Online Marketing

SyndRanker Review: Generate FREE traffic with your social media

Social signal has never been so important. Now, how often do we take recommendations from people in our network? Quite often, right? Whether it is for an investment, an online purchase or a personal issue , we often consult our friends or other experienced people and experts in our network. We do it to get good advice from all parties so that we can arrive at the best decision to act on. A recommendation is like a VOTE that allows you to take a step in that direction. This recommendation, in the eyes of the search engines, is a social signal.

The concept of recommendation has now come to search engines in the form of “SOCIAL SIGNAL”. What does this mean? The inclusion of the human component, YOU, in the search engine results in a more organic and dynamic manner than ever before. How does it work? Based on your recommendations through Likes, tweets and Google + in SyndRanker Review which act as social signals.

Who are these people who recommend?

You! It doesn’t have to be from someone who is a “thought leader” whose recommendation is the only thing that matters. Actually, anyone from an “average social media user” to a “thought leader” who uses social media has their recommendations counted! Your vote counts! And by extension, your friends and other people in your network’s recommendations count as well. Of course, to be fair, recommendations from thought leaders or the authority users have a higher weightage when compared to a normal social media user since they are considered as experts in the fields. Translated, it means that even though average Joe here who has just started a profile on Facebook can get his Like about a dog food web site to count, the search engines are going to give more importance to a dog food expert’s Sharing of a link on his Facebook Page concerning dog food. It’s just like consulting a lawyer concerning a legal issue or a doctor regarding a health issue. You don’t just simply ask anyone on the street and expect his or her recommendation to be the best choice!

By what means can a social media user “recommend”?

Social recommendations are everywhere nowadays. Surf to any web page and you are very likely going to be greeted by the ubiquitous Facebook logo, for example, somewhere on it. Recommendations can be in the form of a Facebook Like, a Tweet about the link, Google +1 or some other way of social media sharing or bookmarking. Search engines are quick to learn that such recommendations very much provides them the needed signal to tell the worth of a site’s information, which they can rely on in the course of improving search results.

Social Signal The New SEO: Google, Bing and Yahoo Unanimously Agreed

Google +1 is a major initiative in this direction. Google is basically trying to get recommendations from users through it’s “+1”. Social media shares from other prominent social networks (Facebook, Twitter and other bookmarking websites like Stumbleupon ) are being utilized by Google and Bing in the same manner.


Suppose you search for “seopressor”. Have a look at the screenshot below. The +1 next to each result with the tooltip “Recommend this page” says it all about social signals.:

Let’s say that after you looked through the first ten results, you find that the third result is more relevant (useful) compared to the top two based on your search query “seopressor”. Ah, this one should be the top choice here, so how do I change this? Pretty easy! All you do is is you +1 this result. Now your recommendation counts to Google! What if 100 different users do the same? Don’t you think these 100 recommendations would make a difference? Yes, they do! These votes are a signal to Google that the search result at third place seems to be more relevant for the search query “seopressor” and other similar keywords, more so than the top two. With this signal Google knows that the users prefer the third search result compared to the first two, therefore it should be promoted in the rankings. Hey, your vote counts!

The basic purpose of the +1 next to every search result is to have a human involvement (You!) in search engine rankings, which leads to better quality search results. More importantly, Google +1 is not the only player here. Equally important are other social media recommendations including Facebook Likes, tweets, etc. The only difference is that they are not present next to the search results on Gooogle (who knows, maybe in the future this will change. You can Like directly from Google search results!)

Was This Change Really Required?

This change came about as a result of the reduced relevance of backlinks and the growing number of social media users. The following sections explain the need for this change:

The Rise and Fall of Backlinking

Gone are those days ….

Backlinking has clearly become an antiquity now. Ok, so antiquity is kind of pushing it. Still, the term “outdated” is very true when applied to backlinking to describe its situation since the introduction of the Google Panda update last year. Back before the explosion of Facebook, Tweeter and the like, backlinks were what the search engines used to determine website rankings in the early days since they were like VOTES, Likes, and Tweets for your website content.

The Internet back then was about two kinds of users:

a) Content providers

b) Readers

The content providers created content for the Internet. The other type of user were readers. Readers, well, they searched the Internet to find information provided by the content providers. Their role was limited to only reading information. They had zero or very limited participation in the creation and spreading of content on the Internet. No Likes, no shares, no Tweets. Wow!

During those times, counting backlinks to a website was a good way of judging the quality of a website since backlink spamming was minimum then. Most of the links were gained naturally. As such there was a certain level of importance attached to each backlink. A backlink was the only true recommendation at that time. The only way webmasters could abuse backlinks was to perform “link exchanges”. And of course, as time goes by, we start to see clever softwares creating backlinks, whether in a spammy way or on a contextual way. This was working for quite some time, until few recent algorithm updates that started to put less and less significance on backlinks. We certainly remember Google cracking down on few blog networks providing backlinks to webmasters right?

Uncertain and unaware about the future of algorithm change, webmaster who continues to blast on backlinks will soon see their efforts in vain. The strategies that are getting less and less significance:

§  Using Fiverr to create low quality backlinks

§  Using blog networks to provide backlinks (search crackdown on BMR)

§  Cluelessly outsource creation of backlinks

§  Profile backlink spams (on those forums)

§  Comment spamming (including the use of few blackhat softwares)

§  Submitting the same article all over the places

§  And a few more.

To know if your strategy will continue to work, ask this: Is your approach involve trying to pretend someone else who will backlink to your site. If the answer is YES, you probably want to revisit your strategy.

If Google is not going to take backlinks into account, which had always worked as a “VOTE” to show a site’s worth, what can Google do to have a better guess?

You probably has the right answer: Social Signals, or Social “Votes”.

Times have changed … – Social signal is the new “VOTE”

If you notice, the web has changed from anonymity to now, everyone’s got a profile. Be it Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest…the list goes on. To further enforce this, Google launched the author markup, which will be discussed further below.

Then came social networking. The “readers” were no longer just bystanders. They could now participate on the Internet – blog, discuss, comment, share, create profiles and network with other users and so on. With this change the significance backlinks reduced drastically:

Backlinking Earlier: Write quality content or provide a useful resource so that other websites on the Internet link to you.

Backlinking Then: Get as many links to your website by whatever means (profile links, commenting, forum signatures, social bookmarking, link exchange etc.) so that you can rank well in search engine results. I am not using “backlinking NOW” for a good reason.

Put simply, even poor quality web sites can leapfrog to the top of the search engine results because of this abuse. If you know how to play the backlinking game, you can get a site ranked high even though it is poor. Change was necessary to combat this menace.

This action came with the famous Google Panda Update of 2011. This update affected 12% of the websites. Thousands of websites reported that their backlinks have been deindexed by Google. To reduce spamming the overall effect of backlinking has been significantly reduced.

The noteworthy introduction was the integration of “SOCIAL” in search engine results. This integration came to be known as Social Signals. Social signals have largely replaced backlinks as the new “VOTE” for webpages.

How does this integration affect backlinking techniques?

Backlinking is not completely dead. Backlinking will continue to exist but with reduced importance. Google is not against backlinks. However, it is staunchly against unethical backlinking techniques. Google hates unnatural links as much as they love natural backlinks. They are doing everything they can to identify and de-value unnatural backlinks. High quality backlinks used to matter and will continue to matter in the future as well. But backlink exploitation may not seem to work very well now. So if you are still investing loads of dollars and time into unethical backlinking techniques like blog networks, article directories, reciprocal backlinks etc., you may no longer reap the benefits.

BuildMyRank (BMR), one of the popular link building service had to close recently as a consequence of Google de-indexing their links. A post at their blog said:

“Unfortunately, this morning, our scripts and manual checks have determined that the overwhelming majority of our network has been de-indexed (by Google), as of March 19, 2012. In our wildest dreams, there’s no way we could have imagined this happening.”

Many other link building service providers have equally been affected.

On the other hand, websites optimized for social signals have been showing better rankings. In our own experiments, we found that the top 10% most optimized sites in our network attract 360% more traffic with 410% more keywords being ranked. This continues to be good even after the latest algorithm change that has garnered lots of discussions and I guess we are all good with all these white-hat and genuine SEO and SEM strategies 

So basically other than on-page factors, rankings will now be determined by a mix of backlinks and social signals. And among the two, it’s the social signals whose importance is only going to grow in the future. Backlinking is going to take a back seat.

How is this change going to affect webmasters and Internet marketers?

Webmasters and Internet marketers need a major shift in their marketing strategies to accommodate these social signals. This shift needs more effort to be put into social media strategies. The time has come when companies, brands and bloggers need to take social media more seriously. There are a number of questions associated with this change, the common ones being:

§  How do I boost social media fan following (subscribers, followers etc.)?Increasing visibility in the social media sphere is something that can’t be achieved overnight. It takes time to build a genuine fan following. However, you can accelerate the process by utilizing the best practices of social media spheres. These strategies may differ from one social network to the other. Our Social Media Marketing guide provides comprehensive tips and know-how on best practices to boost social media presence. Download it here.

§  Can I use fake profiles or similiar networks to boost my social media shares?Many of the blackhat SEO experts may have already come up with such ideas. But a word of caution – do not waste your time and money on such unethical networks. This is not going to help. Social media shares from authority users (highly active social media users) will have a much higher value than social media shares from not so active social media users. So creating fake social media profiles just for the sake of getting shares will have a negligible effect. Rather, focus on engaging with real social media users, and more importantly, the influential social media users. Network with real people and you will naturally see results.

§  How much should I invest into social media?I’ll answer this bluntly: Most of what you invested earlier in backlinking needs to be shifted to social media strategy right NOW. Backlinking has been showing diminishing effects in search engine results. Its importance is only going to fade. Most of the focus should now be on social media, but do still keep some investment for high quality backlinks.

§  Does this investment have a future?Yes, it definitely does, 100%. All major search engines (not just Google) are using social media data to rank search results now. In the future too, the effect of social media can only be expected to grow.

Use of Social Signals Has Been Confirmed

Matt Cutts on May 2010 refuted claims of using social signals in search engine results. However, in a video on December 2010 he confirmed that they are now using social media links as a ranking factor in the search engine results. Not just the real time search results, but they were using them in web search results as well.



Note: at 0:35: “Yes, I can confirm this. We do use Twitter, Facebook’s link and ranking as we always have in our web search ranking…we are also trying to figure out the reputation of an author…” (more about social signals and authorship markup will be discussed below)

Even Bing has confirmed that they are using social media factors in search rankings in an interview given by Dan Sullivan of Search Engine Land.

Google released the Panda updates in early 2011 and more updates thereafter. After the Google Panda updates in early 2011, Google Webmaster Central blog published a list of factors for a website to be called a high quality website. What we got here is that social signals are a very important part of this update. Some important factors directly related to social media are:

§  Would you trust the information presented in this article?

§  Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

§  Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Trust Factor

How do you measure something as intangible as trust? Glad I’m not working on Google’s search engine algorithm team! They got their work cut out for them. You see, the trust factor does not have a dedicated algorithm associated with it, like say the old Page Rank algorithm. The higher the trust factor, the greater the possibility for a site will rank high. Trust is related to the reputation or the authority of the website, and a site’s reputation can be improved with the quality of content, social votes and visitors’ behavior.

It’s 2012 and search engines cannot ignore social media. Social media means real people. It means YOUR recommendation counts, loud and clear. Sure, spam profiles and fake profiles do exist, but that doesn’t mean that the real social media user’s vote is not going to matter just because of it. The addition of new factors/signals to the search engines is a process that involves a number of real human beings who evaluate sets of websites to rank them depending on their quality and proposed additions. Automated artificial intelligence modules are then created based on how the “human beings” ranked the websites in the sets. These automated modules are then responsible for the ranking factors that we see in search engine results. Pretty nifty, huh! And I am sure it’s more complicated that this!

Social media is the perfect place to look for these testers, the people who are testing the quality of content. What can be more important than humans evaluating content and recommending it to others using tweets, Likes or +1s? People tend to share high quality, relevant information. Sure, some of us do share the occasional crass joke or irrelevant fun link, but all in all we share things that we find interesting and care about. This is the reason why search engines can’t ignore social media. As far as the trust factor is concerned, a site with a lot of social media shares tells Google that, hey, a lot of people are finding this site relevant and trust this site’s stuff. Thus, the content can be regarded as high quality content by Google.

Author Reputation

In July 2011, a blog post at the Google Webmaster Central blog said:

“We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.”

We better pay attention!

This blog post introduced authorship markup – associating authors with their content. Sounds like a lot of common sense. Actually it’s not simple. Google can’t just simply say, hey, this guy with this social media account just posted this content on his site. He must be the content’s original author! The reality is that there can be thousands of people with the same name on the web! Also, people can scrape and copy content and claim it as their own. So author markup is something that enables Google to distinguish who’s the real deal and simultaneously make their social network Google Plus popular.

There is an important reason behind authorship markup. Google wants to keep track of who wrote what, who created what. And also who copied and plagiarised! With authorship markup Google will be able to deal with this. This would help Google to place original content at higher rankings and ignore/penalize websites copying content from others.

Dealing with duplicate content has been the biggest headache for Google. The challenge of distinguishing between the original and the duplicate would sometimes result in degraded rankings for websites with original content. This happened to many webmasters, if you are one of them, you know what I am talking about. Authorship markup was to make this differentiation possible.

Now you can see a small pic of the original writer with his name in search engine results. This is a result of authorship markup.

Google has a clear step-by-step tutorial on how to get your authorship markup on your site.

Also, be sure to use the rich snippets testing tool to see what author data Google can get from your Page.

Some studies have suggested that once your content is linked to your Google+ Profile, it will take less than 24 hours for the Google search engine to update your content on the search results to include your pic and name. Be patient.

Author reputation may not just be limited to Google Plus. Google may be calculating author reputation on Twitter and Facebook as well. Therefore possible signals like Twitter rank, Facebook rank, Google Plus rank or social media rank may be confirmed by Google in the very near future (all for the lack of a better term). Social media influence is a term that is already being used to measure how influential one is in the social media space. Some websites like Klout, Zuvvu etc. are already using this concept.

The quality of shares may also depend on who shared. The link may get more value if it was shared by someone of high repute in the eyes of a search engine.

Bookmarking and Recommendation Factor

Bookmarking is basically meant to save, manage or organize some relevant information available on the Internet. When somebody bookmarks a web page there is definitely a value attached to it by the search engines. Bookmarks are generally associated with some really useful, relevant content. After all, who bookmarks junk and things they don’t want to read about (other than spammers)! With the advent of social media comes social bookmarking. Social bookmarking allows users to search through bookmarks of different users in line with the spirit of sharing and engaging. Websites like Stumbleupon, Reddit, Delicious, Digg etc., fall under the social bookmarking category. Social bookmarking is akin to a recommendation. If you share a particular interest with another person, you can check out his or her social bookmarkings to see what stuff, sites and content that person has been going through on the Internet because they may prove beneficial and relevant to you.

Once again, this is a case of “content review by human beings”. Can search engines ignore it? They definitely can’t afford to. Items getting more diggs, more shares, more stumbles, more tweets, etc will definitely get more “search engine love”.

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