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Search Geeks Speak; Social Signals in Search
Written by David Harry
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 18:09

Here on SNC as well as on the SEO Training Dojo, we run some polls. I find it interesting and often telling to see what the SEO world thinks on a given topic. In the past the insight was published on the Trail. From now on, that will be happening here instead. So let's get into the first edition shall we?


Will search engines use social signals in the regular index?

Was the most recent question posed to the world. We were curious just how far people thought the engines would (or wouldn't) go when it comes to taking signals from the world of social. Here's the breakdown;

  • 56% - Maybe, but only in a limited wieghting
  • 18.9% - Yes it's the NEW signal of choice
  • 9.5% - Yes, but only for realtime/social search
  • 8.1% - No it's too easily spammed
  • 5.4% - Who cares?
  • 1.4% - Not now, but in the future

I have no idea what to make of this one LOL. The respondents sure seemed to feel they were being used in some way as the No/Who Cares crowd was minimal. Interesting that the spam-ability of it didn't seem to phase anyone either.

So, the question still remains. Are they? Do they? Will they?

We all know that social can be great for discovery and indexation, but what lies beyond that? We can infer that social graph signals and citations can play into personalization and geo-local respectively. There is even the chance of them potentially affecting temporal elements such as the query deserves freshness concepts.

There ARE some signals that can be used, but in this link-obsessed generation of SEOs, they might not be immediately self evident. All interesting fodder for another day.


So what's next? This time the poll is; What do you make of the Google SERP changes since Caffeine?

Please do drop by the SEO Training Dojo at take part (on the right hand side). It is appreciated and often enlightening.

David Harry -

Hi my name is Dave and I, am an algo-holic

I am an avid search geek that spends most of his time reading about and playing with search engines. My main passion has always been about the technical side of things from a strong perspective rooted in IR and related technologies.You can find me providing SEO consulting services for Verve Developments.

You can also hook up with me via


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0 #1 Corey McNeil 2010-11-23 19:02
David, my opinion is weighted on the side of "Yes it's the NEW signal of choice" BUT will greatly depend on how or if Google will be able to access Facebook data.

It will be interesting to see how they manage this situation with a decaying relationship with Facebook.
0 #2 David Harry 2010-11-24 00:12
Can't see it personally unless it is incorporated into a much tighter personalization . If not, the spam-ability is still a massive consideration. For using as signals in the reg index that is. Sure, as it is now, a stand alone vertical maybe, but social signals for everyday rankings? Problematic IMO.

As for FB data, once more, not entirely sure how much they'd get from that beyond what they already know about users already. It would help give more breadth to the social graph, but with MS on board over there, seems an unlikely happening anytime soon.
0 #3 Corey McNeil 2010-11-24 00:27
Spam-ability is always the issue. If they can work around that it would be a better measure of popular vote. I don't see it happening in the near future, but I do see it as a possibility with potential.
Thats my take anyway.
0 #4 Barry Adams 2010-11-24 11:39
I think social signals are definitely being used by search engines, as social media is cannibalising the link graph more and more. Less blog posts with links pointing to the original source, more Facebook mentions and Twitter links.

And QDF takes a big hint from social signals, I imagine.
0 #5 Doc Sheldon 2010-11-24 16:03
I think they've begun to use them already, but in a limited manner. However, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see their weighting increase substantially in the future. "New signal of choice", though? I see that as unlikely. To do that would mean their SERP quality would drop a LOT.
It'd make more sense, IMO, to have a search operator that would either include social or be limited to strictly social. One would hope that would be opt-in. :-*

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