How Much do Social Signals Improve Page Rank

At RoryMartin.com we stress the importance of a fully-integrated social media strategy for your company’s branding. Social media improves customer relations, draws in potential new customers, and allows your company to discover where improvements can be made to your business, directly from your customers. Social media increases the trust that your current and potential clients have in your company, and increases the liklihood of positive and immediate referrals from customers to their friends and followers.

However, a recent article on the SEOmoz blog asks the question “Do Improved Social Signals Cause Improved Rankings?” which is clearly a contentious issue for many social media consultants!  The comments range from skepticism, to outrage, to full-on agreement.

The keyword in this question about social signals is ’cause’.  How do you determine the final result of social signals?

Many of you will already be saying to yourselves that you’ve seen your website, or certain pages, go up in page rankings after having a link tweeted by a few influential tweeters, but as the article says – correlation does not equal causation. It’s often true that after a week or so, once people have moved on to the next fresh and exciting piece of content and have stopped tweeting and retweeting your piece, that you see search engine rankings drop once again.

The Freshness Factor

Some social media experts attribute this to a ‘freshness factor’ – the idea that search engines prefer new(er) content. Some say that during the period in which a link is being retweeted, it will also be linked to from websites. This may even be due to people who have their tweets displayed on their website. If they link to you in a tweet, it will appear on their website – but only until their new tweets push yours off.

It’s a complicated piece, and a complicated argument to make! When we see a number of social signals, or see an influential social signal coming into a website, and then see the page rankings shoot up, we want to attribute one to the other – whether this is true or not.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this in-depth research on social signals.

The first is that regardless of how many influential people you can ask to share a link, most people will only share good quality content. It may even be that what causes both the shares and the improved page rank is the quality of the piece. Focus on creating top quality content and your piece will garner a wide range of social signals, and move up the page rankings.

The second takeaway is that whether or not Google follows Twitter or Facebook links and uses them to attribute better page rankings to sites, social signals are still important.  Having an integrated social media strategy means that more people will see your new piece sooner than not. This then leads to, not only social shares, but also links from websites – links which we know do affect SEO. The more people who view the piece, the more people are likely to create SEO-affecting links.

At RoryMartin.com we work to create integrated social media strategies for companies which involve top quality content that is infinitely shareable. What do you think of this research?

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