Live from Pubcon: Social Signals that Influence Search

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Oct 17, 2012
More Articles by Janet


I didn’t quite make it for the whole session yesterday, but thankfully I was there in time to catch the presentation from my friend, Rob Garner from iCrossing, on social signals in search. I’ll be attending another social signals session today, so keep an eye out for that post too! Rob’s presentation was divided into four parts:

  • Which social signals are important for search
  • Why search is a strategic part of social
  • Google+ search signals and the author graph
  • A list of social signals and what matters

Why are Social Signals Important for Search?

Rob started by saying that inbound links were essentially more for the technologically savvy, whereas social allows everyone, regardless of skills, to share links. Links are still the cornerstone of SEO, but we’ve added a new cornerstone with social signals too.

This began a new way of looking at links — the social graph. The social graph begins to take into account the amount of sharing, the credibility of the person sharing the information (followers, etc.), and more. The shared connections are essentially the subset of the social graph.

Social signals are one of the key ways to identify high velocity content and the velocity of keywords as they emerge. This helps search engines like Google understand the hot trends as they occur. For instance, Google is time and date stamping every click in Google+. This helps Google identify when a hot story is beginning to emerge.

One of the key connective elements of search and social is that natural language signals connect social and search. SEOs often focus on historical data for keywords, but keywords are a connection to people and social allows SEOs to connect to high velocity, emerging terms. Language also reflects voice, tone, and tastes of the audience. Paying attention to the language can then enable you to understand how to market to those individuals.

Why Search is a Strategic Component of Social

Even if you’re a social marketer, search impacts what you do as well. Search engines do deep network analysis of the web, but social networks have not quite advanced to this level yet. By understanding the themes and influence in a network, social marketers can find their audience and can help reflect content performance (through shares and the like). Social networks are becoming more algorithmic, though.

Social Signals and Google+

Rob believes that +1s can be used as a search signal. Google has stated that +1s from people in your network can be a “useful signal” to help determine the relevance in a search query. +1s, though, are being measured in the context of the individual query. As part of a +1 strategy, consider growing your circles, because if +1s can be influential for those in your network, it makes sense to grow that network.

The “author graph” is also important to consider. It’s not about what or where in search, its’ about WHO. Once a person has an ID in Google+, theme, authority and context begin to be applied to that person as an author. If you’re a publisher, be sure to get a Google badge and establish yourself as a content provider. As Rob put it, it’s like a handshake between your content and Google.

Some potential social signals Rob mentioned included:

  • likes
  • retweets
  • +1s
  • LinkedIn share
  • tags
  • user generated content
  • keyword triggering in social streams
  • RSS feeds
  • embeds
  • personalization
  • voting
  • rating
  • popularity metrics
  • bookmarking
  • circles
  • naming and tagging of circles
  • number of subscriptions

Rob also shared a handy graph from his upcoming book about how search engines relate to specific social signals:

Rob’s new book, Search and Social, is coming out in a few weeks. You can order it on Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Search-Social-Definitive-Real-Time-Marketing/dp/111826438X.

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