Are social search signals a true representation of reliable results?

Social media is pervading every single part of life – I’m sure we’re not far off art galleries installing ‘Like’ buttons and classic literature with it’s own ‘re-tweet’ capabilities. However, perhaps the most pressing of social media’s invasion is its increasing effects on rankings in search. The Conversation Prism has created a fantastic (and visually-striking) diagram of all the social features of the web and how everything ties in together. Google understands the power that social media holds and by making it a part of their algorithm, are seeking to shake things up even more. But how?

Well, if a close friend recommended a coffee shop to you, then the chances are that you are going to visit it as a preference – and this is essentially the crux of the matter. Google has recognised that search results can be gamed by aggressive and black-hat link building tactics and is constantly fighting to stop this, which has thus led to an increasing reliance in social signals.

So, what are social signals?

A social signal could be anything from +1 from a Google account, a Facebook ‘Like’, an influx of followers, re-tweets, online reviews, ratings or anything that would increase online presence on social networks and promote brand trust.

Even when I want to purchase a small bit of furniture, I’ll check up online reviews and these will prove a large influencing factor on my final decision. Randall Munroe of XKCD has aptly demonstrated how online shopping reviews have changed the way we shop.

So really, in a perfect world, this would be the ideal way to categorise search results as it effectively negates any effects that spam could have. However, this has inevitably led to companies offering ‘less-than-legitimate’ services by selling these social signals – and it’s easy to see why; you just get a massive network of people signed up to the network and they can automatically act as influencers.

However, this now means that the results can be gamed even more than ever – you could be searching for an exercise bike and one of the top results has a 5-star rating and hundreds of +1’s – instantly, you’d think that this would be a great product. You purchase it, content with your purchase but after one hour it completely falls apart and you think to yourself, “…but, the reviews said it was good!”

So what’s to stop this happening? Well, if Google really does place higher value on social signals, then nothing! Originally, Google’s algorithm took into account the content that was linking back to the site and the quality of these sites that are providing these links – obviously this has the potential to be gamed, but with the mighty Panda stomping its paws, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to trick the system.

With personalised search becoming the next big thing to rock the world of SEO, it’s logical that there would be a greater importance placed on social media; however distinguishing between legitimate and bought social recommendations is going to be a tough move for Google.

As Chris Crum of WebProNews stated, “SEO is still a factor, but it’s not the only factor. In fact, social is a factor of that factor.”

We at Lakestar Media recognised that social media is of utmost important for an effective digital marketing campaign and, with a genuine strategy borne out of customer-interaction and natural public relations, will be a key influencer and inevitably build confidence in every business.

Tom Clark

I am the Head of Social Search at Lakestar McCANN - a digital marketing agency specialising in SEO, PPC, Social Media, Affiliates, Display and industry news feeds. I have been in the SEO industry for 2 years now, and with Lakestar for over a year, helping to create new effective web strategies, as well as integrating social methods into existing deliverables.

More Posts - Website

  • http://www.inversearch.com Joe Cibula

    Paid search simply doesn’t work. What we need to do is categorize consumer queries, and have businesses pay per response; That’s the only true way to get real results. Everything else is social conversation. Inverse search.

  • http://www.inversearch.com Joe Cibula

    Paid search simply doesn’t work. What we need to do is categorize consumer queries, and have businesses pay per response; That’s the only true way to get real results. Everything else is social conversation. Inverse search.