Social Signals and Negative Reviews: Discovering More Ranking Signals

Google and Bing announced in December 2010 that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter influence a website’s ranking in the SERPs. Your reputation on these channels can determine how a page ranks in web search. Meanwhile, another ranking signal was discovered by the New York Times in an exposé about an e-commerce site that rose up the results pages through negative reviews.

What’s It For

On social ranking signals, both search engines already had features that displayed results that were written or shared by people in your digital sphere with Facebook Liked Results for Bing and Social Search for Google. However, these features are different from a regular web search which consists of more ranking factors.

Nonetheless, this update revealed that social media platforms, particularly Twitter, have a significant impact on a page’s performance in the SERPs. Deemed as AuthorRank, a user’s credibility and social authority measured through variables like how many people they follow and how many followers they have can add a little weight to a link in regular search results.

On the other hand, Google also announced that they had developed an algorithmic solution to detect when a website, either intentionally or unwittingly, ranks high in the SERPs because of negative reviews. However, the team didn’t reveal the specific factors such as underlying signals, data sources, and their combined processes to improve the results pages since many might attempt to game the system.

What Were Its Effects

In a video posted by Matt Cutts about social signals, he admitted that social signals were used at the time primarily for real-time search where Facebook posts and tweets were displayed right after publishing. He did caution webmasters, though, not to go and get followers just for the sake of it since, he explained, gaining authority isn’t only about the number of people who follow you, but it’s also based on their quality; not just bots or automated programs.

This function may have influenced the enhancement of Twitter’s verified check marks which were launched in the summer of 2009. It was developed to remove impersonation accounts. Today, it’s still being used to establish authenticity of identities on the microblogging site.

For the negative reviews ranking signal, Google cracked down on the e-commerce website that was featured in the NYT article along with several others that followed the same tactic. The company emphasized that providing horrible customer service to buyers won’t help your business on Google and that they’re working hard to improve search.

What It Means for You

Google is still pretty vague when it comes to talking about how much weight it gives to social media posts and shares. While it doesn’t seem to consider links posted on Facebook and Twitter as backlinks, the search engine appears to add authority and credibility to your site when you have an official account on these platforms as well as when your post goes viral.

As with everything else, you shouldn’t merely focus on the number of shares or retweets your link gets but concentrate on providing an overall remarkable impression for your company by:

  • Generating Compelling Content – Give your followers a reason to read your article and share it with their friends by creating content that appeals to them. Get to know them on a deeper level; more than just their demographics, you ought to understand their preferences by looking at what posts are popular with them. Use this information to create future content that they’ll enjoy.
  • Engaging with Your Customers – Social media is a very effective customer service channel. Since most people vent out or rant online, you can start a conversation with them, address their frustrations, and provide solutions. Be sincere when reaching out to your followers and build real relationships with them. This way, you show your target audience that you’re more than just a brand and add a human touch to your business.
  • Focusing On Positive Branding – Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are valuable for your branding efforts because of their popularity among consumers. Almost everyone has social media accounts, so it makes sense that you build your reputation through these channels. Do your research on the sites where your target audience is and optimize your profile by using the same logo or avatar for your brand as well as selecting your company’s color palette to improve top-of-mind awareness. You can also take advantage of sponsored posts to expand your reach and get in contact with potential customers who haven’t followed you yet.