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Research on Social Media Signals and Effects on SEO

Social signal influence on SEO, I guess everybody reading this again and again on many blog, hear about that from many experts. What exactly is the “weight” of the signals in terms of SEO?

Though the answer is very close to logic for SEOs that are long time in business, for others isn't so obvious.

For this article, I've committed extensive research checking different websites, for instance two websites that have published a blog posts on the same topic, have different SERP for the same article as well as different numbers of social sharing.

Two Websites, Two Articles, Same Topic, Different SERP

The topic I've picked for this example is “How to ...”, published on 2 reasonably popular websites:
  • Website A is a very popular personal blog, that accept guest blog post, actually this particular blog post (guest post) was written by popular self proclaimed expert. Domain name of this blog is registered during 2012 and it is hosted on shared web host. Domain is dot com with Google PR4 and Domain Authority 50.
  • Website B is a company website with integrated blog. Domain is Co UK registered in 2012, Google PR4 and Domain Authority 35.Both articles are published nearly at the same time (2 month difference) about a year ago. Website B article ranks in top 10 and Website A article isn't in top 100.
Here is the first contradiction of what majority of people would think. Older website with higher domain authority and actually higher traffic (according to Alexa rank) should rank higher. The reality is different!

How Many Times Articles Have Been Shared on Social Media?
Article A Social Media Shared

  • Website A article shows – 22 G+, 184 Re-Tweets and 30 Facebook Likes.
  • Website B article shows – 16 G+, 0 Re-Tweets and 0 Facebook Likes.
Again, the opposite of expected! Article that have been shared less times on social media, actually rank much higher than the one that is shared just few times.
Website B Social Media Shared

Meta Data

Meta keywords and meta description doesn't mean much nowadays, as well as keyword density, though both articles include the particular keyword in the middle of the title tag and have very similar keyword density.

Content Analysis

Many readers would say, that these are unexpected results, but the thing is that this isn't the full picture yet. Here comes the content analysis – the length of the article is a bit irrelevant, so I am not going to include this detail here.

The game changer in this scenario is that the article on Website A start with external link (self promotion), include 2 more self promoting link in the first 2 paragraphs and after that continue with the essence of the content providing 4 links to actual web resources.

Website B article goes straight to the point and all external links (5 links) are to website resources.

With current Google algorithms fighting against blog post, link selling and link networks, easily can conclude, that things that are really matter for on-page optimization are:
  • content quality
  • external links only to quality resources
  • no-self promotion
As you can see social signals doesn't have much weight in algorithms and there are other factors that are more important. Of course this doesn't mean to forget about social sharing.

I've mentioned logic, in the first paragraph for a good reason. If social signals were so important for SEO, then all first top 1000 results in Google will always be occupied by blog posts (no doubt many bloggers participate in “social exchange programs”.

Additionally in top 10 results there were websites that are PR0-4, DA20-50, so technically this means that static metrics like PR and Domain Authority doesn't mean much either!

This case study is not a “private case”, there are so many examples that can prove that.
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