How the Google +1 Button Affects your Search Results

Rory Martin Owner, Seattle Web Design, Development, and Social Media Marketing

Posted on September 17th 2012

How the Google +1 Button Affects your Search Results

Google +1 button  In the course of our ever-evolving research on Social Media trends (Do you not do this?  You should.) we discovered a great whitepaper on the effects of the Google +1 button and how it affects impressions, traffic, and overall search rankings, when placed on a website.  SEO Effect Tools did an experiment, with "over 70 readers of SEO Effect voting ‘+1’ for three pages in the Google search results."  From the results of the whitepaper, SEO Effect’s opinion is that adding the Google +1 button to a website offers much more benefit than adding a Facebook Like button to a website. And it's incredibly easy to do.

The Google +1 Button

Google has included a few interesting perks for +1 users - for starters, when someone clicks on the +1 button, the social influence of the link increases, improving the link's chance of relevancy in search results.  Not only that, but the click throughs increase because, as SEO Effect Tools writes, "social recommendations from a circle of friends are often even more convincing than expert reviews." Because the +1 vote from a user in a social circle offers annotations (unlike the Facebook "Like" button) the link "sticks out" in search results, leading to an increase in traffic. 

Another welcome result of having the +1 button on a website is that when the button is clicked, Google bot is notified, and automatically re-crawls and indexes the page in question.  If there were any doubt about adding the +1 button to your website, this result is an affirmation that the Google +1 button is useful.

SEO Effect's Experiment

First off, SEO Effect found that participation was restricted to users who were logged in to Google Services, and the results were based on the browser.  The effect from the SEO Effect +1 experiment on the impressions and click through rates from search results to the site was short lived. However, it is a significant ranking signal in Google Search Results. 

SEO Effect noticed that having +1 votes for content seemed to raise the content’s traffic share.  Though the page that was promoted via the +1 button did not receive more impressions, the average position for certain keywords rose by about 24%.  The pages with those keywords received more clicks, and overall, the average search position of the page rose by about 20%.  This could be due to the fact that even if you’re not signed into a Google Account, the results may display the number of +1’s a link has, giving that link validation of authority.  Of course too fast, or too large increases in +1’s activate a damping algorithm – Google’s method of combating “fraudulent” +1 clicks. 

Is it a Worthwhile SEO Tactic? 

Aaron Wall of says,

“For most people I see it as a waste of time & an added jump to hoop through. User adoption has been abysmal, but you can count on Google tilting their relevancy algorithm (and announcing intention to it) to drive adoption, just like they did with the Google Checkout buttons on AdWords ads.”

It’s still a social signal, however, and since offpage SEO is incredibly difficult with the Panda update limiting many linking practice, social signals have gained a new importance.  +1’s, Facebook likes, and Tweets of your content hold a lot of weight in offpage SEO.  Combined with good onpage SEO tactics, these social signals give your brand trust and authority in an increasingly populated world wide web.  And since so many people use Google Accounts, social search has a lot more impact than it would seem at first. 

The team recommends adding a +1 button to your site.  The code isn’t hard to implement and the offpage SEO benefits outweigh the relatively small task of adding code to your website.




Rory Martin

Owner, Seattle Web Design, Development, and Social Media Marketing is an innovative web marketing and design firm in Seattle, WA, that brings companies and their customers closer together. A team of independent thinkers, our diverse backgrounds provide a blend of creativity and technological expertise that translates into immediate and lasting business impact for our customers and their clients on the Social Web. We offer a comprehensive set of services from website design and web development to search engine optimization and search engine marketing and social media marketing.

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David Zweifler
Posted on September 18th 2012 at 1:10PM

Can you point me to the original whitepaper if it's available?

Todd Randolph
Posted on September 18th 2012 at 4:12PM


I am trying to recreate the screenshots in the white paper without success. It was published in June of 2011 so possible Google has changed the way it displays +1 in SERPs?

Posted on September 19th 2012 at 12:02PM

Interesting, Todd!  We did a lot of research on this topic, both via this whitepaper, from our own findings, and we consulted other SEO gurus like the guys over at Mashable. We do stand by our findings.  

Todd Randolph
Posted on September 20th 2012 at 2:30PM

not disputing the findings at all! I know I have seen SERP pages like the ones in the white paper, and i'm still seeing the +1s popping up beside posts, comments etc in Google Plus (in a fashion similar to FB Like).

I saw a Dec 2011 article about a more subtle implementation where the button and annotation showed up only on mouseover. When I do that, all I get is the double arrow to launch a link preview on the right side, but still no +1 button.

maybe you can send me a search term that generates the behavior for you. as I said, I know I remember seeing the behavior, but I cannot find a way to reproduce it (I like to provide my own examples with the originals when I blog)




Todd Randolph
Posted on September 20th 2012 at 2:51PM

mystery solved. I read Susyn's comment and entered Steve Jobs in FF and then Chrome. nothing. I went to check my Google settings. Looks like at some point I had changed a toggle from "Use personal results" (the default) to "Do not use personal results." For good measure, I turned off AdBlock.

Presto. on mouseover, the "Share" appeared. Clicking popped up the Google Plus share window. So even though I was signed into Google, it would not show the share option unless I authorized personal info.

I will be on the lookout for the "annotated" links now that the feature is turned back on. btw, adblock has no effect on the feature.


Posted on September 20th 2012 at 3:14PM

Wow!  I wonder how often that happens - sometimes we forget to reset our search settings here in the office and the results end up REALLY wonky.

Thanks for the research/input!!

Todd Randolph
Posted on September 20th 2012 at 3:44PM

here is a july 2012 post from a google product mgr announcing that the "Share" link was replacing the +1 button:

This Dec 2011 article mirrors a number at the time when Google retreated from its prominent placement of the +1 button to one where it only appeared on mouseover:

here is the Dec article I mistakenly thought stated an early test of the share link versus +1 button. In fact, it was just restating what others reported around that time.

I am still not seeing any instances of "XXX XXX and three other friends +1'd this," which is of cource where the marketing value would be.





Posted on September 20th 2012 at 7:25PM

Yeah definitely!  We'll have to keep an eye out for that...

Posted on September 20th 2012 at 3:15PM

Can you post the link to that article if you've got it?  Thanks!  :)

Posted on September 18th 2012 at 5:09PM
Susyn Duris
Posted on September 20th 2012 at 2:35PM

It works without my even knowing it. I am on page 1 of a search on "Steve Jobs". Impressive. 

Talking Finger
Posted on September 21st 2012 at 10:58AM

Unfortunatley, while it helps with search rankings perhaps, G+ is not much good for anything else :-)


Sally@Toddlers on Tour
Posted on September 22nd 2012 at 9:21PM


Thanks for yoru article.

One of my biggest issues is always trying to increase my search ranking.  I have the Google + button in a social bar sitting below the header.  Thus you can see it on which ever page or post the user is viewing.  Whilst I really haven't had many people +1 my pages would it make a difference if the +1 was embeded onto each page or does it work fine from the social bar.

Interested in your thoughts in relation to the search engine ranking.


Posted on September 24th 2012 at 10:59AM

Google Webmaster Tools Help says:

To maximize your +1's, we recommend:

"site-level" +1 button that targets either your Google+ page URL or the URL of your site's home page. This can be a standalone +1 button or Google+ badge (described on this page) in your site's header or right-hand navigation.

"content-level" +1 button that targets the URL of the page, and appears above the fold, near the article headline, product name, or other significant content.