How the Google Plus One Count is Calculated February 2014


Today we’re covering how the Google plus one count is calculated on our content. This is the number you’ll see if you any of the Google+ social buttons or widgets installed on your site. On this post you’re reading now you’ll see the number we’re talking about up there above the site navigation over on the right.

The number can almost look made up, and at first it really does appear as though Google is sort of arbitrarily assigning the number. However on a little closer look we can see that it’s not arbitrary at all, but (as with most things Google) it’s very intentional and closely controlled.

During this quick tip video I noticed that the plus one count on the page I’m using as an example had two different plus one numbers. Given that this was a recorded video I moved along, but subsequently I did a little more digging to discover the cause. It’s actually quite simple in this case. There’s a feature where you can plus one a website page directly, and in this case that’s what I had done.

How the Google+ Number Works and Why it Matters

What Google does is takes information from a variety of sources to come up with a final number. Some of these sources include:

  • Direct Plus Ones of website content
  • Plus Ones of posts with the link (either embedded or pasted into content)
  • Shares of G+ posts with content link included
  • At least the first comment on G+ posts with content link
  • At least the first plus one of that first comment

Basically Google is giving us as much credit as possible when attributing a plus one count to our content. Why does this matter to us? Well for a couple reasons. Firstly people have a psychological bias towards content that has already been approved of by other people, and this bias increases the more we see others have already approved. Meaning that these numbers have a way of gaining momentum the more people see them increase. As in a kind of snowball effect.

We also know that Google uses social signals as a ranking factor for content, but we don’t know exactly how these plus ones factor into that ranking. What we do know is that plus one counts correlate highly with higher ranking. Meaning that the content that’s ranking the best tends to have more plus ones than content that isn’t ranking as well. Does this mean the plus ones are driving ranking? Probably not. Does this mean that the activity that attracts plus ones is the same kind of activity that is driving higher ranking? Probably so!

Techniques to Drive Plus Ones

Taking all of the above factors into consideration it becomes clear that we want to engage in the kind of activity that brings more plus ones. One technique to do this is to share a great photo in your G+ post, and paste a link to your content in the body text of that post. This way all the activity that the photo drives, and study after study proves that photos drive engagement, will be attributed to your content.

Another technique to drive more plus ones is to produce the kind of posts and content that people find valuable, thoughtful, helpful, genuine and that has good G+ etiquette. This is the kind of content people tend to plus one, comment on and share with their friends. So provide the kind of value people can’t ignore.

It’s important to note here that you shouldn’t always be chasing those plus ones, and that it’s important for you to embed some of your links in Google+ posts. When you embed a link in a post it then passes a kind of PageRank (PR) link juice, which is important for building authority and influence.

The Key is Unique

One of the first people on Google+ to research this topic was Dustin Stout, he’s definitely worth a follow, and he has actually given us a great update to point out. That is Goolge never counts the same action twice so it’s important to note that this number is based on unique actions taken.

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