Do Social Signals Affect Rankings?

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Every study I've seen says that social signals are HIGHLY correlated to higher rankings. They key words here are highly and correlated.

It's got to be important if it's that highly correlated, but that doesn't mean they are causative factors.

So the questions is are they causative or not?

Or is it just that pages that get a lot of signals tend to get a lot of links too?

I've read tests and experiments where people draw opposite conclusions too. Have any of you been able to say one way or the other yet?
 
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Speaking purely from first-hand anecdotal absolutely non-scientific experiences... it's a big hell yeah that social signals have an effect on rankings.
 
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My problem with people who "test" things when it comes to seo is there are always so many variables that they can't or won't even know how to control for.

Most experiments carry about as much weight as the little box you build around your egg to drop it out of a window in 1st grade.

Person one drops their egg and it cracks so you can't drop an egg out of a window... until...
Person two drops their egg and it doesn't crack, so not eggs don't crack when you drop them out of a window.

That's about as scientific as anyone gets when they test SEO stuff (Not ANYONE, but most people.)

So the problem with people saying social signals either DO or DON'T work to improve rankings, is they're just basing it off of one egg dropped out of one window, but they're not taking into account the materials used to build the box around the egg, or the type of ground outside the window...

Not all social signals are necessarily created equal, either. Nobody seems to think that Google has any way at all to tell whether a Facebook like / share is real or botted, but honestly.. we're talking about two of the largest tech companies, and they do compete in a lot of areas, but who's to say they never throw each other a bone on stuff like this? "Hey we'll give your signal some validity in our algo if you help us tell which likes are fake..." I'm not saying this conversation happened but I'm always surprised how much people are willing to put past Google. Maybe YOU can't figure out how they would possibly detect fake social signals, but YOU also probabally can't figure out a lot of stuff they do - no offence lol.

So let's ASSUME that not all social signals are created equally and the guy with real fan pages to boost his stuff is going to have better quality signals than the guy with a bot loaded up with fake profiles. Who's taking that into account in their tests? Plus the other countless factors that are going to decide whether a site ranks or not.

I'd rather boil my egg, take the shell off, and slice it on top of a nice salad.

Don't even get me started on the tests that are like "My site was ranked #5 last week. I added some social signals and now I'm ranked #4, so I conclude that social signals boost rankings." or the guy who'll say "I ranked #5, but after adding social signals I'm #6 therefor....."

(I'm not proposing a better solution, I'm just saying that SEO studies, even if they're done by someone who isn't a complete idiot, mean almost nothing at all because it's about the big picture and sites move around for any number of reasons so I don't know how anyone could really even measure this accurately...)
 
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Even when you run tests like these and truly isolate just the social signals or even one type of social signal... it's still not a completely isolated test. There's still a site with certain content, certain links already in place, and the age of the site. And algorithms themselves depend upon other factors and have tons of if/and/or loops in place too. So maybe social signals don't work for ranking unless _____ and _____ are in place as well. Can't every fully isolate. You'd need to run 100's of tests and then run a meta-analysis on those tests to average out the info.
 
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If the profiles do matter, then all of these fiverr sellers are going to end up causing a lot of sites a lot of problems. I can imagine the next animal update targeting fake social signals (which would confirm that they work in some way).
 
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It's related more to trust other than ranking, it doesn't push your site up but it helps on maintaining position for a bit long than what spamming alone can handle.
 

vinnypolston

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For me it's been a combination of social aspects, dang good content, and decent real domain authority to back it up.

Before proceeding with what my experience is please know that I haven't tested this or dived deeper into its success. It could just be a fluke.. but it's stable.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article about a product. Think 'Product reviews: blah blah blah'. I really put myself into that article. After that we did some paid Facebook advertising to promote the post.

The domain is a DA 30, legit PR2, and 10+ years old. No SEO had been done on the domain up to this point. It's a real blog with around 10+ 500-1200 word articles. All hand-written by me.

I wrote the product review. Also spent I believe $20 on a promoted post linking to the article on the Facebook page. It ended up reaching over 5,000 people and got 4 likes and 3 comments. Nothing outstanding.

I also built two backlinks off of two domains that I own in the same niche. One was straight up 'product reviews' and the second was something like 'product widget reviews'.

Didn't get anything from it.

Couple of months go by and I start notice a decent amount of traffic coming in. Low and behold it was that article. All I had done was what mentioned above.

In the past year and a half it has got 29k unique visits on that single article according to G analytics. It's averaging anywhere from $80 - $120 / month in AdSense.

So to answer your question.. does social impact search results? From my limited experience yes. I haven't done any testing on that theory because of being busy working on some digital product releases. Maybe I'll re-visit it someday?

Anyways. Hope that was helpful! Let us know what you find out!
 

turbin3

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I think the most correct answer, based on the different SERP niches I've seen in the long term, is that the answer is both yes and no. Honestly, I think it's entirely SERP / niche dependent. In some, it seems that, yes, social might be a make or break factor. In others, it seemingly doesn't matter at all. I think the real takeaway here is that there aren't many absolutes with Google's ranking factors. I think the more important question to ask is, for my given keyword / SERP / niche, do signs point to social being a relative factor. This can often be determined fairly quickly and easily, so I tend to think it's not really a huge concern that necessarily demands a significant amount of worry or analysis. Run the keyword through Serpwoo, or run a CKA report and then a Link Juice report with those top 10 SERP results in Link Research Tools, or any other number of tools out there can give you social metrics at a quick glance. Whether it is or is not a factor should be apparent fairly quickly. At least that's my take on it so far. Take my words with a grain though. Most of my work is client work for small and large businesses both local and international, and not much to do with affiliate marketing.
 

Lion

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Honestly, I think it's entirely SERP / niche dependent.
I once read a google patent that told how the algorithm will weight things differently depending upon the rest of the major players in that niche. So while there is one major algo across the board, certain aspects of it change in importance based on who you're playing with. I agree with the above quote entirely.
 
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It's just one drink in a cocktail of many things definitely a factor but, not just alone.
 

Walt Heisenberg Jr

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Social signals verify the links you're getting.

So if you're sending tons of links to your site, it only makes sense to Google that people are sharing your content.
 
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Social Signals are like proving that links is legit or been shared by your users what google call it "Natural links" so it is a type of trust needed to prove to Google's Bot (Small janitors) your links are trustworthy.

If you don't know that SEO ranking needs now many types of factors if you don't understand them you won't rank easily.

Authority
Trust
Velocity
Timing
Quantity
Quality
Ageing
Diversity
Many more...

Each of these elements is divided into other requirement you need to know.
You need all of these to make sure you will rank and stay as longer as possible.

P.S: These elements are for both main categories (On-Page and Off-Page).
 
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