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Social Media & Google's Aug 1 Update

     
9:53 pm on Aug 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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After looking at a bunch of websites, I found a strong correlation between social media success and Google's new core algo update. After some reflection, that seems logical to me. If a site is a high quality site (and that is what Google claims they want), people will respond well to it via social media. A quality site is more likely to generate site mentions & actual clicks. A low quality site will be ignored & have a very hard time gaining traction on social media.

Just because I found a strong correlation does not prove causation. Google might be dealing with other ranking signals for this core update. I personally think even if they are looking at other quality signals, social media is still a good way for webmasters to be honest with themselves. Every webmaster thinks they produce great websites. If we want an honest evaluation of our sites, we can look at how the social media public responds to them. If your site isn't generating strong social media engagement, then your site might not be as great as you think it is. If your site isn't strong enough to generate strong social signals, then it probably isn't generating enough of the other rankings signals that Google wants.
10:15 pm on Aug 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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After looking at a bunch of websites, I found a strong correlation between social media success and Google's new core algo update. After some reflection, that seems logical to me. If a site is a high quality site (and that is what Google claims they want), people will respond well to it via social media. A quality site is more likely to generate site mentions & actual clicks. A low quality site will be ignored & have a very hard time gaining traction on social media.

Just because I found a strong correlation does not prove causation. Google might be dealing with other ranking signals for this core update. I personally think even if they are looking at other quality signals, social media is still a good way for webmasters to be honest with themselves. Every webmaster thinks they produce great websites. If we want an honest evaluation of our sites, we can look at how the social media public responds to them. If your site isn't generating strong social media engagement, then your site might not be as great as you think it is. If your site isn't strong enough to generate strong social signals, then it probably isn't generating enough of the other rankings signals that Google wants.

So ..quality is measured by popularity ?

and there are approximately 17 quadrillion flies in the world, and what ( according to the bumper sticker ) do flies eat ?

So..?

Quality is not measured by popularity..chasing the popularity "vote" or like"..( pandering to the mass vote or like ) at best leads only to mediocrity, at worst leads to reality TV "stars", youtube "stars", and idiocracy.

Posted again as I neglected ( in my previous post ) to quote what I was replying to..
10:50 pm on Aug 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Isn't this exactly the same thing as the once-popular weighting of backlinks, and then people figured out you can buy links so they were no longer worth anything? Now if anyone figures out a way to buy mentions on social me...

Oh, wait a minute.

<snip>

[edited by: goodroi at 12:16 pm (utc) on Aug 15, 2018]
[edit reason] let's stay on topic [/edit]

12:19 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Mods Note: Off topic comments will be deleted. We don't care if you love or hate Google. We only care about a professional discussion that helps all of us to be better SEOs.
12:35 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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To clarify ... I am not claiming that Google is ranking according to social media. I am saying that I found a correlation. Correlation is not causation.

Many webmasters waste their time blaming Google for their own failings. It is easy to believe in that false narrative and protect their ego. Smarter webmasters are more interested in figuring out what they did wrong and how to fix things. The world isn't perfect but complaining about it isn't going to make us richer.

One possible way a webmaster can get an outside opinion on their website quality is to look at how social media responds to it.

Most of the time, a high quality site will enjoy social media success. If a webmaster's site isn't generating social media success than it is very likely that their site can be improved and isn't perfect. Yes, you can spam social media but it doesn't change the fact that the webmaster's site is garbage. If a webmaster's site thinks their garbage site is perfect, they are going to have a hard time finding success in Google.
2:35 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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My understanding is that social media signals are used to validate that a site may be authoritative.

But that it's not an actual ranking signal.

The quality raters guidelines doesn't seem to recommend social signals as a tool for validating authority. It does cite misleading social media profiles as a signal of a low quality site though.

If a site is doing well in the SERPs it's possible that there may be social media activity, especially if the site in question is active on social media as part of it's SEO, just as it may also have decent inbound links.

Anecdotally, just my own personal experience, I have found social media to be a good way to promote a web page.
2:46 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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At least one aspect to your findings is likely to be that a strong social media presence is an indicator of an effective overall marketing effort that includes quality content, a solid site design and 900 other positive practices.
2:47 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If a webmaster's site isn't generating social media success than it is very likely that their site can be improved and isn't perfect.

Not everyone needs or wants to cultivate a presence on social media, and I don't think not being on social media necessarily reflects poorly on the site itself. Being on social media and failing at it... maybe, but probably not in the sense that's it's a signal of poor quality. Also, some websites are very adept at creating content that does well on social media, e.g. clickbait or "viral" stuff, but that doesn't make the content or the site qualitatively superior.

<snip>

[edited by: goodroi at 6:22 pm (utc) on Aug 15, 2018]
[edit reason] Let's stay on-topic :) [/edit]

4:10 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Personally I don't like facebook, twitter and youtube and spend almost no time on them. I generally see a small amount of traffic coming from them, but doubt that most of those visitors are seriously interested in learning anything from my sites.

As for possible effects on google's rankings, any traffic from anywhere can potentially bring about the creation of new backlinks to your sites and therefore boost rankings in that way.
8:19 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Not everyone needs or wants to cultivate a presence on social media, and I don't think not being on social media necessarily reflects poorly on the site itself.
Agreed, but I also support goodroi's supposition (supported by findings) that a strong presence in Social Media (SM) adds to a site's SEO.

Value is transitory, it keeps changing (as the web does.) Right now, SM plays a very strong role. To many, SM *is* the internet. This very well should be a factor in the overall value of any site.
10:03 pm on Aug 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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All I know is that, in my field, sites that do well in social media often do poorly in Google, and sites that do well in Google are often invisible in social media. I think the value of social media depends a lot on the topic and the target audience. (Some things are more likely to be shared than others. Take something like travel: People may share armchair-travel accounts that they find entertaining or inspiring, but they probably won't share a page about how to ride the bus or use public restrooms in Yokelburg unless they know people who are going to Yokelburg.)
5:02 am on Aug 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I sincerely hope that the OP's observation is a coincidence and not real.

I specifically do NOT want my site to "do well" on social media... because if they're talking about something on social media then they're not on my site talking about it! So while I do have a Facebook and Twitter page, it's strictly to ensure that someone else doesn't use my company name to create a competing page. I would happily close them both along with my personal account, but then someone could swipe it, so I'm more or less held hostage.

I have about 3,000 likes on my business page, but I post something once every month or two... is that considered a good presence? Or is it only the number of times that my actual domain name is mentioned by someone else? What if they just say the company name, without the link (eg, "I saw this on Webmaster World", versus "I saw this on Webmaster's World", versus "I saw this on WebmasterWorld.com", versus "I saw this on [webmasterworld.com...] ")

My demographic is strictly local. There are about 70,000 people in that demographic, and I have a near 100% penetration with more than 70,000 unique visitors per week. But Facebook's Ad Manager shows that there are 10,000 accounts registered within that local region, which includes kids, fake accounts, dead accounts, and duplicate accounts (my dad has 5 accounts that I know of, because he keeps forgetting the password and just creates a new one). Why should the maximum of 14% that use Facebook dictate for the remaining 86%?

And why should Google care what people are doing on Facebook? Last I heard, the two companies weren't exactly best friends.

I have 0 presence on YouTube, but studies have shown that Facebook is dying while YouTube reign's supreme. Does this mean that my site with 3000 Facebook likes and a near 100% penetration would suffer because I have no videos to post? How could a site that focuses on message boards and classifieds ever have a valuable YouTube presence?

Finally, I have "share" buttons on all of my pages, and I regularly compare the number of times something is shared from my site (not including when someone just pastes a link) to the number of click-throughs that I get from Facebook and Twitter. And never once has social media sent more traffic to me than vice versa; in fact, the lowest ratio has been me sending 2 times as much traffic to them as they send to me. The highest has been from me sending 10 times as much traffic to them as they send to me.

Based on all of that, maybe Facebook's ranking should be based on how popular it is on our sites, not the other way around...
7:44 am on Aug 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am saying that I found a correlation. Correlation is not causation
From what I see it is a correlation, a necessary fallout of a metric that may indeed be the causation.

It is just my personal observation. The more results I study, the better correlation I see between brand name searches and ranks to the point where I started believing "brand name searches" is actually the causation!

I see that - The ranks of money keywords are mostly in correlation with the brand popularity (as seen on Google Keyword Planner), while ranks of information-intent keywords are not in such correlation.
A site I created from scratch, with an intent to rank a commercial keyword "Red Widget", ended up ranking for dozens of information-intent keywords (such as "How to make Red Widget?", "Benefits of Red Widget", with many of them appearing in Featured Snippets, but not for "Red Widget", even within 50. The site got lot of traffic, but none that converted so much so that I changed tack and inserted ads to monetize the site! The sites that did rank for Red Widget however, were in descending order (more or less) of their brand popularity.

It might be that Google wants to protect its users when they use commercial keywords and gives them a list of known, reputed brands. This trust can't be discerned by the content quality or backlinks. However, when information-intent keywords are used, brand popularity matters less, the quality of content more.

Another anecdote. A site saw a spike in its ranks just around the same when it started on the journey of Affiliate marketing and PPC/display campaign. With a well defined affiliate and PPC/display program, its brand search numbers started improving and incidentally its ranks too. There wasn't much change in terms of SEO efforts.

Social media metrics is a byproduct of brand popularity for a given niche and it might just be that with this update the brand popularity dial has been turned a bit more clockwise.
1:35 pm on Aug 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Much of what Google uses as input is some variation play on 'popular' because most/all their signals are implicit stand ins for explicit quality signals the algo is unable to perceive/determine directly.

I agree that there is correlation between a site's presence level in SM and it's G 'rank' but I do not believe it is a cause. Rather if an individual/organisation has itself sufficiently together to market well on SM it likely is/has been doing well with search as well.

Google prefers signals within its control and access to SM platforms can not be guaranteed. Plus most are gamed, which adds contamination/noise to any inputs without associated ability to clean.

I still lean to the opinion that they have one or more E-A-T graphs for each niche/vertical working from selected site seed primes. A revamp of such primes and/or graph would explain the 'there is no fix' statement from G on their latest core update.

System

6:31 pm on Aug 16, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The following messages were split to a new thread at: Exploring Google Quality Signals After August Update [webmasterworld.com]

Let's be careful to stay on-topic. One topic for one thread. Thank You :)

[edited by: goodroi at 7:00 pm (utc) on Aug 16, 2018]

4:59 pm on Aug 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Once Matt Cutts (now almost all of what that guy said is probably dated) in one video said that Google could not give much crawling thoughts to Facebook since they always run the risk of being blocked when a profile goes private, and they cannot run the risk of losing time. Of course, if you got a 1 million page and you hope that this might help you rank (how: for the sheer number of likes? for the "likes" on your link? unlikly) G. should also crawl the single profile, otherwise it would be like giving link weight to an inbound link without crawling that inbound link. Crazy. You probably remember a few years ago when you could see a lot more of FB indexed, mostly notes, when searching for something, now I don't see them any longer, it's very rare. If socials are in some way a ranking signal, then I guess they are very indirect, in a way that maybe we have yet to focus on, but it might be more about the behaviour of your visitors on your site, that is, if you have many people visiting your site and liking it, that might be a signal, but FB will be only the medium, not the cause of the improvement in ranking.
11:40 am on Aug 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Correlation =! causation
Mass amounts of websites lost their numbers of likes, tweets etc in their posts upon moving to HTTPs. Right, Google can still look at the site's FB page for their number of followers but the actual number of social media shares on each post disappeared. Big complaints from many webmasters and it's a pain to get the numbers back. Too volatile for Google to use as a ranking factor. Never mind how Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can all of a sudden block all access to G's crawler. Facebook has an option for this and Twitter and IG can be turned private.

Not to mention how easy it is to buy clout on those social media platforms. Have you ever arrived at an article that breathes like a mass produced spam article with 30,000+ likes? Or that guy on Instagram with 500k followers peddling all sorts of sh*t? Or that channel on YT with 1m followers reposting the same stuff from years ago from legit channels?

Remember that there's more to "social" than posting stuff that you dread on FB, IG and the likes. Social means social. The internet as a whole is a social place. Social isn't just those sites that teens with little spending ability pass their many hours on.
11:03 am on Aug 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I think the number of hypotheses shows we do not know how the causation runs.

It could even be the reverse : sites being shared more because they do well in Google SERPS.
3:05 pm on Aug 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Remember that there's more to "social" than posting stuff that you dread on FB, IG and the likes.

It's worth noting that Google Analytics includes YouTube, Tripdvisor, Buzzfeed, Reddit, Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, and WikiHow in its list of "social networks" (along with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and many smaller sites).
9:18 pm on Aug 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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This hypotheses has not been the case in my situation. We do relatively badly with social media and have seen our traffic rise.
8:40 pm on Aug 21, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I manage a number of sites that do poorly with social media primarily due to the fact they are offering products or services that aren't necessarily discussed in social channels. Kinda like how tweeting might be great for a celebrity but not necessarily for someone selling a widget that only targets a very minute market.

These sites have all seen a rise in organic rankings. The only thing we have been doing very consistently on these sites is producing very rich original content in the form or how tos, guides, tips/tidbits, etc. Most of that is written although I would say about 10% of it is video that is sent to Youtube.

I think social is only one of hundreds of factors that contribute to organic ranking nowadays. Not everyone (or every site) is a social magnet.

Content is king. I think it will always be king. Copywriters have very good job security in my opinion on today's web.
12:55 pm on Aug 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Interesting topic because I had a social media topic go "semi-viral" just this past week. The reason it never went totally viral is that the gatekeeper algorithm at Facebook was coercing me to spend $20 to BOOST my post. Now wouldn't that constitute "paid likes/links"? The post did well enough on it's own and I declined the boost on principle because I don't need any artificial boost penalties.

That said, I find the inverse to what goodroi is suggesting, that when a good social signal arrives (for my sites at least), Google traffic spikes for a very short period of time, then gets what I call the "Monty Python Effect"....this clip will explain what I mean. [youtu.be...] (note the foot).

I suspect the effect is due to the same MO as the FB algo, to squeeze your wallet.

IMHO, free organic boosts are a thing of the past.
You'll get your quota and like it, but any escape by viral means is usually sucked back like a black hole...unless you pay.

I also see FB popularity has greatly declined. It's become THEE platform for fake news & political fighting and that's about it.
I've no desire to encourage or finance that bad neighborhood.

As far as attempting to ride a social wave by simultaneously boosting my adwords spend, well, we have been cut so far to the quick that there is no money left to spend on poorly performing ads. Oddly enough, that seems right where the powers-that-be want us.

As a reminder, natural boost was experienced from 2000-2010, at which point is all been downhill since...in spite of more internet users and much more social media, so I'd say social media is more of a drain on our traffic than a boost.
1:20 am on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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At one point I worked Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter all at the same time because having a social media following was more closely tied into performance in Google. Pinterest drove tons of traffic to my site until they introduced so many ads and changed the entire algo and traffic fell off a cliff. Google+ drove tons of traffic until Google abandoned it and now it drives very little traffic. Facebook posts don't get seen by anyone unless you pay to boost them and Instagram is quickly following that model now. I stopped posting nearly as often and my social media following has stopped growing or is rolling backward, yet my site keeps improving in position across a broad range of terms in Google. While having a large following in social media can't hurt, I don't think Google places huge importance in it. The sites that used to outrank me due to the enormous social media following of their owners a few years ago (when Google's algo did value social signals more) have vanished entirely. Google and social media are basically parallel universes with little interaction (for now). I personally can't wait for social media to decline in importance, it sucks up a huge amount of time to maintain for very little real return.
6:53 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't think Google places huge importance in it

I personally can't wait for social media to decline in importance

Wuh? Which one is it?
8:14 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I personally can't wait for social media to decline in importance


Meaning in general, not just to Google. Just because Google may not place huge important on SM following as a signal for its algo, doesn't mean people aren't using social media and expecting you to have a presence. In my field (the arts) there is a lot of pressure to have a social media following, and if you don't it's seen as your business not being relevant in some ways. It takes a huge amount of time to maintain, but produces no sales. I wish I could say it were otherwise.
3:06 pm on Aug 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Some of us do quite well both generating and converting SM nonpaid/organic/WOM traffic. It can be a great supplement to search referrals.

Often it is the same folk who have problems generating/converting !G search traffic having similar difficulties with SM. The common denominator is....

However, as I said earlier I don't see any causation between SM and this latest G update. Webdevs are too attached to the rainbows and unicorns of correlation, wink wink, nudge, nudge, say no more...
3:58 pm on Aug 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Webdevs are too attached to the rainbows and unicorns of correlation, wink wink, nudge, nudge, say no more...

Webdevs.. not so much..SEOs ..definitely...
4:23 pm on Aug 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Some of us do quite well both generating and converting SM nonpaid/organic/WOM traffic. It can be a great supplement to search referrals.


We were all hoping that social media would be an alternative to the Google vampire squid's grasp on our business income, but alas it didn't work out that way. I hammered away at building social followings for years and the following grew but it didn't move the needle in sales. Social media works well to promote some brands/products and especially services, but not others.
5:26 pm on Aug 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Leosghost: :)
Unfortunately many/most webdevs and even too many CMOs drink the same koolaid as SEOs because it's what gets passed around in blogs and conferences by folks famous for being 'experts' in web astrology.

@ichthyous: beware of extrapolating from personal or small group to general; it limits opportunities. You are correct that SM works 'easier' for some sites/niches but that may just mean that the best approach or platform is still to be discovered for a given audience. From my experience G has the lowest conversion rate in search and some SM platforms' traffic convert at multiples of search. Granted, doing what 'everyone' does or recommends too often means one's efforts get lost in the herd/noise.

Traffic generation is marketing and marketing well has always s been as much an art as a science. Cut-n-paste rarely works well or for long.
 

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