Social Shares Trump Keywords in Google Search Rankings

Comments: 14

  • I think the title of this article is misleading a bit, or maybe I’m just confused.

    Google has always looked at external signals (originally predominantly links, and now, according the research, predominantly social) in order to rank pages.

    Google has looked at keywords predominantly to determine relevance, or in other words, what the page is about so it can be grouped with and ranked against other pages about the same subject matter. That was the big difference between Google and the earlier search engines that focused purely on language on the page.

    Your headline is comparing apples (ranking signals) with oranges (relevance signals). Even as Google’s semantic capabilities have become more sophisticated, the algorithm still depends on language in order to know what a page is about.

    Maybe I’m missing something, so I’m happy to be corrected. Also not taken into account is the predominant editorial focus of a particular website, which is now crucial post-Panda. In other words, what your site is mostly about is also analyzed by Google, which again, relates to how well what you write about matches up with what people are searching for (aka keywords).

  • Brian,

    Looking at your comments again, I would also add that Google’s move to semantic search is its attempt to meld ranking with relevance- end users conducting queries are expecting as much.
    As its semantic search continues to improve, Google’s search engine will become increasingly dynamic,three-dimensional and, for lack of a better word, human, as opposed to the static, keyword-dependent two-dimensionality its previous algorithms. Given this, I would expect social shares to gain even more currency in the near future.

    Hopefully this helps clarify your question!
    Thanks again for your comments…

  • Hi Chris Horton,

    very interesting your study… I am not surprise like so much web2.0 like tweeters and facebook because it is the place where all customers stay and spend the time.

    Good news backlinks are still the core value for google…

    Of cousre google don’t like to much adsnese or affiliate in the page…

    • Linda,
      Great point. Google crawlers can’t search images, but any content written around them should factor in. It’s no doubt that continued user adoption of tablets and mobile devices tends to favor photo-rich sites. It would be interesting to look into this further.

      Thanks for the input!

    • Er Chris, Have you ever heard of google image search?
      Have you not seen the drag and drop image search, similar images, google goggles, group images by subject?
      They aren’t backwards on images!

  • This is a great article. I wonder how it relates to search in the US market? Another thing I found interesting is how Google is favoring the ‘number of links’ over the quality of links. Am I understanding this correctly?

    • Well, sort of. I read the study’s findings as saying that, all things being equal, if your domain has 10 links and mine 100, odds are I have an advantage in Google SERP (PRESUMING my links are to sites that Google deems as having “quality” content).

      As many brands have recently found, Google is discounting links to overly-keyword rich sites. Google is trying to emphasis quality, original content over pre-fabricated content, as it is trying to “teach” its Knowledge Graph in order to provide users a better search experience.

      As such, quality of links trumps quantity, all things being equal.

      Hopefully that clarifies things a bit!
      Thanks for the comment,

  • Thanks for the research Chris. Just wanted to clarify, on the chart it shows 3 different numbers on Facebook percentage. Just wondering what comprises “Facebook Total”? And what is the difference between Facebook Like and Share? I mean when you do any of the two, you still get to post the link on your Facebook wall. Thanks!

  • Deep linking to inner pages via Pinterest seem to work well from another case study I’ve seen. Going to test that out this coming week. Thanks for sharing this data with the class. :thumbsup

  • Thanks for the analysis. Just desired to explain, on the data it reveals 3 different statistics on Facebook amount. Just thinking what consists of “Facebook Total”? And what is the change between Facebook Like and Share? I mean when you do any of the two, you still get to publish the weblink on your Facebook walls.


  • Creating articles that are not only optimized but content that are share-able will help you get higher rankings. It means that social shares definitely help but keywords are important too. Social networks sure do help boost your chances of getting found but you need to be found first and you do that by optimizing your articles with your targeted keywords. That being said, we shouldn’t stop on SEO and finish off with a great dessert (Social Shares)

  • I’m surprised this excellent article only generated 63 +1’s to date. It echos the sentiments of a few attorney’s in my G+ stream in that; they find link building is more influential vs. social signals and want to know when social sigs will trump links?

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