plus shares can be to your product…. and never say no to Panda.