Google has recently confirmed that yes indeed they are using social signals in search algorithms/results. While at this time it is limited, they are considering Facebook and Twitter as viable resources to match search queries and provide users with the most relevant search results. It was bound to happen with the popularity of social media platforms. But, with the popularity and increased usage, an open invitation appears to have been sent to the spammers, especially on Twitter. Facebook while not completely devoid of spammers, it has through their privacy and permission based connections been able to keep more of a watchful eye on spammers.
Google Using Social Signals in Search Algorithms
In early December, Danny Sullivan, in a very detailed article discussed the impact of the social signals data has had in search. The article went straight to the search sources, Google and Bing, with 6 questions to not only confirm or deny if social signals are used but how much weight is given to them.
In his quick video from Matt Cutts, he explains how Google uses the social signals:
Google has been relying upon Twitter for some real time search results which has been met with some controversy as if you are not one with a lot of quality followers and very active in tweeting, then your tweets were not displayed when a search for your name was performed. However, when you searched Mashable, the real time twitter results were moving so quickly that it was impossible to see if your retweet was even included. Now, generally with an account like Mashable, the results are flooded with retweets and not much interaction due to the sheer volume of their retweets.
Google and Twitter Spam Bots
At the end of the video, Matt Cutts is very clear that follower quality outweighs follower quantity. Therefore, having a lot of followers that are spam bots is not going to give a boost to your rankings. This is not to dissimilar than how Google views links where some are viewed more trustworthy and authoritative than others. In building your online community it is important to consider who you are following and following back as that annoying spam bot that snuck its way in, could hurt you. To what degree, we are unsure however, we know that some sites have been penalized greatly for black hat SEO. If Google came out and said that for each spam bot that you are following you lose X as it relates to your ranking, I am pretty sure that there would be a lot of people looking at their followers and ensure that they are only following people and people of interest/influence.
Twitter Authority and Influence
Twitter authority and influence is also not built solely upon the follower count. I have been quite vocal on this topic and influence is not about the numbers. Yes, there are many that are popular and their followers are influenced by them through the information being provided to them and not by the mere act of following them. Sure, we can see where people are retweeting items that someone they rely upon has shared and their followers may retweet them and so on. However, they are influenced by what they have learned from them and want to share it so that others learn (or sometimes because it is a popular article, people want to be sure they are in the cool kids club and shared it).
Twitter authority and influence have always meant something as how often do you see the spam bots getting retweeted? People get retweeted and that builds their authority and influence. Who builds yours? Those that follow you. If you have a lot of spam bots, you are not going to be retweeted. For the most part, if you have followers that you are not paying much attention to, you are not going to be retweeted. Being consistent in your articles, retweets of articles you have found useful and valuable but also having a strong presence and appearance to engage your audience helps to earn authority but also improves your influence. Improving your influence as Chris Brogan writes is starting with a solid platform and getting seen. Getting seen encapsulates being there by being real and genuine which is achieved by starting conversations, discussions, dialogue and engagement with those in your community.
In order to become influential and earn authority, you have to create conversations, dialogue and a strong connection. If you are getting new followers but not having any interaction with them outside of retweeting, you look like a robot. This is not referring to scheduled tweets. The users that have earned authority and are influential but do schedule tweets, definitely did not get there by scheduled tweets alone. You must interact and engage to show that you are not only real but are a valuable member to the Twitter and also your followers community.
We all want the to be ranked in the coveted top 10 on Google. Bing still has a lot of work to do but should not necessarily be ignored and optimizing for Bing should not be overlooked. Your social signals are starting to have some more weight despite Twitter links being no follow. That then shows that who you are and how you are perceived by the community as a whole matters to the search engines. If you are not paying attention to your followers, it will not only have an affect upon your authority and influence, it will also affect the way that you are ranked.
Is the confirmation that Google is looking at the social signals as part of the ranking algorithms going to change how you build your community and interact on Twitter?