Social Signals Are the New Page Rank. Discuss.

The Conversation PrismSocial signals are the new page rank, I believe. If they are not now, then they soon will be. Let us know what you think on this subject.

Page rank is the old fashioned way of judging the quality of a page – the combination of relevance, popularity, structure and importance all measured through technical factors like backlinks, keyword density and domain authority, among other things.

Page rank has been played down by Google over the past few years, not least because the page rank obsession among the SEO world has created a massive industry in automated website production that is geared purely to the Google algorithm.

In recent months, Google has hit back at all the dross content that serves no meaningful purpose to humans – robotic content that is there purely to feed on and to feed page rank. Since Google’s Panda algorithm was rolled out a year ago, there has been a move towards personalised results based on a user’s habits, on their location and on their social media networks.

The search results we see now are, by and large, unique to us. Who we have in our Google Plus circles, the pages on which we have clicked the +1 button, or the posts we have made on Facebook or Twitter – all can be taken as signals to what we like to see and be used to order the search results we are shown.

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Page rank is a useful guide to the quality and popularity of a web page, but it does not necessarily reflect truth. It could just be a reflection of some clever SEO work. Social signals are more powerful because they are a measure of true human recommendation.

If 100 people tweet about your latest article, 10 people share it on Facebook and several people share it on Google Plus, while others click Like or +1, that shows your article is popular. If that happens on an ongoing basis across an ever-wider network of people, your website as a whole will appear to be more popular.

The most important thing for companies to understand, at this stage, is that social media is not going away and social signals are now a fundamental factor in determining positions in search engine results, both on Google and Bing. You may not think Google Plus is important because it’s nowhere near as popular as Facebook, but remember it is owned by Google.

Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn… the number of social outlets is huge – as illustrated in The Conversation Prism (pictured) by Brian Solis and JESS3.

SEO based on page rank is about being found. SEO based on social signals is about being talked about. In order to be talked about, you need to be present on the key social networks and you need to have something to say. Great fresh content helps because it always gives your followers something to share and talk about.

The answer is not just to set up accounts on social networks and post links to your own content. The answer is to focus on developing meaningful relationships with the different audiences on the networks. The more ordinary people you can reach, who then talk about you, the better for your SEO.

Quick tips:

  • Ask customers to write reviews on your Google Places page or on any other directory site where reviews are encouraged (don’t just make up a load of your own).
  • Download our Quick tips for Facebook business pages guide.
  • Use your email newsletters to promote your social channels, to ask people to follow you there and to post comments.
  • Engage, don’t enrage. Social networks allow customers to talk to you. Be responsive, informative and helpful, not absent.
  • Find things your audience will enjoy and that they would like to share with others – even if it is a piece of content that is nothing to do with your business.
  • Think visually. Images and videos are more likely to be shared and talked about than text-based articles.

Comments: 2

  • Common sense advice. It would seem that on page SEO is falling out of favor with the big G. People count and people love social connections

  • Pete says:

    Still cannot figure out how anyone knows what social signals are, or how a search result is connected in any way to social activity. Google cannot access 99% of Facebook’s data, very little Twitter data – and anyway, why would Google want to use that data when both networks directly compete with what Google is trying to accomplish? Social networks are people based, not company based. Searchers look for solutions to problems; social networks are all about people who already have a relationship staying in touch with each other. There’s no compelling, proven link between them.

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