7th Dec 2010 | by: Nick LeRoy

Social Rank DeathLast week, Danny Sullivan posted an extremely interesting post regarding social signals and the correlation they have with organic ranking in Google and Bing.  Google recently stated that they have over 200 factors in the ranking algorithm and each one of the factors may have several variations within each as well.  Now with one of these factors being ‘social rank’  how much of an affect does social have on rankings?

The ‘Social Ranking’ Concept

Both Google and Bing have stated that they utilize social signals as a part of their organic ranking algorithm.  The idea behind it is that if you’re an authoritative Twitter account tweeting out links that some organic value should come from it.  The more authoritative the Twitter user the more value a tweet will be worth.

URL Shortner Effects?

It’s extremely common for Twitter users to utilize a URL shortner within a tweet. What I would like to know is if using a URL shortner causes any loss of value within these ‘social votes’.   Assuming the shortner is using a 301 redirect can we assume all the value is passed?  If we were to cannibalize tweets by posting the full URL would we get additional ‘social juice’?  Only time will tell the answers to these questions.

Will Buying Twitter Accounts / Tweets Be The Next “Thing”?

Now that Google and Bing have openly admitted to social accounts adding value to organic rankings, do we have to worry about SPAM?  How about people looking to purchase authoritative Twitter accounts?  I haven’t found anything official in the Twitter T.O.S. (outside of squatting) but I can’t imagine Google or Bing supporting this.  Just like links and PageRank (to an extent) there are reasons why some accounts offer more value then others.  Simply purchasing authoritative accounts would be an easy way to game the ranking algorithm.

Let’s go further and imagine that in a perfect world no authoritative Twitter user would sell their account.  What about individual Tweets? If I offer you $200 to send out 140 characters advertising my site would you say NO? I truly would be ecstatic to see everyone deny these offers but on the other hand I do understand that people like to eat too! If ‘social rank’ truly plays a role in organic rankings then we should all be prepared for these types of SPAM… I mean tweets.

‘Social Rank’ Will Probably Die in 2011

Considering the 200+ ranking factors that make up Google’s ranking algorithm I doubt that this ‘social rank’ plays a significant role.  In the world of SEO it’s believed that everything and anything helps. I can’t imagine ‘social rank’ being a viable long term technique worth investing in.  As mentioned above it’s simply too easy to game.  I’m going to make the bold statement that ‘Social Rank’ will be a non-factor by the end of 2011.

What do you think about this? Will social factors play a role in organic search rankings for years to come?

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About the Author: Nick LeRoy

14 Comments

  • Chris Burns says:

    Sorry to say I completely disagree with you. Google and Bing don’t add ranking factors willy nilly. They didn’t even want to add these necessarily, the internet users are driving these changes. mobile and social are going to be bigger than ever next year.

  • The Dan says:

    I think the value of social rank is likely to change over the year(s), but I don’t think it’ll go away completely. Anytime search engines can add another piece to the puzzle, it can (in theory) increase it’s individualized SERPs based on IP and social account standings (a more advanced version of Bing’s social results perhaps)

    • Nick says:

      It may never go away 100% and we don’t even know how much of a part it plays in organic rankings right now. I’m guessing it’s not a whole lot due to the ability of spamming. It will be very interesting to see how it evolves over this year. I’m still not sold that it will be a significant contributor in the years to come. Maybe i’ll be wrong, won’t be my first time.

  • Josh Curcio says:

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the article. I believe social rank factors will be here for awhile, as long as it’s done right. It is hard to fake a reputable Twitter account if ratio followers to following is weighed heavily. Links shared through new accounts and low authority accounts should be taken with a grain of salt. Spammers definitely diluted the link graph, but that is still around. Again, thank you for sharing. I look forward hearing more of your thoughts on the subject.

    • Nick says:

      I agree with your assessment. What im more concerned with is the ‘sponsored’ tweets. Everyone has a price and I don’t think it will be long before we see reputable Twitter accounts sliding in a couple paid tweets.

  • LA SEO says:

    Good point, Nick. It would be too easy to game the system. People will probably start building Twitters networks just to sell accounts.

    • Nick says:

      I’m guessing it won’t be as simple as just building an army of Twitter accounts but its always possible. If it’s truly just the number of followers an account has then we will very quickly see this being an issue. Thanks for commenting!

  • Jeff says:

    Interesting POV… but I have to disagree. I see your point on social authority being easy to game, but the engines are probably one step ahead of this. True authority in social media, just like true authority on the web, is probably a finite resource that is hard to build. Google is pretty sophisiticated when it comes to detecting manipulation in a given sites’ backlink profile, and I can imagine they could devise something similar for the social graph… so I don’t see much of an opening for a marketplace of authoritative accounts.

    As far as the selling of individual tweets, likes, etcetera goes – that is a bit more invasive and hard to detect, but the lifespan of a tweet (and its value as a ranking signal) are probably very short, which limits the scalability of this approach.

  • I’ve tested this with link bait and found social media mentions can give a pretty good boost to rankings in a short period of time.

    I don’t think this will change…What’s the difference between an authority site and an authority Twitterer? An authority site can post paid links just as easily as an authority Twitter user can post a paid Tweet.

    The key difference right now is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any downside to posting a paid Tweet, whereas paid links can potentially decrease a site’s authority.

    If anything, I think Google end up making the same type of authority adjustments to Twitter and other social accounts participating in obvious paid promotions as they do to websites doing the same, although they’ll certainly be more difficult to identify.

  • @TheBPL says:

    I think social rank will grow in importance in 2011. The argument that you could buy a high PR Twitter Account to game Google SERPS applies just as equally to buying a high PR domain and 301ing it to your site – which many do – even big companies when they merge or buyout another.

    We’ve got a Twitter PR of 5, but we don’t tweet to order ;-)

  • I do think that Social Rank will stay. First of all it’s not only about tweets, it’s more likely about retweets which do depend on a lot of factors but the most important factor is: Does retweeting this message make me look good? This is hard to buy.
    Second it’s not only Twitter but also a connected Blog and Facebook which is taken into account. So if somebody is important, all of those social signals add up…

  • Liza says:

    Interesting post, but i must disagree. Social media is becoming more and more deep rooted into our activities online and internet usage. Search engines can’t just decide that “it’s too hard” and pretend it isn’t so.

  • RP_joe says:

    I would link to your page but I can’t read it in Opera.

    • Nick says:

      i’m sorry to hear that. I will definitely take note on the compatibility of the site with Opera and other browsers.

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