SEO Social

5 Myths about Social Ranking Factors

Busy day? If this blog post is TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read), click through the slideshow below. We summarize the whole post in 5 slides.

If you’d like to see polarization in action, ask people about their politics or whether they like dogs or cats. If they’re search folks, ask them about the relationship between SEO and social media.

Once the two sides are deep into flinging Cutts vs Forrester quotes back-and-forth, show them this article with the calming words: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Myths are defined as “widely held but false beliefs or ideas.” In search and social however, if you can’t dispel most of the bull out there and move on, you’re probably missing out on many of the benefits or stifling many of the inherent opportunities.


If you were in DC at Conductor’s Road to C3 customer conference, you’ll probably enjoy this recap of my Search. Social. So What? presentation, with far fewer of the corny jokes.

Myth #1: Google only cares about Google+

If someone’s told you Google+ is Google’s only play in the social space, it’s obvious that person’s been living under a rock; it is not the most social of venues. Google wants to “organize the world’s information,” which includes serving up current social content in their SERP (recent Twitter ‘re’deal with Google) as well as preparing and integrating popular, emerging, and future content feeds to provide timely, relevant formats and platforms.

Short form, real-time video streaming services like Periscope & Meerkat are rife for Google integration, and the Apple Watch? …Google’s just released an app for that. In the last month alone, we’ve seen both the major search engines integrating with social media platform streams and connections, with the goal of timeliness and relevance.

In the last month alone, we’ve seen both the major search engines integrating with social media platform streams and connections, with the goal of timeliness and relevance.

With social media both competing with, and complementing organic search results, SEO folks cannot afford to think a single platform is Google’s only play.

Reality: With the developments in social content and platforms, the relationship between search and social will continue to evolve. Marketers should check in often to remain visible in search.

Myth #2: Social has zero impact on Google rankings.

Do social signals directly impact rankings? No, says Google (and I say no too, at least as far as Google is concerned.) However, social will help you in your search marketing efforts – primarily because social links are still links and search engines rely on signals like links (and links) to help in the discovery of web content.

Reps of both Google and Bing have indicated that social chatter velocity, diversity and sentiment will inspire the search engine to go “take a look,” potentially showing in trending stories, and giving some relevant authority to content.

The key, of course, is that nothing happens in a vacuum as far as search algorithms go. twitter-icon

The key, of course, is that nothing happens in a vacuum as far as search algorithms go.

If the quality of the content based on many other ranking signals isn’t up to par, it doesn’t matter how much faster content is indexed; you won’t rank faster, and if you do, you won’t rank well for long.

Reality: While social isn’t a direct ranking signal for Google, it will get you noticed, potentially earn you links, and get your content indexed faster.

Myth #3: Social media marketing is a black box that relies on voodoo for metrics.

As seasoned digital marketers, we should be familiar with the ins-and-outs of industry analytics platforms like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics and enterprise SEO platforms (like – ahem – Conductor). Key metrics like traffic volume, search visibility, link profile scope, market share and conversions are core components of justification and iteration in search performance.

Many marketers seem less comfortable measuring social media as anything more than brand visibility data. But that argument only goes so far in an industry when data is available, accessible, and actionable.

An example from my agency days: I was consulting with a client who flat-out refused to invest in a robust social media presence because “it was difficult to measure.”

I pointed to a design mock up on their desk of a billboard campaign with their logo and a smiling housewife on it and asked, “How do you judge the ROI on that?” When they stammered out a response about eyeballs and cars, I responded: “Unless you hire someone to stand there counting cars, I think I may be able to measure the ROI on the social impressions we can generate a little better, and probably with a rounding error of less than 3 pickup trucks!”


Diplomacy was never my strong point, but they got the point, and we were able to drive significant brand value, awareness and traffic (of the Internet kind) back to their site, with some great socially promoted content and campaigns.

The lesson here is that you can apply traditional metrics to social, like CPM, CPC and CPL (cost per 1000 impressions, cost per click, and cost per lead respectively).

Social-only metrics are a different kettle of fish. There’s definite value in building affinity and your pool of influence; however the value of a tweet, like, share or pin isn’t as easy to assign a definitive value to.

Reality: It’s not hard to measure social’s effect – but it’s easy to underestimate its value. twitter-icon

Myth #4: Your Search Team is from Mars and the Social Team is from Venus.

Yes, search folks tend to be geeks, and social folks tend to be English or sociology majors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t all get along. When it comes to search / social teamwork, 1+1=3 with massive potential for success. And it’s an opportunity many companies miss.

Here are just a few of the areas where the two teams can leverage each other’s expertise:

  • Research and testing: Testing for the best titles, discovery of natural language terms, uncovering of semantic relationships, and alignment of industry terms to user search queries. It’s easy to forget that at the end of a search query, there’s a real person, and both traditional and non-traditional keyword, topic and behavioral query research can help the search team understand personalities, and the social team to understand how people research.
  • Discoverability and Visibility: Content from social sites can rank well beyond the obvious inclusion of Google Plus content, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Slideshare, and any indexable social content can earn top SERP spots.
  • Branding and Authority: Google loves brands, and social can introduce, enhance and reinforce entities as brands, through visibility, engagement, virility, session, clicks and other user / authority signals.

Reality: Bringing your search and social teams together should be one of your top priorities.

Myth #5: We have to combine our search and social teams to succeed!

Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but you’ve read this far, so why not listen?

I’m all for breaking down siloes, collaboration and singing Kumbaya around the campfire, but does this mean your search and social media marketers need to be on the same team?

YMMV of course. Personally, I love having everyone in the same room, but with modern project management tools, face-to-face remote communications, and socially-focused platforms, it’s not a requirement to have the search and social folks in the same team, room, office or even same country!

Key to a successful search / social integration comes down to accessibility of data, frequency of communications and (mutually understood) shared goals.

Key to a successful search / social integration comes down to accessibility of data, frequency of communications and (mutually understood) shared goals.

Ultimately, content is the bridge between these two teams, twitter-icon and having a really great understanding of each team members’ role in the ideation, creation, deployment, promotion, measurement, and reporting of that content ensures ‘same page’ strategy and tactics.

Given that necessary connection between content activities, the structure of your teams is immaterial to your success if everyone understands the goals, shares in the process, and celebrates the wins TOGETHER!

Reality: It’s OK for search and social to be separate, as long as they’re working from the same content playbook.

If by some chance you did miss my Road to C3 presentation in Washington DC (you missed your flight, the car broke down, your dog ate your laptop, yadda yadda yadda), and you need more insights, recommended tools, tactics and ways to convince your boss what to do (or if you are the boss, how to get your team to do what they should be doing), flip through my deck or tweet me @simmonet.

In the meantime… What search and social myths are you dispelling (or falling victim to) at your company?

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