I have a hunch about Google+ and its impact on Google’s link graph and the search algorithm in 2013. At this point I struggle for solid evidence but have set up a few antennas and observing any new developments.
That said, I have observed a few subtle adjustments to sharpen up the architecture of Google+, mainly through use of rel=”nofollow”. Google+ has been tidying up how the juice flows throughout the site and apparently it was all done in order to prevent spam. Matt Cutts said it may be removed as they get more spam-resistant.
Reference: Google Moderator
Well, the opposite happened. On the 5th of January Google+ ramped up the use of nofollow throughout the site. This is not a bad thing. Prior to this update it was way to easy to score a link by dropping in a URL in a post comment, though the post owner would typically flag or delete the spam post so the community kind of self-moderates. The problems is with the cases that don’t or very old posts nobody pays any attention to (or doesn’t get alerts for).
Lyndon NA noticed that despite most miscellaneous post links seem to be nofollow, links on images of comment authors are still passing PageRank. This could simply be something they missed, or is it an attempt to reduce the impact of anchor text within Google+ and Google search results from the social network? It’s hard to say.
What we know is that this only affects new posts and any old posts remain unaffected. Some users have raised their concerns about their posting style. For example, a well-known tactic to make your posts more interesting on Google+ is to first attach an image and then add text and links. This never used to be a problem from the SEO perspective as links within author’s post were passing PageRank. Now they are blocked, Google+ users may need to go back to using the primary link insertion method for posts (via the link icon or as a first dropped link in the post field). This however, is a sad compromise as we use the nice visual impact our posts used to have.
A solution would be for Google+ to visually enhance the way images are displayed in new posts. They already do an OK job with the way mobile app renders the posts.
One important discovery is that if you edit the post and save it again it will be nofollowed.
After edit you can see that the link contains nofollow (marked in red):
Why this change?
I can think of two reasons for Google increasing the use of nofollow internally:
- Routine update and a casual nofollow drop to prevent spam, no further thought or agenda.
- Google+ is ready to have a more significant impact on the web and Google is tidying things up.
I’d like to think it’s the #2, however we lack solid proof.
Google+ Results in Google’s Index
In attempt to catch something more tangible I decided to check the frequency of Google Alerts coming from Google+. Not sure if anyone else does this but I keep my Google Alerts in a special IMAP folder (you never know when you’ll need it kind of thing).
So I rendered general alerts (blank) versus Google+ related alerts and produced this graph:
As far as Google+ and alerts (and potentially indexing) everything seems to have kicked off in November 2011. Surprisingly alert activity was quite consistent throughout the year excluding the initial silent period following the release of Google+. So nothing special is happening with Google Alerts to substantiate my gut feeling.
If any of our readers spot any new development with Google+ please let us know.