Other than Mobile and Local SEO explosions, Social Rank is a biggie. So many companies are still saying they have no time for “Social Media” unless it can show an immediate ROI. So, it’s been hard to explain the benefits to many because of the abstract concept – but now the reality is hitting home with verified information from Google and Bing. We’ve known that personal authority plays a part in success online, but now it’s directly impacting search results pages and will do so in an increasing fashion.
I have summarized some information into a summary about coming changes at Bing and Google that will affect everyone. Especially at risk are companies who are not working on their individual team/company/person Social Authority right now. It’s not something you can just build later “when it comes up” – it’s a lasting, slow brew over time. So now’s the time to think about social curation…. something I’m spending lots of time with clients these days.
“We now know that those link sharing activities on Twitter + Facebook are evaluated based on the person/entity sharing them through a score Google calls “Author Authority,” and Bing calls “Social Authority.” – SEOMOZ
- Audience: Diversity and Authority matter – if you’re the only one tweeting your content, you’re not saying much. Lots of others sharing your content is far more important. “Real” followers and their profiles will play a part in your authority. When a known high-authority person follows someone else, that is a strong signal that can be used in rank.
- Timing and Topics - there are pros and cons to tweeting only recent news… older stuff being shared shows staying power of your content – however sometimes recent information deserves better rank temporarily. This means one should possibly encourage re-distribution and updating of older, popular content – keeping it up dated and in circulation. How content moves through your social curation process will matter. Was it thematic? Was it original to you and warrant sharing? The association of topics to the social activity will surely affect who’s an authority. Those who retweet everything will dilute their topical focus… while those who talk about solid topical silos may increase influence within them. This means that some social networking personas could feel schizophrenic ..
- Context of “Nearby” Content – it’s pretty easy to trace backwards to the actual content you or others are sharing and figure out the topical relevance – and use that to affect rank for a phrase. Google’s long used various types of latent semantic analysis to make sense of content in context, and the same goes here for social content. I think you will leave a trail of content-related activity everywhere you go – and this will be considered in your authority.
- Engagement - clicks, shares, retweets, etc. all play into this. Content that just goes “thud” does not send any signals to search engines. This implies that solid headline writing for click-throughs as well as simple to use websites (to get to the content people want) are as essential as ever. Only in this case, the “conversion” is the sharing of your content and the value is in the incremental boost in Social/Author authority.
- Your Social “Graph” – High authority social posters tend to have a large audience listening – while they themselves listen to a smaller number. The ideal ratio of friends to followers, etc. is not known, but search engines are going to refine algorithms to figure this out per subject area. Identifying spammers, trolls and bots will be a challenge in purifying this graph.
- Your Home Base – Search engines may use your website URL (listed in your social profiles) as an “anchor” to determine what other topical things you’ve done. They may connect the “crawl” of your website with your social activity – ultimately deciding if your publications are worthy be part of their ranking decisions in that topic area. This is working more like academic papers’ “number of citations” metrics that are currently widely used in many ways.
The end result will be search result pages which are tuned to your own particular bias, “curated by crowd behavior.“ We’ve seen this curation for years now – with sites like Digg and Reddit. But those sites used voting behavior within their site to sort comment (“digg it up” or “vote it down”.) Open interfaces available to 3rd parties (e.g. Google, Bing) for sites such as Facebook and Twitter can relentlessly build cached external voting behavior (e.g. sharing, retweeting, etc.) and use their vast computing power to build models for rank.
- Social Authority for individual content producers will directly affect website rank in an increasing level.
- Old-fashioned SEO signals will have a reduced influence in rank of sites over time.
- Share-worthy, relevant content is the secret to ranking and making your web marketing pay off long-term.
(hattip SEL for the excellent Bing/Google Interview source data on the topic, and to pastaboy sleeps on Flickr for the photo – used within CC license)
Postscript: Check this social rank boost a tweet gave SEOMOZ that really shows what I’m talking about in this post.