November 23, 2017

SEO Myth: Social Signals – Do They Matter?

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The concept of Google loving social signals has been a hot topic of conversation in the SEO world lately, but what we’re seeing doesn’t add up to what others are claiming – or trying to sell, to be blunt about it.

As it concerns our own sites as well as our clients’ sites, we have not observed any direct connection between SEO ranking and so-called “social signals” – Facebook likes, re-tweets, and the like.

We’ve seen sites with massive social signals, meaning multiple new blog posts per day with dozens of Facebook likes each, and we’ve seen sites with ZERO social interaction or signals.

In far too many cases, the sites with zero social signals are out-ranking the sites that do have them. In some niches, they’re HUGELY out-ranking them!

How to Spell SEO

To put it bluntly, SEO is spelled L-I-N-K-S.

The only thing that matters in SEO is links, and more specifically, the quality, quantity, and velocity of those links.

Here’s what makes a site rank in Google:

1. Domain Age. The age of the domain where the inbound link is built is a huge factor, far more important than Page Rank (PR). Far too many SEOs are obsessed with Page Rank, and the reality is that PR is irrelevant when compared with domain age.

A backlink coming from a 10-year old domain with PR1 is going to be far more valuable than a PR5 link coming from a 1- or 2-year old site.

2. Domain Quality (also known as Domain Authority). The quality and authority of a domain is another major factor in determining the linking power of that domain. Is it – or was it – a true website, run by a human being? Or was it an “aggregator” site, or a site deliberately built for use in an SEO link network, that’s full of junk content and far too many outbound links?

3. Link Quantity and Referring Domains. It’s very common for a new client to come on board, complaining that they have 10,000 inbound links with the proper domain age, quality, anchor text diversity, and so on, only for us to run reports and learn that those 10,000 links are only coming from a few hundred referring domains.

As far as Google is concerned, if you have 10,000 links from 300 referring domains, then you only have 300 links.

4. IP Diversity. Two or more links from the same IP address count as one link. Increasingly, a large number of links coming from an entire Class-C IP block are counted as one link, if it’s obvious that they’re the result of deliberate SEO backlinking.

5. Link Velocity. Suddenly blasting 1,000 links per month, all from different referring domains and Class-C IP blocks, to a site that was getting barely any backlinks previously, is a huge red flag and a great way to get slapped with a Google penalty.

Starting slowly, and gradually building up to the monthly link volume that reporting tells us is required to rank a site, is the safest way to build links. Ironically, it also works the most quickly, since sites are not trying to recover from penalties as you rank them.

One Caveat on Social Signals

The one and only social signal we have seen, that does work, is from Google Places.

In fact, this has been so obvious and extreme that we suspect traditional Google search is going the way of Google Places, or some combination or integration thereof.

Simply having a well-built and well-optimized Places page, with an authoritative number of citations and Google Reviews, will do wonders for ranking a site. Granted, you still need inbound links, and perhaps lots of them depending on how competitive your target keywords are, but we always recommend Google Places. For a local business, this might be all you need to generate plenty of traffic.

We’ve also been told, on good authority, that a site’s ranking can be helped along by a large number of re-tweets linking to content on the site, but we believe that’s simply a matter of link-building and not necessarily related to anything “social.”

So there you have it – our .02 on so-called “social signals” and their effect on ranking. Before spending too much time, money, or both, on social signals, remember, SEO always has been and very well may always be spelled L-I-N-K-S!

ROI Media provides enterprise-class SEO services to clients ranging from the Fortune 500 to local small businesses. To learn more and request a quote. please see our SEO Services Page.

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