Just Another Bandwagon or Do Social Signals Really Matter?

Posted 2 years ago

Hi Folks,

Oh my goodness, two newsletters in the same week.  You have to know that retirement from teaching is starting to get to me.  I’ve got nothing to do except think about you!!

Do you sometimes feel that you’re a sheep in a flock and you’re being stampeded from one SEO fad to the next: keyword stuffing in the meta keywords tag (killed by Google in 2002); reciprocal linking (greatly dampened in 2004); link farms and content farms (really only effectively targeted in 2011); the built-for-SEO-directories to bring you spam directory links (discussed by Google’s Matt Cutts in 2012 but probably dampened much earlier); spam blogs with scraped content (killed or seriously wounded in 2013); writing articles and posting them in article directories (dampened by Google maybe 2013 or earlier); spam guest blogging for SEO links purposes (killed 2014; read Matts Cutts interesting analysis of this by clicking here); maybe the HTTPS protocol (the bandwagon hype suggested it would help rankings but that didn’t seem to happen for the folks I’ve heard from); and of course, social marketing and social signals?  For sure, the above list is not complete.  I didn’t even mention hidden text, cloaking, doorway pages, click farms, etc.

Even Matt Cutts has commented on these fads, how forum gurus suggest a new technique for ranking and soon everyone is using it and writing articles about it. Of course, the article writers have their own agenda legitimately using social media to create social signals (links) to their website. The problem is that they often just perpetuate the latest blather.  Ah, yes, I forgot about the myth of “relevant” links (an SEO industry marketing angle), a small truth greatly exaggerated.  Now there are a bunch of plumbers and such out there with links only from same industry websites (often fake industry websites); no links from anyone who might look like an actual customer!  The exact antithesis of what link trust is supposed to be about.    In the end what happens is that Google either ignores the fad because it doesn’t really do anything (people mistaking correlation for causation) or Google squashes it.  The problem is that folks buy into the hype long after its “past due” date!

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve probably developed a certain cynicism about the value of certain activities related to your rankings. But jumping on the latest trend to come along is deceptively easy to do and at a certain point, you just jump on the bandwagon. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But do Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. signals really, really matter?

Social Marketing versus Social Signals. These two terms are not interchangeable. Social marketing is just getting yourself out there in the virtual public on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and so on.   No doubt these activities can make people aware of your brand and bring people to your website. That’s good. But even as I acknowledge this, I’d be surprised if being “out there” brings me more than a few new clients a year. But that’s partly my fault. Being social is very time consuming. It’s not just setting something up, it’s being active on the platform. I don’t have the time and I don’t have the interest. And I know that holds for a lot of you as well.

I did a lot of  my own Google+ work only recently before sending out the newsletter to you a few weeks ago. One of the things I posted on there was this lovely little Beatles puppet show (click here) I came across on the Internet. It’s completely irrelevant to my business but it reflects my interests and so far I’ve received two comments on it from non-program people.   Maybe those folks also found their way to my website or maybe others who didn’t post comments have done the same.   Exposure is good.

So, what about social signals? The notion of social signals is that “being out there” might favourably affect your website rankings. It’s the idea that “being out there” signals Google that you matter and that perhaps your website matters too and should get a boost. In 2014, Matt Cutts made it pretty clear that Google does not use social signals to directly influence a website’s rankings? So, at this time, with only 1 or 2 exceptions, social signals are not directly boosting your organic rankings and are not likely to do so any time soon.

Apparently Google did try to use Social and failed.  According to Matt Cutts, the Internet has simply not evolved enough yet to allow Google to take advantage of social signals. One problem is that there are technical issues with accessing some signals. Secondly, just what meaning do social signals really have? Does it really mean that your website is a destination worth visiting just because someone follows you socially or hits Like or +1?   Maybe in my case, those folks just liked that I shared the Beatles puppet show.  It may not mean that my links website is more worthy.  Thirdly, there are human and ethical issues. If Google crawled social media pages the way they crawl other sites, the snippets could end up containing information the user didn’t intend to have showing up in search results. Personal things (e.g. my spouse abuses me).   So, Matt Cutts is pretty clear that Google does not spend a lot of time crawling social media.

One qualification on the above, as discussed two newsletters ago, is that the Google +1 button matters at least a bit. Clicking that button does generate a link on the person’s Google+ profile, and passes trust. And if the first link on your Google+ home page goes back to your website, you do get a trust boost.

While social signals do not directly influence rankings, there are ways in which they might indirectly influence rankings. One intriguing theory is that Google could utilize social activity to vet editorial link profiles (links like we have in our program). Might Google not allow more links to transfer trust if it see’s a lot of social activity and interaction related to the brand? Interesting.

So, in the final analysis, I think social is worth doing. It probably helps a little; I just don’t expect it to help a lot, at this time. But if you do a lot of social marketing, and everything helps a little, then it adds up, maybe to a tipping point for your business.  And maybe it’s also important to diversify and not be a one-trick pony.

 

ORGANIC STILL ROCKS

Organic traffic” is traffic that comes to your website as a result of unpaid search results. Natural rankings. Some of it shows up in Google Local and the rest appears in the general listings.

So, which is better for delivering relevant traffic, social media or organic rankings?  It appears that organic is significantly better for delivering relevant traffic. Look at this graph from BrightEdge:

brightedge-search organic versus social

Organic rules in the business services world and elsewhere. You’re leaving money on the table if you’re not doing everything you can to optimize your site for organic rankings. This is no bandwagon; it’s reality.

The research also shows that with social media the bounce rates are high, and the number of pages visited is often very low.  If you’re coming to my site via a Facebook feed, you’re likely to view one page and leave. With organic search, the user mindset is different. In that case, the user is looking for you, or at least what you sell/offer/publish. When they find you, if you provide an excellent experience, they are more likely to stay: lower bounce rates, more pages visited, and more likely to return. You become sticky. So, if you want to gain brand awareness, social is a great channel and you can get in front of people who aren’t even looking for you. But if you really want to bring buyers to your website, you need to rank organically and folks who find you organically are more likely to become long-term customers. Organic is about what people are searching for. We know that approximately X number of people are looking for Y every day. So if we can get in front of those people, we have a much greater opportunity to make a sale and create a long-term relationship.

Diversification is good, but organic still rocks. Make sure you don’t neglect your organic rankings. And ranking well organically has changed little in recent years. It’s all about on-page optimized content and off-page editorial links (like the ones you’re getting in my program).  See my next newsletter for Part II of Organic Rocks.

 

PROGRAM REPORT

The next one-way links program update will begin rolling out probably next week.  It will be assigned a particular date, the last update was May 25 2015.  That doesn’t mean you receive the update on that particular day.  We don’t want everyone doing updates at the same time as that would not be natural.  So, the next update will roll out over several weeks and then human nature will take over. Some of  you will do the update right away and others will postpone it until a more convenient time.  Human nature is one of our “program secrets” and makes everything seem “natural”.   But going forward, updates will have to be completed within a specific time period or you will earn a red flag.  With the next update, there will be two kinds of mailings, a mailing to members in good standing (maybe 97%) and a separate mailing to members of the “red flag” club.  Two red flags means removal or non-renewal.

Because of today’s “social media” theme I’d like to give a program “shout out” to Jeremy Dawes of https://www.jezweb.com.au/, an Australian web designer and SEO who left the program a couple of years ago during the Google scare campaigns but has now returned bringing some of his nicely crafted websites to the program.  How did we re-connect?  Social media!!!!  I sent him a Linkedin connection request.  I’ll do a future newsletter about Linkedin.

Oh, and thanks!  I’m glad that some of you enjoyed my little Youtube video about the “team”.  I have an update.  The next Pepe Le Pewnight, after I made the video, Pepe Le Pew showed up with mom and dad, 3 skunks chowing down all at the same time.  As you might imagine, one gets a bit nervous being several feet away from three skunks but I managed to get a partial photo of all three.  My goodness, the things I do to keep you entertained!

 

 

 

 

That’s all folks!!

 

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