How Social Signals Affect Search Engine Rankings

Being Nasty To Customers Won’t Help With Search Rank, But Nice Tweets From the Right People Will

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land reports an increasing number of social factors are beginning to affect search engine rankings.

The technosphere was buzzing this week thanks to two pieces of extraordinary journalism – one in mainstream media, the other by a well-respected blogger. One was full of useful search engine optimization revelations; the other was simply an e-commerce horror story. Both helped pull back the curtains a little on how Google and other search engines are using social media in their search rankings.

The Sunday New York Times profiled a Brooklyn-based merchant whose idea of customer service needs a little work, to say the least. Anyone complaining to him about the fashionable eyeglasses he sells online gets a nasty email or phone call in return; some customers were actually threatened. His unique business model? He told the Times reporter that negative comments about him to Get Satisfaction and other consumer complaint websites actually help his search rankings on Google and boost his profits.

The Times found that his site did indeed rank high during its initial investigation, but that business wasn’t quite as good as what the merchant was making it out to be. Also, subsequent reporting by bloggers like Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land (quoted in the Times story) discovered that spam websites, paid links and other methods were helping the eyeglass business more than links from complaint sites. Nevertheless, two days after the story was published, Google announced on its company blog that thanks to the Times piece, it had adjusted its algorithms to include reviews of merchants.

The enterprising Sullivan, meanwhile, published the results of questions he had asked Google and Bing officials regarding their use of “social signals” like Twitter and Facebook chatter in search result rankings. The answers confirmed what many have suspected: social networks are having more of an impact. Tweets from people who both search engines deem “authorities” are taken into account based on number of followers and who they’re following. Retweets are also now in the mix. Details on Facebook updates and links remain a little cloudier, but Bing did tell Sullivan that Facebook Pages links are included in rankings.

The process of social media weighing on search results page rankings continues to evolve, but businesses now know a little more than they did two weeks ago. As algorithms are tweaked by Google, Bing and Yahoo!, social media marketers will also get busy determining new SEO strategies for their clients. Identifying influencers on Twitter now takes on that much more importance.

Dealing with negative comments about businesses quickly and professionally should also be a priority, as Google keeps working on sentiment analysis and how it should play into rankings of merchants, not just products. Yet it’s funny that despite the rise of technology and social networks, some things never change. Wisdom imparted to most of us a long time ago by the earliest social media experts still holds true: something about doing unto others…

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Renay San Miguel and Bobby Metzinger, Splash Media. Splash Media said: Social Media Minute: Tip from us, being a jerk to customers doesn't help your search engine rankings… http://ow.ly/3jJvx [...]

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