Any Search Engine Optimization professional worth their chops and money are surely using social signals as a tool to share content, drive traffic, and increase rankings.
Everyone agrees up until that last part: “…increase rankings”.
Most would say social signals matter, but everyone seems to disagree as to how much and if they have any effect on website rankings.
Given that you can potentially purchase tweets, likes, pins, shares, and +1’s in droves, why should Google and other search engines take it seriously or give it any weight?
Well, it’s perhaps not so much a matter of actual tweets and likes doing the heavy lifting as simply having social media profiles acting as website credibility indicators — to robots and humans.
If you have a legitimate website whose intent is to serve an audience with quality content, then you’d presumably have social media accounts.
If you’re a spammer, why bother setting up social media accounts and keeping them active?
(And if you are and do, well, then you must believe social signals positively affect your rankings, right?)
But, any way, while there have been some armchair studies and anecdotal evidence of correlation between social media frenzy and SERPs.
The question is if there’s any causation behind the correlation, right?
Well, let’s take a look at a few examples that others have shared on their websites and blogs.
Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube Resulting In Top 10 Search Results?
Inevitably, we’ll have to talk about hats and the color black for some of these things…
These guys experimented with acquiring hundreds of fake social signals from platforms like Youtube, Twitter, and Pinterest.
They used this setup:
- Create 40 different Twitter messages and have them retweeted approximately 30 times.
- Create 40 different Pins and have them repinned approximately 30 times.
- Create 40 raw video files and upload to Youtube, vimeo, dailymotion and metacafe.
From all this, they cracked the top 10 results for many of their keywords.
Sure, who knows exactly what other factors came into play here (previous and following backlinks from more “white hat” efforts), but it certainly seems like social signals, especially at a scale, can boost your site rankings.
Think about it this way, too: let’s say a piece of content goes viral. Well, that’s usually a firehose of social media shares, likes, tweets, pluses, and pins happening in a short amount of time.
And those are, seemingly, “natural”, right?
So, you can’t necessarily draw a clear line between “natural” and “unnatural” social signals, as you can easily fake virality.
But how long-term are any SERP results of this? Who knows, but you may attract enough attention to earn “natural” backlinks and brand recognition — and especially get traffic from it.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Rankings From Social Signals
This dude, Jason Acidre, found out that social shares and linking can seemingly boost your rankings, but it looks like that was mostly temporary.
Jason’s take on social signals is this:
The main principle of Google and Bing in using these signals is to locate fresh, relevant and significant materials over the web (news, resource, etc) through viral sharing and natural prominence. However, these search engines do have factors to consider in measuring the durability of the content, for them to truly return quality sites on their end such as:
Quantity of social mentions on Twitter and/or Facebook.
Quality of social mentions measured through the social authority of the Twitter account.
Domain authority and Trustrank of the site hosting the content.
Social media activity is a great way to get initial traction for your content, but unless it’s followed by more “trustworthy” ranking signals, like quality backlinks and more, you’ll lose the initial boost.
What About Google+ And +1’s?
Well, Moz posted an article not too long ago where they even claim some causation between lots of SEO benefits and Google+ as a social network and +1’s given to content and websites.
Matt Cutts goes on HackerNews to say “Nope!”.
The main points, regardless?
- Google+ posts are crawled and indexed very quickly — Google uses it’s social network to discover new content, based on what’s shared and popular. It’s cut off from Twitter and Facebook, so it has to rely on something, right?
- A Google+ post and semantic relevance are best friends — It’s optimized and has the features of a blog post, such as individual URLs, first 50 or so characters appear in the title tag, it can collect internal links with related and relevant anchor texts, and so on.
- Google+ posts, supposedly, pass on link “juice” or equity — Shared links are followed, but not links within the post body, neither do images.
So, who knows for sure, right?
What should you do? Be active on Google+ any way.
All Things Considered, What Can We Be Sure Of?
It seems to me like there are conclusions to all this drama and back-and-forth:
- Social profiles and signals act as credibility factors to both robots and humans. They will positively affect your SEO efforts, whether that’s short or long-term, little or a lot.
- Social signals give websites a short-term bump in rankings. Unless backed up by other factors and backlinks, this boost diminishes over time.
- Reputable and established social media accounts make a difference in terms of legitimacy to social signals. Getting likes, tweets, shares, and +1’s from others with authority has some effect.
- Social signals most certainly sends visitors to your site and that’s actually the point of SEO, anyway.
We could speculate as to what weight social signals have now and in the future, but it’s pretty apparent that social media activity only helps your SEO.
It’s not anything to build a foundation on, but certainly should be in your arsenal to top off your efforts and add an extra boost.
What kind of correlation and/or causation do you see?