Another Change at Google!?
Yes! Google changed the rules of the game again, but did not announce their intentions. What will give your websites the highest rankings in the SERPS today is what Google calls “social signals“.
The graph above is a running total of how readers voted their like or dislike for posts on this blog website, and whether they shared any portion of the content. These totals are updated in real time. Want to know if there is anything worth reading on this website? Just click over to the graph above and see what folks think about the articles, and whether they are sharing posts with their friends.
So what are Social Signals?
Social signals are indications of how much time your readers spend sharing your content with others, the amount of time that they spend interacting with your content (time spent on page), and whether or not they are socially engaged with your content – as indicated by Facebook Likes, comments, and social votes. The more votes, likes, and shares there are, the more Google favors this specific site and the higher it will be rated in the SERPS.
What is truly shocking about all of this is that social signals are favored by Google even more than traditional SEO. SEO is tedious and time-consuming. Even the most intensive SEO often produces disappointing results. SEO has always been “king” with Google when it comes to rating websites and content. Not any more. If you are putting countless hours into SEO on your website, you are wasting your time and will receive very little payback from Google.
That doesn’t mean that SEO is dead. Google still expects relevant keywords, keyword highlighting in posts, and appropriate post format using h1, h2, and h3 headers. Backlinks are still important. But not as important as they used to be. If you are trying to improve the rankings for your website by buying backlinks or surfing the Web looking for blog sites where you can leave a comment and a link back to your website, your time would be better spent enhancing social signals on your site and engaging your audience to use them and share engaging content.
How Does This Apply to Me?
If you have no opinion of the articles that I post and you really don’t care about sharing engaging articles with your friends, this information is of little value to you. If you do not own a website that you would like to see highly placed in the SERPS, than this subject likely does not interest you. But I would ask that everyone use the buttons below each post to express your opinion of the article and potentially share it with someone you know who would also be interested in that post. Why do this? Because I write and share with all of you and ask for nothing in return. And because I care.
After all, the Internet is a social network and is becoming more social every day whether we like it, or not. I’m not a proponent of spending endless hours on Facebook. But I can handle a quick share or like with little effort.
Here’s Social Proof
Chris Munch of Muchweb did a case study on the impact of social signals using a product that he created called LoveClaw. LoveClaw is the application that places the voting icons below each article on this website and handles the sharing as well as the tallying of all votes for display in the graph above.
So what about the social proof and the case study that Chris Much completed? He and his team created a test website that consisted of nothing more than a few engaging photos. Other than the photos, where was no other content on this website; just photos and some headlines and captions. No SEO of any sort had been performed on the website. They launched the website to see what would happen.
The site received a mediocre amount of web traffic and most visitors clicked on the Facebook Like button above each photo to indicate that they found the photo to be interesting and engaging. I confess that the photos WERE pretty interesting and funny.
Then the LoveClaw voting and sharing icons, like the icons at the bottom of this article, were placed below each photo. The LoveClaw icons allowed visitors to indicate how they felt about each photo and to share their opinion and the photo with friends.
The mediocre traffic that the test website had been receiving began to grow exponentially as news (via sharing) of the photos rippled through the Internet. Google, who seems to have a way of being aware of everything that takes place on the Internet, began to take notice of the test website, even though the site had no content other than a few photos. But what the test website DID have was a spike in visitor traffic accompanied by massive social signals because most visitors were sharing the engaging photos with their friends.
The test website rose dramatically in the SERP rankings and the photos on the website wound up on Google page #1, even though there was no real text content on the website. Mission accomplished. The goal was to create proof that Google will highly rate a website with their decision solely based on social signals from a site, in the absence of any other content or SEO.
One photo on the site showed a close-up of a cat sleeping on the back of a sofa. The headline reads, “Obama Wins!” and at the bottom of the photo it says “Cats still don’t care”. Cute cat. Great headline that made an interesting and controversial point. The photo is the thumbnail that accompanies this post. Click on it to enlarge it.
And the Conclusion Is?
I wrote this little snippet of an article because I wanted you to know what the new icons are, below each of the posts on this website. And I wanted you to understand the purpose of the graph and know that its results are tabulated in real time.
At the same time, I read all your comments and I know that the majority of you have websites or blogs of your own. The fact that Google highly regards social signals, even over standard SEO, is not widely known. So I wanted to inform you of that development.
About 25% of the comments that I receive for new posts mention that it is hard to find this website in the SERPS. Many just stumble across it by accident while looking for something else. Yet, I am always working on SEO in order to get this blog ranked higher in the SERPS. I already know that the Home Page text needs to be re-written. I need to get the websites policies in the page footers (a Google requirement). And I need to work on keywords for each page and article; all very time-consuming. I tend to put writing new content for your reading pleasure at a higher priority on my list of things to do. But the SEO work will get done.
Now YOU can move this website higher in the SERP rankings much faster than I can by addressing the SEO nuisances. How? By giving me your opinion of specific articles using the voting buttons at the bottom of each article. And by SHARING! Those actions both produce social signals, Google takes notice. and more visitors come to this site. And finally, Google responds by ranking this website higher in the SERPS, while I’m still twiddling around with other boring SEO tasks.
Interesting concept, huh? My own readers can take my website someplace else while I watch helplessly. The power that only I once held has now been passed to YOU.
Actually, I think that’s great that Google cares more about satisfying visitor’s needs than it does about satisfying the needs of website owners or bloggers. Those that surf the Internet SHOULD have more power to get to the information that they are looking for. And their searches should yield the best information, and not pages of advertising that no one wants to look at. So SHARE!
If you are a website owner or blogger and want to incorporate social signals into your site and boost your traffic and rankings, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Grab LoveClaw now while it’s cheap. It’s in the $35 range. A one-site license was at $25 the last time I looked. I recommend the BETA version which is sometimes called BETA T+. It’s $45 for a lifetime, multi-site license. What is also attractive about it is that it will be the first version of the plugin to receive new features. And as a BETA user, there will be no cost to you for those features. I know that you see this all the time in ads, but seriously, move quickly. LoveClaw will only be at these prices for a week or less. And then they will increase dramatically. Based on the “webbie” series that Chris Munch is doing now, I’m betting the discount prices will be gone when the “webbies” are done on Thursday April 25th. Just a hunch.
This is not a product review. But I couldn’t just drop the subject and leave you in the dark when the whole concept of social signals starts to ring true in your mind. To find LoveClaw, just click on any one of the LoveClaw links in this post. And no, I do NOT receive any compensation for promoting LoveClaw or Chris Munch.
And I forgot to mention that when you click on any of the voting icons at the bottom of each post, you can share to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Stumbleupon. Stumbleupon doesn’t work yet. Evidently, there is a weird requirement at Stumbleupon where the page that you are sharing has to exist on Stumbleupon before you can share it to Stumbleupon. Does that make any sense? Anyway, I already publish to Facebook and I will be publishing to Stumbleupon also.