Google Plus is a Honeytrap

Many people seem to believe that Google+ is meant as a valid alternative to Facebook, that Google is serious about competing with Zuckerberg’s brainchild, and that Larry and Sergei are devoted to gaining a solid foothold in the social media world.

But I believe all that is just a happy side-effect of Google’s real goal: to eventually replace the link graph with the social graph in its search ranking algorithm.

Google’s web search was built upon the premise that the amount and quality of links pointing to a website was a sign of its value and importance. This premise has since been so mauled and mangled by spammers and, yes, SEOs, that it is no longer true. Links are no longer an entirely trustworthy metric.

Evidence of this is abundant almost every time you perform a query on Google. The quality of its SERPs is an ongoing concern for Google, and something that a lot of time and effort is being devoted to. The recent and ongoing Panda updates are testament to that.

Google+ is a honeytrap

But Panda is not the end of the spam fight. On the contrary, it’s only the beginning.

I believe that at some point in the last few years key engineers at Google realised that they had to replace the dominant link metric with a new signal, one that was more reliable and less prone to spam. And I believe that they realised this metric would be social share signals.

But here Google ran in to a problem: social networks can be spammed as well, with fake shares and upvotes already rampant on many social media sites. So instead of just rolling out social signals as a ranking metric, Google decided to take a different approach

This approach is Google+. In essence, I believe Google+ is a huge laboratory designed to analyse social behaviour in an effort to develop algorithms that can, with a high degree of accuracy, detect genuine and authentic shares and upvotes and let those count in Google’s search ranking mechanisms.

Basically, Google+ is one big honeytrap. It’s designed to lure in users of all stripes and colours, and let them interact in as many different ways as possible. Google’s explicit statement that Google+ shares and +1 votes will serve as ranking signals is basically an open invitation to spammers and automaters worldwide to come to Google+ and do their worst. Because that will give Google more data to work with in their authenticity-detecting algorithms.

Google never intended to become a major force in social media. That’s just a pleasant side-effect from their real goal: to build an accurate and reliable social spam detector.

About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.

11 thoughts on “Google Plus is a Honeytrap

  1. I agree with you Barry, Google plus is a lot more than simply trying to be another Facebook. I’ve talked about that before, just after the launch:

    I do think they are ‘building’ their social graph on top of their link graph. Just listen carefully to Eric Schmidt who recently said (I think in Dublin?) that Google+ was a lot about identification, and that Google wants to authenticate people. Once they know who you are, the rest will come too.

  2. I agree that Google+ is going to be used to enhance and improve Google’s ranking algorithm. I don’t see it replacing links just yet though, since it seems much easier to use social signals to spam than links (although, some savvy black hat link builders will probably disagree). Social will become a more important factor when, as you said, they have a way to authenticate users and the trustworthiness.

    And Bas mentions the ‘identifcation’ goal that Google has, That seems to be key for enhancing and improving the algorithm. But I don’t think Google’s social network is just a ‘byproduct’ or a ‘nice to have’. They need the network to enhance and improve the search engine and get the social data. Also, the more they know about you, the better they can target ads and the more money Google will make.

  3. I agree Google are not to brother whether they become a major force with in the social media. But I do think they take it seriously and it not just a lab project. I also believe Google + is aimed more at just improving Google search, it about improving all of Google products and bring them altogether into a single online platform. Social is just a small part of that goal.

  4. But honey is sweet…

    As long as Google offers amazing services to keep us interacting, I think it will be good to change up the SEO game, and actually see good reputable stuff on Google…

    Ad sence is for people who want to pay for listings.. but organic SEO is pretty much the same thing.. whoever pays the most for SEO gets to the top…

    hooray for +1 ~

  5. unfortunately, spam will never die. as long as there is money to be made. google did well with panda but they still have an uphill battle, it seems.

  6. ironically, if Google succeed in delivering this then links will once again become a true and measurable metric for any upcoming search engine to use as a ranking measure 🙂

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