Just like you, I get sucked into this mess. Bewitched by the idea somebody’s cracked the ranking code — looked beneath the search engine hood (and survived).
The most recent carnival show was Cyrus Shephard’s claim that plus ones cause higher rankings. A claim like that is going to get attention.
And attention it got.
Matt Cutts, head of Google+ Web Spam, said, politely, you are wrong.
I’m sure Matt is wary of doing such correction. There is no shortage of prognosticators who believe they’ve cracked the code.
Complexity and Content Creation
Earlier this year Lyndon NA tried to simplify Google+ posts and how they passed Page Rank (which I think was a spin-off of a Joshua Berg experiment).
I crawled through Lyndon’s work, found it interesting, then thought, “Whoa, this is worse than the rabbinical laws on what you can and cannot do on the Sabbath.”
And as in the case of the Sabbath laws, only the specialists understood the complexity. The rest of us were left to wonder if we might miss out if we don’t bone up on this rank impact plus one business.
Instead of rules, though, we (content creators) need principles. And the principle has been there — in plain sight — all along: create quality content.
Will Your Study Change My Behavior?
This is not to dismiss the nuances in SEO.
For example, there is a right and wrong way to share links on Google+ … claiming your content through authorship markup is beneficial … and “a canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content.”
I get that. All tips in plain sight.
But there comes a time when every study has to answer this question: how will your findings change my behavior?
In the case of Shepherd, it won’t change an iota if you are — and have been — committed to creating quality content. Shepherd knows this because the advice he offers after he presents the study is old news.
The bottom line remains: you could completely ignore Shepherd’s and Berg’s research, write darn good content, and still make massive waves on the social web.
We already know this: social signals influence rankings. How much, tough to say.
But you don’t need to know how much. You just need to know how to get attention. And it starts with great content.