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Social SEO the Evolution – Fact and Fiction

by on July 24, 2010

When I first began working in SEO, I decided to read everything. On top of the normal working hours for an SEO, I added 20 to 25 extra hours to read and apply what i read. Within 3 months of working in SEO, I had my own affiliate site up and collecting a lot of traffic. After 6 months of constantly reading SEO, I started to feel there was a lot of noise out there. After my first year, I realised there are lots of people writing great content on SEO, but who didn’t seem to back any of it up with real world examples. Ever since then most of the extra hours I put in are balanced towards testing, rather than listening to what people think may be happening.

Social & SEO the Evolution

I have been reading a lot of great posts over the past month on the effects of social on SEO and how that impact will grow over the next couple of years. One of the best posts on this (if not the best) was David Harrys titled “The Evolution of Rankings Signals: Google is Getting Past the link”. This post is jam packed with information on how the fundamentals of search could change with Google focusing more and more on: Temporal Data / Behavioral Data and Social Data.  I discussed this post with David over on SEODojo and his explanation of Google using the social graph to tweak results was really thought provoking. One of his best comments was, if results are personalised, you can’t spam them (why would you spam your own results).

There are also some other good posts on this from Eric Enge on the death of link building and another over at searchenginewatch called “Are we over Engineer the Link Graph“. Finally there is a post from SimplyZesty called “How Has Social Media Affected Search“.

The Issue

To stay ahead in search/social or online in general, you need to stay ahead of the curve. You need to understand what’s coming down the road and prepare for it, as best you can. But you also need to stay clear of changing your strategy to try and keep up with the latest chatter online. Most of the information contained in the posts above I agree with, but some I don’t. In the post over on searchengine watch, one of the most important parts of that study was in the comments, where Eric Ward replied:

“You write “each keyword space/market space (and georegion) is going to have its own definition of a ‘natural’ link graph.” While I am happy to see folks coming around to this conclusion, for 16 years I’ve been yelling that every web site requires a different link seeking and publicity strategy. What is effective for one site may not work for another. Every site has a manifest linking destiny.”

BINGO

This is important. In SimplyZestys post they write:

a. “What is clear is that this weighting towards social media references is sorting out the good from the bad”

Is this clear ? Have they tested it ? They seem to have made the leap from Eric Enge discussing why social media could start adding weight to a sites ranking, to it already happening in a clear and measurable way. No doubt Google’s QDF algorithm may use twitter and other social metrics to help it bypass the natural order of things for trending topics. But it definitely is not clear how Google will integrate social metrics into the main algorithm. For the best explanation refer to David’s post above on the social graph.

Secondly:

b.“You can no longer just create a load of content and spam links to it.”

Again, this point isn’t valid. Its market dependent. It’s like saying Wayne Rooney can no longer score goals, because he was awful during the world cup. There are a multitude of markets where you can indeed create loads of content and spam links to it. Most people who work in SEO will concur with that.

My Two Cents

The last post I wrote about link development touched on this subject. In terms of what I have EXPERIENCED. The effects of personalised search has been huge. I have seen keyword increases for head keywords in competitive markets, yet traffic dwindling. In some cases this is due to a change in user search behavior, with both branded search and large aggregator sites taking a lot of the market share (will be the next blog post). In other cases it looks as if it’s down to personlised search or Google’s rotation of rankings. I am firmly on side with David Harrys posting, in terms of behavior metrics set to play (if not already) a huge part in the future of rankings.

In terms of social, I am totally onside with Eric Enge, social will play a big role. But what I can’t say is how that role will be integrated by Google into the main algorithm. Dependent on the market, I do look at integrating some type of social content into the mix, but Michael Gray has shown, Google doesn’t always follow their own advice.

In terms of some other markets I am in (personal affiliate sites), Fashion, Online Business, Selling Software – it’s business as usual – crappy links and ok content ;)

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  • http://www.searchbrat.com Kieran Flanagan

    Hi Miguel

    Thanks for stopping by. I think we are both near enough in agreement, but just to go through some of your points.

    In terms of social properties being used in the affiliate world. This is more for link wheels etc i.e. tactics used to gain more links. I don’t feel people use them to try create social signals around their quality, I could be wrong. I used to create link wheels around some of my sites, but they were pretty rubbish. In terms of bots auto social submitting, again, this is usually used to get content indexed.

    If you read David Harrys post, there is a lot in it. But one interesting point is how Google “may” use a users social graph to personalise results further. This would mean spamming the results would be pretty difficult. You wouldn’t spam your own results.

    In terms of your overall point. I agree there is no indication of how/is Google would use social in the main index as yet and it can be frustrating when you hear people saying it’s happening already, that natural link building is dead.

    My point in the above was its very much dependent on the market, competition + site – there is no one size fits all. If people are going make claims that natural link building is dead, it would be good if they backed it up with specific examples of sites they have ranked on social strategies alone.

    Thanks again

  • http://bit.ly/gearyiseo Miguel

    <rant>Great post, but I would LOVE to know why everyone things social media will be the next big ranking factor when it is SO fricken easy cheat! Everyone is fed up with link spam, well guess what, if social media becomes a large ranking factor then the entire social media world better be prepared for all the affiliates and other marketers that actually know how to make money in search engines to spam the crap out of all social channels.

    I mean you know this, since you claim to be an affiliate right? It is alreayd happening. Pligg, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter bots, etc. It is just not happening on as large a scale because guess what, it is not a huge factor.

    Linking will always be the #1 factor, it is the foundation of the algo and will not change. The entire algo would crumble if they devalued linking and the SERPS would be so much worse. Everyone complains but the SERPS are actually pretty damned good right now and have improved over time.

    Sorry for the tone, but I just get so pissed with everyone making these wild claims about social media and the future of ranking factors. I smell one huge lot of link baiters when I hear about this stuff, and guess what it stinks. I'd love to hear where I am wrong.</rant>

  • searchbrat

    Hi Miguel

    Thanks for stopping by. I think we are both near enough in agreement, but just to go through some of your points.

    In terms of social properties being used in the affiliate world. This is more for link wheels etc i.e. tactics used to gain more links. I don’t feel people use them to try create social signals around their quality, I could be wrong. I used to create link wheels around some of my sites, but they were pretty rubbish. In terms of bots auto social submitting, again, this is usually used to get content indexed.

    If you read David Harrys post, there is a lot in it. But one interesting point is how Google “may” use a users social graph to personalise results further. This would mean spamming the results would be pretty difficult. You wouldn’t spam your own results.

    In terms of your overall point. I agree there is no indication of how/is Google would use social in the main index as yet and it can be frustrating when you hear people saying it’s happening already, that natural link building is dead.

    My point in the above was its very much dependent on the market, competition + site – there is no one size fits all. If people are going make claims that natural link building is dead, it would be good if they backed it up with specific examples of sites they have ranked on social strategies alone.

    Thanks again

  • http://bit.ly/gearyiseo Miguel

    Cool, thanks Kieran. Yeah, I do think that social “signals” like just having a fairly active account helps. But linking is always going to be tops. Love the site and look forward to more commenting! :-)

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