Social Signals and their Impact on Search Results

social signals and the impact on search resultsTweets, Face­book Likes and Google+ 1s are the major social sig­nals now being used by Bing and Google to index search res­ults. Basic­ally, both search engine giants have updated their search algorithms to give more credit to con­tent that users share on these sites. The ques­tion you might be ask­ing is:

Just how much weight do social sig­nals carry in search results?

Well cur­rently that depends… Before ana­lys­ing the impact of these social sig­nals within the SERPs (search res­ults pages), it’s import­ant to first under­stand how they work. When you search a term on Google while logged in to your Google account, the search res­ults you get are influ­enced by your friends activ­it­ies on the major social net­works. E.g., if a friend shared an art­icle titled ‘Pink Fluffy Slip­pers’ on Twit­ter, this post will show up on your search res­ults page with some inform­a­tion below telling you about the friend who shared it.

Link­ing other social net­works to your Google profile

Social sig­nals are now a big part of the new social search (see yes­ter­days post) fea­ture rolled out by both Bing and Google. With Google, you have to be signed in to your Google account and have linked the same account with your other social pro­files to see res­ults that include your social circle’s par­ti­cip­a­tion. For Bing, which unlike Google plus, gets real time data from Face­book, you should link it with your Face­book account to get con­tent that has been ‘liked’ by your friends.

Ini­tially, Bing gave greater import­ance to posts that had a sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber of likes from your friends, but later altered the algorithm to just dis­play the nor­mal res­ults with fewer of the liked con­tent, releg­at­ing the fea­ture to only when you use their social search. Google’s search res­ults include pub­lic Google Plus posts and Tweets from your social graphs. And since they have a rather lim­ited access to Face­book pro­file data, any links you share on your Face­book walls or pages will have to be pub­lic to be indexed.

What does +1 mean and what does it do?

Google’s +1s are the equi­val­ent of Tweets and Face­book likes and Google them­selves admit that these sig­nals do affect a page’s vis­ib­il­ity to some extent. On its sup­port site, Google points out that:

“+1’s from friends and con­tacts can be a use­ful sig­nal to Google when determ­in­ing the rel­ev­ance of your page to a user’s query… For +1′s, as with any new rank­ing sig­nal, we’ll be start­ing care­fully and learn­ing how those sig­nals affect search quality.”

“+1 helps people dis­cover rel­ev­ant content—a web­site, a Google search res­ult, or an ad—from the people they already know and trust. Adding the +1 but­ton to your pages lets users recom­mend your con­tent, know­ing that their friends and con­tacts will see their recom­mend­a­tion when it’s most relevant—in the con­text of Google search res­ults.” [Google Blog]

For instance, product reviews from friends may be con­sidered much more trust­worthy and rel­ev­ant to you than reviews done by experts whom you have no social con­nec­tions with.

As it stands now, Google is still tweak­ing the algorithm for improved res­ults but still reveals that hav­ing more people +1 your con­tent may boost your search engine vis­ib­il­ity. And they’ve moved a step fur­ther, integ­rat­ing the +1 but­ton within search res­ults and ads to give users the abil­ity to recom­mend this to their friends.  This means that they are likely to rank your web­site higher if it is shared not only from your site, but also from the search res­ults and ads.

social signals and SEO ranking factorsSocial Sig­nals: an end to SEO as we know it?

Social sig­nals are clearly chan­ging how the search world oper­ates. While Google used to heav­ily rely on PageR­ank as an index­ing factor, it looks like the focus is shift­ing here. But that is not to say that PageR­ank has really declined in import­ance, well, it has ceded some ground to social votes in the name of likes, +1s and Tweets but still is an import­ant rank­ing factor. The thing is that Google real­ised how much an entire link-building industry evolved to manip­u­late search res­ults, giv­ing only sites with more links the upper hand. Social search on the other hand is meant to deliver search res­ults with a more human touch and authority.

Build a strong online social presence

With that in mind, if you are look­ing to improve your online vis­ib­il­ity, then the lar­ger part of your SEO efforts should be on build­ing a strong online pres­ence on Twit­ter, Face­book and Google Plus, while not for­get­ting Flickr and the social book­mark­ing sites. Keep in mind that your social pres­ence has to be quite big to be seen as an author­ity by Bing and Google.

And finally…

Data from your Face­book pro­files and pages is import­ant to Bing in the same way as your Google+1s are import­ant to Google (who claim to treat links in Tweets in the same way those in pub­lic Face­book posts). And though giv­ing many social sig­nals to search engines will likely improve your rank­ings, the key to even greater online vis­ib­il­ity is to build a big­ger social pres­ence and getting/convincing errr brib­ing (!) the big con­nec­tions like pop­u­lar Tweeters or +1ers to recom­mend your content.


SEO, social con­tent and sig­nals advoc­ate, closet geek (not fully fledge), writer, speaker, & blogger.

Founder of NOD3x ( — Social Net­work Ana­lysis, know­ledge graph ana­lysis application

Lee can be con­tac­ted by email: here


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