Social Media – The SEO’s Secret Weapon?

 Social Media Link Building Strategies – Does it matter?

If you’ve been following the world of link building, link building strategies in the social media space have been a confusing and often frustrating topic.

This is because the vast majority of websites in the social media world use what is called a “nofollow” tag on their links. Basically it tells the search engines to not give links any credit. So you can have a really great link on Wikipedia and it wouldn’t matter at all as far as the search engines are concerned.

Nofollow was originally created by Google in 2005 to help stop comment spam in blogs. You can read all about nofollow in this Wikipedia article. Incidentally, this has always annoyed me. You see, I have just given Wikipedia yet another link that has link popularity value. And they give absolutely no value to any link outside of Wikipedia. This seems incredibly stingy and hypocritical if you ask me. The reason Wikipedia is such a powerful force is because everybody linked to Wikipedia. And now they won’t share the love back. But whatever, I digress.

So, search engine optimizers have largely moved away from using social media in their link building strategies as a way to get links to help search engine optimization factors.

However, this is all an evolving topic. What I mean is that the search engines are seeing social media as a place that can offer very legitimate and valuable information when it comes to links.

If a link is being tweeted over and over and over again, there must be something interesting there. For the search engines to completely ignore this information would be shortsighted and too absolutist.

And sure enough, Danny Sullivan teased out in an interview that both Bing and Google use signals from the social media world to influence link popularity.

You will definitely want to read the entire article if you’re into this kind of thing. But here are some of the cooler quotes.

Bing on Twitter: “We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results.” (Google said that they to use it as a signal.)

Danny: “Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?”
Bing and Google: “Yes.”

Danny: “Do you track links shared within Facebook?”
These are important quotes:

Bing: “Yes. We look at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages.”
Google: “We treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as we treat tweeted links. We have no personal wall data from Facebook.

Those are important because it discusses the value of fan pages.

At the end of the article Danny sums it up nicely. He writes, “In the end, it’s clear that Twitter data especially plays a role in web search, these days. Who you are is being understood. Are you a trusted authority or not? If there’s PageRank for pages, both search engines have a form of TwitterRank for people.”

In his last sentences in the article he writes, “Meanwhile, retweets serve as a new form a link building. Get your page mentioned in tweets by authoritative people, and that can help your ranking in regular search results, to a degree.”

Ever since I have been in the search engine marketing industry I have always seen the word of Danny Sullivan to be definitive. If he states it you can pretty much take it to the bank. As you can see, he is not merely hypothesizing here. These are direct answers he has gotten from Google and Bing.

So let’s sum it up even clearer: Facebook fan pages and tweets from authoritative Twitter accounts matter.


You’ll also want to check out this video:

It was posted on Jan 14, 2010

It is from Matt Cutts at Google. In the video he states these general principles:
Google basically treats links the same. They look at how reputable a link is. It doesn’t matter where a link is from.

A lot of the profiles at Facebook are not public so they can’t index them. But if the profile is public then they can fetch the links.

“We treat links from Twitter, Facebook, .edu, .gov the same,” he says in the video.

“If a link is private or it is nofollow then that would keep Google from using them for PageRank.”

So does nofollow matter or not matter with link building strategies?

Danny addresses this in the same article. He says that both Bing and Google get what is called the “firehose” of data from Twitter. This is just the complete stream of data that comes from Twitter. The links in the firehose do not carry nofollow attributes. So if there is a series of links pointing to the same article this would have value.

At this point things become fishy. So we have learned that the search engines look at the authority of individual people. And they also look at this “firehose.” But supposedly they don’t look at them together. So if you don’t look at the links from a specific person then what are you doing with the information?

It seems to me that we can come up with one of 2 conclusions. Either the search engines are in the process of figuring out how to use the links from the social media world and they haven’t quite decided yet on the best approach. Or they are totally using that data right now and are trying to keep us off the topic.

Getting Likes As a Link Building Strategy

On November 19, 2010 Bruce Clay wrote an article, “Are Likes the New Links?”

He writes:

“Obviously, Google would like to find a better solution for determining trust and ranking than counting spammy links. With link spam winning, search engines are turning to signals received from trusted friends (Facebook Likes), reviews appearing in the LocalPack (7-pack local maps), and in referrals and sharing within social media as new sources for testimonials. By substituting what a user’s actual friends like in the place of spammy links, ultimately what we see today as link spam will lose its impact. “

This makes complete sense to me. It is estimated that 1% of the Internet population produces content. So a very small minority of the overall Internet community is vouching for websites by writing content that has links. This lopsided segment of the Web society allows for relatively easy manipulation of link popularity. It only takes a few well-placed links to significantly change the importance of a website online.

But if social signals were put in place that would tremendously broaden the user-base of people recommending sites. As of writing this article Facebook reports that there are more than 750 million active users.

That is a massive amount of people. In the stats they go on to say that, “50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day.”

There is a strong belief in the Internet community that people with valuable and important profiles in the social media world are less likely to abuse their hard earned authority by putting out spammy links. So, if these people link to something then it probably would be a strong signal that the link has value. Therefore, these links could be really useful in determining the value of an article.

There is just one problem, however. While Google can access the authority of Twitter accounts, Facebook does not readily allow Google to access that information.

Enter Google+

Google+ is making a huge impact in its early stages of its social media life.

You would do well to click over and take a look at this chart.

It took Google+ 16 days to get 10 million users. People are extremely interested in Google+. It remains yet to be seen whether or not it will continue at this rate. However, I can tell you from conversations I’ve had with friends and family, along with my own experiences, Google+ seems to be a force to reckon with.

If, indeed, Google can continue this insane growth pattern then they will have all the individual social profile signals they will need. They will no longer need to worry about Facebook personal profiles. That isn’t to say that Facebook will go away. It’s just that this will be a great resource for Google to mine data from.

So you have now gotten to the end of this article.

What should you do with all this new found information?

I’m not going to tell you. Ha ha!

You will have to read the next installment of this article. It will come out on Wednesday.

Here is the second part:

Let’s Skin This Social Media Link Building Cat

Photo from here: Social Media Outposts

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