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16 May

Social Link Anatomy – Getting A Feel For The Value of Social


Because of the new research regarding social media’s effect on SEO emerging we thought it would be worth taking a closer look at and go into more detail on social links.

It has always been my opinion that the whole deal of search becoming more and more social was rather turgid. It probably still is. Exclusory of how many shares, likes or tweets it may receive, I believe content that is popular in social media is assumably already prominent among search engines. The cogs really began to turn when Rand posted his data and findings of social media’s influence on Google.

It is almost impossible for anyone to ignore the increasing association between very prominent social content and very high search rankings. Google and Bing both confirmed the use of social signals in rankings.

What Social Media Links Are Worthwhile?

Just like in non-social link building, not all links matter.  There are millions of social bookmarking websites in existence, but it isn’t necessary for you to have an account with them all. It is unlikely that Google is looking at all the activity on all social media platforms.

So which ones are they looking at?

It is probable that search engines are at least looking at the following sites: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon, because they are established, trusted social media platforms that are hosts to extensive user bases. Because they also all contain public profiles, search engines can learn about any user by  indexing their profile.

Users share links differently across the networks. Digg and Reddit are pretty similar, but Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon are all considerably different. However, I believe there to be a link ranking method search engines use, that is applied to all of these sites. Authority, recency, frequency, and influence can rank social links.


Google and Bing both stated that they incorporate authority factors into how they value social links. And when it comes to social links, the most powerful link metric is user authority (user trust).

But just how are these factors incorporated?  It will obviously differ between sites. User profiles are public with Facebook. Search engines can put the data that they see on the user’s wall and transfer it into their index.

This enables them to know how active users are, the topics in which they are interested in, and how popular they are within the network. If you’ve got a lot of activity around a specific subject then a comment about an unrelated subject may not have as much weight as a ranking factor.

This also applies to Twitter. Search engines can view tweets of users. They know who is following and who is being followed by who and while certain celebrities are popular on Twitter, search engines do not necessarily viewed them as an authority on anything, whilst a user with a few thousands or tens of thousands who all have a shared interest will be counted as an authority.

Search engines can see what content you share, like and subscribe to on social news websites. They are aware of the topics users are authorities on and how trusted they are on that topic.

StumbleUpon allows others to review the “favourites” of any user, and also review their individual discoveries. It should be no difficulty to find what subjects’ users are interested in and how trusted they are on those subjects.

Also is a user has a unique username and they use it across several social platforms, search engines may distinguish that the same user is in control of all of those different accounts. Being consistent on all social media may influence a user’s overall authority.

Connecting with other industry authorities, share valuable and popular content to increase network size is the best way to gain authority in social media.


Recency plays a leading part in social media; it refers to when the social link was shared. If I share a link about Manchester United beating Chelsea to the Premier League title, people wouldn’t really take much notice but if I had shared a link about it the night it happened, then many might be interested in checking it out.

Short term, surges of social media links tend to boost rankings.

In traditional SEO thinking there is a tendency to think the more aged a link is, the better, as it shows it has really been established. In social media this is not the case. If all the social links are old, then it is old news. This appears to be backwards from traditional SEO thinking.

It is key to find a way to sustain the growth of social links consistently. In the short run, a high surge may help, but in the long run social links will be more useful if they appear regularly.


Even though it is often stated that its more about link quality than link quantity,  with social links this is true to an extent. However it doesn’t mean that quantity doesn’t matter at all. If your content is shared frequently, it can be a great thing.

Some search queries however, will recover results that don’t have very many social links.

Another perspective here is the frequency that you share content. The frequency in which content is shared is also of relative importance. If a user is constantly sharing content, their links may not be viewed to be especially valuable. If content is only occasionally shared, it may be valued higher. This is due to spammers and is used as a way to withstand them.

The frequency of the same content that is shared is also a discerning factor. If a user repeatedly shares the same URL, it will receive little or no value. Search engines will view them as spammers and they will be treated as such.

The key is making it easy for people to share your content to generate larger volumes of social links rather than repeatedly sharing it yourself.


Influence specifies how well received a social link is. If something is shared via Facebook and it achieves a lot of “likes” and others share it, then the link had a lot of influence.

This is the same on Twitter with “retweets”, votes on social news sites or thumbs up on StumbleUpon. A link that isn’t influential is one that receives no “likes”, no “retweets”, no votes or a lot of thumbs down.

Understanding your audience when sharing content is very critical. If there are al lot of SEO’s in your network, a link with content pertaining SEO is more likely to have more influence than a link to a blog about wizards.

The key is to share content that is valuable and relevant only. Also others are more likely to reciprocate if you like, retweet and recommend their content.


There is a lot that is still not understood regarding the integration of search with social, as it is still relatively new.

Google has introduced the +1 button along with the ability for a user to block a website from their search results. They must be looking at user data and ways that it can be used to determine ranking signals.

I don’t think we can refute the increasing effect social links are having on traditional search results. Social links have a greater influence on real-time news and discussion results than they do on normal web results.

With social links, the key to success is to avoid being a spammer by being authentic. Spammers’ networks are flat, they share lots of links and repeatedly share the same links. They tend not to participate within their networks. Follow the example of how non-SEOs use social media to avoid appearing to be a spammer.

Obtaining social links is in essence predicated on having content that is interesting to other users. To acquire social links you need to convince other users to share the link to a terrible website regardless of your authority, trust or influence

Final thought on all of this – you can spend the rest of your life trying to get people to like, share and tweet your website however don’t forget to concentrate on the making sure the visitors to your site are able to convert!

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