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Social Factors - the End of Most Intelligent Content On The Web



8:47 pm on May 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I see that Google is now using social signals in their SERPS, and I'm quite stunned, in part as a business and also as a search consumer.

This is the single most evil thing I've seen in terms of its impact, if in fact social signals (in essence a measure of POPULARITY, not quality) play anything but a minor role in SERPS.

As social factors increase in importance, the point of creating original, thought leading, anything OTHER than simple mass content is removed.

The reality is that social media is a popular medium focuses on people (not a bad thing in itself), rather than content. The vast majority of the best and brightest in terms of subject matter experts in many niches, simply are NOT spending time pushing their ideas on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN. They, in fact, we if I be a bit presumptuous, have better things to do with our time. Nothing wrong with social but if popularity (number of tweeted links/likes) is a deciding factor in ranking, those creating the best content in terms of "thought value" simply won't show up.

Apart from the fact that I've spend 15 years creating original content (I mean original, not some sad recast of what everyone else is saying), in print -- articles and books, and online (free, mind you), and that may now be worthless to me, it means that in my role of "content curation" (ok, finding and linking to the best content) is done.

There is now very little incentive to publish new ideas and thoughts to move fields forward, not only because it's hard to monetize, but because no one will see it because it won't have "buzz".

I work a lot with government, and have long wanted to open up a website on the topic, and have grabbed a few domains I might want to use. Now, there's no point.

If you look at social media, for example, what you will find is loads of stuff including the key word government from upset citizens, the political right, and so on....essentially contentless or worthless if one's interest is helping people understand government.

Project canned.

Finding the best content in niches from true authorities (scientists, academics, book authors that don't get buzz) has become harder and harder, and now the curation role is cooked.

And the kicker is, not only is content not king, replaced by "popularity", but the spamming of the SERPS and the pollution of an already polluted social media environment can begin aforce.

It's a trivial technical exercise to tweet every second on something, to vary the tweets, in order to boost SERPS. I have tools to do that, and they are openly available. I don't use them except to post occasional automated tweets for things I think are valuable and always spaced far apart.

Why shouldn't I just go completely black hat and do that?

If that's what it takes to be found, I won't do it, and not only that but there would not be any point in using the Internet anymore, EXCEPT to socialize.

I'm seriously stunned here. I hope I've got this wrong, but not only has Google crushed businesses like mine that trade in ideas and content, it has the potential to significantly damage the society at large by LIMITING (unintentionally) the spread of the very information that runs the economic engines of this planet.

I'm thinking that of course, social indicators will be only a part of determining SERP's, so the effect hopefully isn't as absolute as it could be.

Finally, perhaps this social factoring explains why my sales have gone to zero, my adsense income has disappeared, and what I worked to build is now almost useless to me, to those in my niches, and to the larger world.

Someone, tell me I've got this all wrong.


6:05 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This whole notion that Facebook Likes and Twitter Follows somehow upends the way sites are ranked is absurd.

It's also absurd that 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and their children are more likely to develop Type-B Diabetes from sitting on the arses playing video games and eating factory produced junk food while both parents are working 60 hour work-weeks to pay the bills... but it's true.


Since absurdity and truth are not mutually exclusive your statement is not untrue.


6:39 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

btw ..search "Judas"

I said ( please excuse me for quoting myself ;-)
So you really think that if lady Gaga mentions blue widgets or for a more concrete example "Judas" and you have been writing about blue widgets or "Judas"..that her millions of blind likes..will not be in competition with you for that term ..if you think that you are in grave error.

Because that is how search works now..the "result set" as you call it is "KW based"..not "niche based"

Swanson replied directly to my post with..

Your example is simply not valid - Lady Gaga would not appear in the result set for that query as it is not relevant in the first instance

#1 Lady Gaga..video..you tube .."buy the video" not marked as an ad**..lady Gaga PR by record company downloadable from iTunes
#2 Lady Gaga..video..you tube "buy the video" not marked as an ad**..lady Gaga PR by record company downloadable from iTunes
#3 wikipedia..Judas Iscariot
#4 wikipedia..Judas Iscariot
#5 wikipedia..song Lady Gaga
#6 lyrics site..Lady Gaga lyrics
#7 entertainment site..Lady Gaga
#8 religious site..Judas Iscariot
#9 entertainment site..Lady Gaga
#10 Judaspriest
#11 Judas"news" by Google ..<==leads to page with 40% Lady Gaga content.
#12 Judaspriest

** Not marked as an ad ..so how did the same result,"Lady Gaga" ( one video is longer than the other ) get to be number 1 and number 2 from "About 125,000,000 results (0.07 seconds)" ..284,807 "likes" on Youtube, 557million viewings and "15 May 2011 ... Lady Gaga is the first celebrity to reach over 10 million Facebook followers on the weekend. Gaga also has over 34 million Facebook fans. "..

The masses "social media" "likes" power in action..

The "non Lady Gaga" articles all pre date her single release..Her "Judas" has gone straight past them due to social media..not links..

I think she will still outrank them for Judas a year from now ..and probably much longer..based on "likes"

NB.Your search results on G may vary slightly due to Geo targeting ..I am in France .."forcing" Gdotcom in American English..even so it still may vary from searches made in the USA.. slightly


8:01 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

btw ..search "Judas"

Google:(131,000,000 results)
(SERPS preceded by 2 YouTube Gaga video thumbs),then:
#1 - Judas Iscariot - Wikipedia
#2 - Judas (Greek) - Wikipedia
#3 - Judas (Gaga song) - Wikipedia

Bing: (6,280,000 results)
#1 - Judas Iscariot - wikipedia
#2 - Judas (Gaga song) - wikipedia
#3 - Judas: Definition - answers.com

Yahoo: (7,610,000 results)
(SERPS preceded by Yahoo Shopping (Judas Priest t-shirts, Gaga, etc), then:
#1 - same as bing
#2 - same as bing
#3 - same as bing

I'm stateside near Boston, MA, not logged in to any SE or social network and cleared cache before searching.


8:52 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Leosghost, I am not sure what your point is with the query "Judas"?

Lady Gaga has a song calles Judas and there is a band called Judas Priest (who were rather popular).

So the links etc. are pushing those sites up - because the keyword will be in the link and will also have a high user engagement for that search term.

You then have religious sites mixed as well.

So what is wrong with that - that Lady Gaga called her song Judas and then people search for it?

What information would you be looking for when you search for "Judas" - that isn't a good query, what about judas?

Google offers refines at the bottom which offer a good mix of terms with Judas in so you can refine it.

Again this example has nothing to with social stuff ranking mass rubbish ahead of quality - Judas in this case is just as valid and all the search engines give a mix of results where Judas means something different because the term is stupidly generic without refining it.

I just think it is a bad example using a one-word query - it just has too many multiple meanings and that is why all the search engines have a go at it, but it is clearly a bad search query.

I don't know what someone is wanting if they are typing that query in - neither does Google.

[edited by: Swanson at 9:08 pm (utc) on Jun 12, 2011]


8:57 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sorry, just to clarify - Lady Gaga got to number one and two because Google injected Video via it's universal search feature. It is not a web result - the wikipedia entry is the first web result. That is why your number of listings add up to 12 not 10 - the first 2 are not web results.

What sites should be there that are of use for the query "Judas"?

Why is it wrong that Lada Gaga is higher than a Wikipedia entry for Judas Iscariot for the query "Judas"?


9:20 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The point is, I searched like your average searcher would ..not like we would..
BTW I do know that the first two were placed by G ( I didn't start studying search engines last week ;-) ..the point is ..look at the pages that the videos are on ..they are where they are because of "likes"..

high user engagement

Well if you are going to watch a 4 minute video ..your bounce rate looks pretty good , especially if you like it/ her and it gets watched over 50 million times and if you read every tweet about her and like here every move and everything that mentions her.

But that is IMO falsifying the the "user engagement" factor compared to sites and subjects which don't have a marketing machine to tweet and run facebook pages for them ..or push youtube and TV and magazine articles etc.

aside .for 3 to 4 years of my life , I worked in music videos, album marketing, singles, related product,merchandising etc and marketing of pop stars ..I know the business we are talking about, and especially how to influence "fans"..the merch' market is where the money is ..not the music..and thats what we condition them to buy..via the vids and the music ..and nowadays again by the tours..

So what is wrong with that - that Lady Gaga called her song Judas and then people search for it?

You make my point for me ..;-)

I was searching for the word ..not the song ..but the video song is in there ..and it isn't link based, unless you believe that all her fans have websites ;-) and they all link to her..

I have no problem at all with her making the song ( I'm atheist ;-) ..nor in people searching for it ..just in their likes jacking it to the top of results for the word..

If you think that the average searcher ( particularly the average "mass" or "fan" searcher ) uses any "refinements" ..you haven't watched many /enough average searchers ..and what they do etc ..I have, which is a large reason, why I don't have a panda problem..

Not wrong that she is there..( but its not her best song ) but it shows the influence of social media "likes" in serps..

Good, good example..;-)

[edited by: Leosghost at 9:44 pm (utc) on Jun 12, 2011]


9:35 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Ok, I do get the point you are making but I just don't see for this example how "Judas" is anything to do with intelligent content being displaced.

Yes, it shows how user engagement is used to trigger universal search - I am not actually disputing that, I just don't see how it "dumbs down" the web.

One word searches are a special case as they have multiple meanings - they are most likely to trigger lots of different types of universal search placements as Google is trying to answer multiple queries in one search.

So yes, I agree with you - user engagement can affect Google results.

Will it be the end of intelligent content on the web - still no.


9:38 pm on Jun 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

By the way - you could say that Google is being a bit naughty here as it owns Youtube and will have advanced user engagement stats for the video usage.

By promoting Youtube results to the top, i.e. promoting it's own sites it is not being neutral with these results.

That to me is a different issue.


11:40 pm on Jun 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'm a little surprised at a few responses saying, oh they wouldn't do that, or such things. Me, I try to deal with the information available, keeping in mind that when it comes to google, that's mighty slim.
Google and Bing have publicly announced the use of social signals, which ultimately MUST reflect popularity, RT's Liking, Friending and all that stuff.

If you don't believe the announcement, you then must believe they are lying, and there's no evidence for that.

What IS unknown is the how the signals will be used, or which signals. So, we don't know.

But clearly if they are using these signals to affect SERPS' the issue is significant enough for them to include these variables, so it's significant enough for me to think about.

Been away writing, so have some catching up. Got an interesting real scenario to share.


10:08 am on Jun 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

If it was link based the page would only be Gaga and Judas Priest; Google is smart enough to know that some terms need disambiguation.

Gaga Judas - Youtube - 24,016 external links
Judas Iscariot - Wikipedia - 1,352 external links
Judas (song) - Wikipedia - 2 external links
Judaspriest.com 12,306 external links
This 310 message thread spans 11 pages: 310

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