• Michael Kovis

    Ryan, you bring up some excellent points here! Enjoyed reading this post.

    I myself, truly believe social is only going to be a supplement to the standard search engine link graph. Social signals will continue to be simply signals. I cannot fathom seeing it go any further unless every single brand has a social campaign that engages the consumer.

    You hit the nail on the head rhetorically asking questions like, “Will a busy mom take the time to actually engage with her favorite brand of wood floor cleaner or cold medicine?” That is completely true. Would you really want to socially engage and publicly display a +1 your hemorrhoidal creams manufacturer? :-)

  • Adam

    The diabetes example is HUGE that some businesses, depending on which side of the line they’re on, could never get +1′d or shared at all. Diabetes news would probably get these. Companies selling diabetes equipment will have a harder time.

    Thanks for the perspective Ryan!

  • Chris P

    Great Post Ryan!

    The problem is, our job in SEO is to be adaptive. But if social plays a bigger role, with only a bit of coding effort and using an IP switcher/generator and proxies, you can essentially “break” and cheat the system. (Think those odd dig and reddit upvotes that you wonder how in the world 10,000 people liked it)

    In general, social at this point is good for Brand Evangelism and Impressions. The conversions are awful for Social Platforms, but knowledge of those brands has increased exponentially.

    I agree with Michael though, Google won’t use only search, they will factor it in, tweak it, and weed out bugs in their algorithms. But I can definitely see Google using only Google Plus to evaluate authority.

    I am sure they will also monetize it, I know if I was Google and I wanted people to buy into plus by making it a medium-high impact algorithm metric, I would build a premium platform on top, that when registered would give an advantage to those that buy, (i.e site-links, and rich snippets always appear, better authority, larger reach in the form of related information to current searches, and demographics targeting).

    But yeah, placing high impact on social is going to screw things up for most of us. Although it will weed out all those who cannot adapt, be innovative, and can think creatively.

  • ryant

    @Mike – Glad you liked the post! I think you are likely right with what the true effect of social signals will be. I was mainly trying to play devils advocate but I do think Google could ratchet social signals up to far in the algorithm and in the time it takes for them to pull back we could see some crazy things happen.

  • ryant

    @Adam – Glad you like the overall point, initially wasn’t sure how this would go over.

    @Chris P – Thanks for the insight on the current methods of social hacks. I haven’t heard that before, fascinating stuff.

    I think you are spot on that our job as SEO’s is to evolve. I didn’t explicitly lay it out in the post but part of my sentiment was that instead of complaining about what the spammers are doing we should take some time to smell the roses because we still have it good. SEO isn’t taught in most universities and a good chunk of the population is unaware it even exists. It is only going to get more competitive and I can guarantee that no matter what happens that in ten years we will be hearing about the glory days of 2012 when you could rank for fairly competitive keywords within a few months.

  • Franz Keim

    Ryan, thx for sharing a sobering perspective in the social media signals craze. It’s great to see a lot more people asking how many really engaging brands and products are out there that are capable of generating “genuine” shares and likes and +1s and what not (thx for the reference to the Ad Age article). I hope search engine engineers will have a similarly clear look at reality so that social signals will not completely override the established signals in the near future. Again thx for sharing your thoughts.

  • philbertabrwn

    As per me, one can not say the whole social integration as the SEO future. Yes it is right that now after the last panda update, google consider social media more in the results but that does not mean that it going to change overall SEO definition. As apart from the social media there are many other factors which be included in the SEO such as on page & off page SEO methods, and one most crucial term is the content which never going to change. So i do not think that social integration will be the whole SEO in future.

  • Ali

    Ryan, I really enjoyed reading this. Your point about no one wanting to share the fact that they just bought a nose-hair trimmer was a perfect example of why “likes” and “shares” would throw off the organic search system.

    I am really passionate about staying on top of this industry and posts like these are inspiring.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Kieran Flanagan

    The problem with mosts post on social signals for SEO (SEOMoz in particular), is they make blanket statements about how great it will be, based on highly engaging industries. As you point about, there is a whole world out there where social is not a big topic and may never be. Google will probably use social has one of it’s many signals and fall back to other signals when not found. But I don’t think it’s going to be as difficult to spam social, especially around purchasing +1′s and Google Circles. Google can surely work out some type of author authority that could weed out +1s and circle adds from accounts that had no real level of engagement or authority.

  • ryant

    @philbertabrwn – I definitely wasn’t trying to say that social will be the only factor in the future and the truth is we don’t really know how much of a role it will play. I was trying to play devils advocate and bring to light possible issues that people gloss over when talking about social integration.

  • ryant

    @Kieran Flanagan – Hey Kieran, glad you saw the same things I was seeing with SEOMoz and other articles about social signals. While I was trying to play devils advocate in this post, I don’t think Google is perfect and I think they could make change the algorithm for a period of time where they would give social signals too much power across the board. Right now people are getting killer rankings in fairly competitive niches using blog and forum comment spam and link networks. I don’t want it to happen but my point was that for a time I could see the same thing happening with social signals.

  • Darren

    Really interesting (and somewhat disheartening) numbers on brand engagement, Ryan. When a group like Old Spice or Jack Daniels comes out with a hilarious video, or some type of give-away, it still seems extremely hard to maintain interest for your followers. And your numbers here seem to point to that. 2% is not much engagement at all! I was really surprised when I read that. How well can companies do when novelty is the best route to drive traffic and awareness? Thanks for posting.

  • ryant

    Hey Darren,

    I actually think that looking at those engagement numbers brings up a good point that I didn’t really get into. Old Spice may not have seen the level of engagement they wanted overtime but I am sure it spiked with the release of a video. More importantly though, how many views did they get overall and what kind of sales increase and overall brand awareness did that lead to?

    I know I read more than 10 articles on SEO yesterday and only commented on one. Frankly I believe that’s just the way it is for most people. A lot of people “lurk” or “consume” and don’t engage. That’s why I think making shares or +1′s a primary metric doesn’t make that much sense compared to view’s and sales. Just because someone isn’t sharing doesn’t mean the message isn’t getting across.

  • rosstav

    Hi Ryan,

    Kudos for expressing your opinions on a very touchy subject in the SEO world.

    I am of the opinion that links are the kind and social is just a nice supplement to a marketing campaign. SEO being the customer acquisition and social being the retention and customer service.

    Links are king and if you have a quality website in front of them then you do whatever it takes to get in front of those eyeballs.

  • john peter

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