Posted by dohertyjf

Google announced the +1 button in March much to the enthusiasm and confusion of webmasters and SEOs the world over. "What’s the point?", people asked. "Why should I +1 a site? Should I implement it on my site?"

It seems the answer now is clear, with the launch of the Google+ "social experiment" last week that has kept me from getting work done as Google continues innovating and brilliantly drawing me back to Plus everytime that little notification indicator turns red.

I’m not here to talk about that though, because we’ve put together a bit of data for you today about +1 integration and social sharing statistics. This post originally was conceived by Tom Critchlow and I before Google+ was launched, so it has gone through some iterations.

We wanted to get outside of our typical SEO circles though and see how the general public is adopting the button. To keep things interesting, I also gathered some well-trafficked SEO sites and their social numbers. What I have done is gathered the Technorati Top 100 sites and their RSS feeds. Then I pulled their 20 most recent blog posts (both before and after Plus was announced) and grabbed their +1, Twitter, and Facebook share data thanks to an awesome script by Tom Anthony.

The data got interesting pretty quick. Here are our findings.

Technorati Top 100 Stats

Since we were interested to find the rate of +1 adoption by the Technorati Top 100, we pulled the numbers before Google+ was launched and after. I removed the Gawker sites since their RSS feed is all-encompassing and skewed the numbers terribly. Here are the numbers for the other 95 Technorati sites:

Technorati Top 100 +1 Stats

The numbers changed thus: Pre Google+, only 22 had implemented the +1 button. After the launch of Google+, that number increased to 25. 22 of the sites had +1s, but 8 of those sites did not have the +1 button implemented! These were predominately technology sites, which is no surprise, but also two LA Times blogs (The Opinionator and L.A. NOW) as well as entertainment site TMZ. Takeaway: If you own or have a client who owns a technology, opinion, or entertainment site, you should implement the +1 button.

Average +1s per article, Pre and Post Plus Launch

Average +1s Per Article

As you can see, the average number of +1s per article for the Top 100 almost doubled. The number of +1s per SEO article also increased by about 30%. It is not surprising that SEO sites have more +1s than the Technorati Top 100 on average, but the increase is especially interesting given the next two charts.

Average Facebook Shares per Article and Ratio of Plus to FB Shares

Here are the average shares from the Technorati sites as well as SEO sites:

We must note that the Facebook share numbers went down for the Technorati sites, but increased for the SEO sites. One possible explanation for the SEO sites is that SEOs were sharing Google+ news on Facebook, but this is simply a hunch and not proven. Here is the most interesting statistic I found, the ratio of +1s to Facebook shares on the Technorati sites:

The number was cut almost in half. Perhaps we could guess preliminarily that the launch of Google+ has adversely affected the amount of information shared on Facebook? With the rise of the number of +1s and the decrease in Facebook shares, as shown by the last graph, I think this could be a safe assumption, at least with this limited data set. This graph might also support this hypothesis:

This graph shows that before Google+ was launched, there were 2 Facebook shares for every tweet given to articles on the Technorati Top 100. Post Google+ the ratio is almost even, with tweets being more prevalent than Facebook shares!

What do we do with this data now?

There are certainly some takeaways from the data presented. There are certain niches where it makes sense for us as SEOs to encourage our clients to implement certain sharing features. On other sites, especially in dodgier or more regulated industries, social share buttons do not make as much sense. One of the most interesting bits of information that came out of the data was the number of sites that have +1s, but do not have the button implemented on their site.

  • 10 Technorati sites without the button have +1s; and
  • all of the SEO sites I looked at have +1s, even though only 2/3 have implemented the button.

Based off these discoveries, I’d recommend that if you have an SEO site, it should have a +1 button. Even if +1s do not count for rankings at this point, they are displayed in the SERPs and therefore probably help with click-through rates. If +1s are used for rankings in the future, which I am not convinced of but still remains a possibility, then you will be one step ahead of the curve. Also, if you or a client has a site in one of these niches, you should probably have a +1 button on your site:

  • Technology
  • Opinion (Political or other)
  • Celebrity gossip

This discovery is also interesting because it means that people +1d these from the SERPs, which is something we all wondered how we would do, and more importantly if people would do it. It appears that people do. I think this discovery reinforces that we as webmasters/SEOs (we are often both, after all) need to find ways to track social engagement around our sites. If we see engagement, we need to encourage it. Google has recently helped us accomplish this goal by adding +1 tracking to Analytics.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and you can Follow @dohertyjf if you want.

Happy Optimizing!

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