The Influence Of Social Media On Search Rankings

There is no end to this long run debate among bloggers.

Which is more influential – Social Media or Search ? Which medium of traffic converts the most and whether social media links have any significant influence on search ranks and search traffic ?

After blogging around for two years, I have arrived to the conclusion that the nature of conversions is entirely dependent on the target site and you can never assume which medium of traffic is going to convert for a specific site. You have to test and test and test – there is no golden rule.

The Influence Of Social Media On Search Rankings

Danny Sullivan, one of the well known search engine specialist from SearchEngineLand, conducted a brief email interview with Google and Bing. The topic of the interview was – Does Social Media really have any impact on search rankings ?

Here are the questions and answers from the Interview:

1. If a blog post or an article is retweeted or refrenced many times in Twitter, do you count the Retweet number as a signal outside of finding any non-nofollowed links that may naturally result from it?

Bing: We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.

Google:  Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.

2. Do you try to calculate the authority of someone who tweets that might be assigned to their Twitter page. Do you try to “know,” if you will, who they are?

Bing: Yes. We do calculate the authority of someone who tweets. For known public figures or publishers, we do associate them with who they are. (For example, query for Danny Sullivan)

Google: Yes we do compute and use author quality. We don’t know who anyone is in real life :-)

3. Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?

Bing: Yes.

Google: Yes we do use this as a signal, especially in the “Top links” section of Google’s Realtime Search. Author authority is independent of PageRank, but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search.

4. Do you track links shared within Facebook, either through personal walls or fan pages?

Bing: Yes. We look at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages.

Google: We treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as we treat tweeted links. We have no personal wall data from Facebook.

5. Do you try to calculate the authority of someone on Facebook, either say via their personal wall or their fan page.

Bing: We don’t do this on Facebook. On Facebook, we only get what’s public, only updates and things you’ve posted to everyone as viewable. We don’t get things only shared with friends, so we don’t know how authoritative you are on Facebook. There isn’t the whole convenient retweet mechanism we see on Twitter.

We do see valuable content shared by Facebook users, even though we only get what’s public.  For example when Gary Coleman died we saw a  video from Different Strokes, saying his favorite line “what ya talk’in ’bout Willis” gain popularity.  It happened to be what a lot of people are sharing on the day he passed away.

Google: Again, the treatment is the same as for Twitter. And we have no personal wall data from Facebook.

6) Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who shared it on Facebook?

Bing: We can tell if something is of quality on Facbook by leveraging Twitter. If the same link is shared in both places, it’s more likely to be legitimate.

Google: Same as question 5.

7. And just to be really clear, the new Facebook data is not yet being used in ordinary web search, right? (asked only to Bing)

Bing: No.

In the end, it appears that Social media plays a very important part in determining the ranking of search results. Google uses more than 200 factors and signals to determine the authority of a webpage and social media is certainly one of the major influencing factors. The day is not far when social media will be one of the deciding factors of search, though not the only one.

So you get the idea – Social media isn’t big, it’s huge !

Amit Banerjee is the founding editor and owner of Ampercent. He is a die hard technology enthusiast and writes about all things technology, How to guides, tutorials and search engines. Follow him on Twitter, read his personal blog or drop him an email.