Using Social Networks for Rankings in a Roundabout Way?

I just finished watching SEOmoz webinar with Eric Enge from and Rand Fishkin about ailing the link graph, and they have touched a lot of subjects from link spam, buying links to natural link building and of course social signals.

Rand presented a slide where you can clearly see Danny Sullivan’s image next to results, due to rel=”author” and they talked about the increase in clicktrough rate for that kind of results, which I agree with. But at that point something very obvious occurred to me, something that should have been obvious from the start.

Social signals are becoming more and more effective and stronger influence on the results we see, with or without personalization. So what happens when I search for “internet marketing”?

internet marketing personalized results

As you can see on this image I get two results that don’t belong in the top 10, I get Leo Dimilo’s blog and I also get because Mark Thompson from Stay on Search shared it. I am connected to both on Twitter and Google+ and I think I am connected on Facebook as well. Let’s try another one, “guest post”:

Regular results:

guest post

Personalization on:

guest post 2

This is what I get at the top, number 3 ranks My Blog Guest because I am connect to Ann through Twitter, Facebook and G+ and down at number 9 I have:

guest post 3

Here is at number 9 because Gary from Lawmacs blog, connected through Twitter and Facebook and G+, has +1’d it, but it wouldn’t matter even if I wasn’t connected on one of these networks to Gary because Google crawls other social networks to see who I am connected to.

So, I’ve managed to show you the obvious, things our friends share on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and no Goolge+ can alter our SERP results, bravo, I am a master of the obvious. But then an idea popped into my mind, a bit of a stretch, so we will have to test it out, but here is the deal, although I have to warn you, it may be a little spammy or unethical… so Don’t try this at home

Hypothetically speaking, a website ranks on page 5 for the main keyword, but if I search for that keyword and a friend or several friends of mine shared that post, liked it, tweeted it or g+’d it, I would probably see it on the first page. That goes for everyone else who has connections on social networks and uses Google search. So how would I take advantage of that, of course this already leaves the realm of SEO in some ways.

If I was to find a twitter user that has 100,000 followers and make him share my website, then theoretically 100,000 people would be able to see my website on the first result page in Google. It goes without saying that if such a person tweeted my website that would draw a few more tweets and retweets as well, so it is beneficial either way. But this way I actually get to push my website into the top 10 results for a great number of people.

Now to make it even more relevant, if I was to tackle on a specific niche I want to maximize the number of targeted users that will be able to see the effect of social sharing on the SERP. So I need a niche related power user to tweet my website if I want this to work. Any volunteers?

If we were to try this out for a travel website, we would need a travel focused social profile with a large base of followers, someone like @greentravel or ultimately someone like @adventuregirl with 1.5 million followers.

The things is this will obviously work, no doubt about it, and I think it won’t be too difficult to get either of these accounts to pay attention to you if you share their tweets, try to talk to them, after a while some of them will surely reply and tweet, or you can just ask them to. The real issue here is investment and returns, now I’m not talking about real investment, although I am sure someone would pay money for this, but I am talking about the actual results you will get from trying to influence the SERP this way.

First of all, there is no way that you can predict how many of those users will search for your keyword or related keywords that could show your website on the first page of SERP. The only way to follow this is through analytics, measure the impact by looking at the specific shared page and the rise in traffic or even impressions for that keyword in the SERP and related ones.

Second, although we mentioned at the beginning that clickthrough rates get increased when we see our friends recommending something there is no guarantee this will work, especially for someone that has 1.5 million followers, I mean how many of her followers can consider to be her friends? Won’t most people just ignore it?

Also, if a large number of people shares a page I start seeing that page for some barely related search terms, which is quite annoying and I hope Google is working on that.

So there may be benefits, but is it worth it? I will definitely test it out to see the results and measure if this can be used, but I wouldn’t advise you to do the same. This is not a long term strategy you can count on, maybe a quick boost to a certain landing page as the results won’t stick, but if you look at it from the general point of view this is nothing new. We all want influential personas to tweet, share and + our content, but since recently this has an effect on rankings and with personalization it also has an effect on how users see the search results.

I am sure someone has figured this out way before me, and probably used it. This just goes to show that there are many white and black hat methods people can think of, given the right mindset. Of course, this is all just theory coming from listening Rand for an hour and a half, talk about a bad influence… But again, I’m sure someone at Google has also thought about possible implications of their personalization and how people can use it to their advantage. Again, having someone influential tweet can improve your rankings, what I suggested here may do that, but the idea I was talking about is to present the pages on the first page of SERP that wouldn’t normally rank (and don’t rank) for certain terms by sort of, kind of, well, manipulating the user’s results…

Share your thoughts

About The Author

is the founder and CEO of Practical SEO and also a passionate blogger. All of his free time he dedicates to his Practical SEO blog and giving free advice as well as participating in the blogging community.

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14 Response to Using Social Networks for Rankings in a Roundabout Way?

  1. DiNaRa on July 15, 2011

    It only proves that social media and social links between people have great potential for SEO. But I think the balance between spamming and real links are very vague in fact.

  2. Mike Nolls - SEO Tips on July 16, 2011

    I enjoyed this same webinar on SEOmoz a lot Zarko, but I am a bit confused on the true usefulness of this style of social media interpretation with Google. These social media factors can only be incorporated if you have established a “network” of friends/blogs/sites in a niche. While most of SEO is focused on bringing new clients/customers to companies websites where they are first interacting or purchasing good/services in a niche, they probably do not have deep seeded networking/ties with people/blogs in that niche already, or they would already have an established view/knowledge of the goods/services they would like to purchase.

    So in some ways I think its good to build these connections to help your rankings/traffic by associating with top players in your niche/market. But I do not see it as a major factor in general SEO for many of my clients, we’ll see what the future holds though! Good updates man!

  3. Zarko on July 16, 2011

    Hey Mike, totally agree with you, I laid this down as a theory that can be used for short term boost for a limited number of searchers, kind of like a cheap trick, not something that will get you rankings. For that you really need to establish connections via social networks and hope that your quality content will be liked by the top brass. The idea here is to just go after one or two of these and check the actual influence, which I already started and will post my findings here as soon as I have everything.

  4. Dallas SEO on July 17, 2011

    I’m a really big fan of this from Google – they seem to be doing a lot of things right with social at the moment and this seems to be universally received as positive by the twittersphere. It’s a lot of fun and ridiculously intuitive to +1 something and I can really see this catching on.

  5. Jesica Wills on July 20, 2011

    Hey Zarko. Great one it is. Social Networking sites influence in a good way for the website and its ranking. Huge traffic and popularity come from social networking site. Best use of it provides best result. Thanks.

  6. Adrian on July 20, 2011

    Google shows once again that can do whatever they want with our websites results. We depend on Google. Social links are winning more and more ground and i don’t know this is good or not.

  7. Leo Dimilo on July 20, 2011


    I am actually happy that we have connected for more than the reason that you suddenly see me in the search results for competitive terms.

    But seriously…

    I think that as social networks begin to shape search (and especially personalized search), eventually we are going to see a shift where search marketing starts to focus more on building brand than traditional links.

    That’s where I think it is headed.

  8. Zarko on July 21, 2011

    Hi Leo,

    I agree, and in fact we are already seeing that change, a bunch of companies we work with are heavily going for brand promotion and brand building, and not regular link building, but social networking and basically 100% natural link building with brand names and URL’s mostly. Basically, give what you got, a link is a link, so less effort is placed on exact anchors and more on the brand itself, and that also goes to the choice of websites to get a link from… the game keeps changing, which is why we love it :)

  9. Round Up #32 — lawmacs web design blog on July 23, 2011

    [...] Using Social Networks for Rankings in a Roundabout Way? – I just finished watching SEOmoz webinar with Eric Enge from and Rand Fishkin [...]

  10. Amit@Forklift Training on July 27, 2011

    Ok, so now all i need to do is find someone with 100k followers to tweet my blog :)
    It’s a small thing, but it could help the sales if you put some work in it. I just don’t consider it worth the time. You could do a lot more and with more lasting effects with the same amount of energy.

  11. Tim Ellis on July 30, 2011

    Hey Zarko great post, I have been trying to find away to exploit twitter for years. My question is how could you think this is unethical? If Google leaves the door open why not walk right in? I would walk quietly of course. I think you may have found the next big thing in cracking the social media code..Thanks Tim

  12. Zarko on July 30, 2011

    Hi Tim, well, maybe not so unethical, but, our goals should be to increase targeted traffic and increase CTR, make more money for our clients through their websites, this tactic may not be so good for that, and it is very limited, may as well turn out to be a waste of time if people focus only on followers and start spamming twitter leaders with a great number of followers just to have something of their shared. If you take the long road with dedication, communication, you are more likely to get those same results for long term by forming a relationship… Well, my opinion and practices one thing, still we started working on this to test the impact and will post results on our new SEO Case Study website as soon as we have something to post..



  13. Veronica Cervera@miami homes on August 3, 2011

    The Social Media if explored and implemented the right way can prove very beneficial and at present I’m exactly doing that, discovering and exploring all the important features and this post is one plus point of the Social Media. Zarko, I find your articles so interesting that most of the time its more a pleasure to get engrossed in the topic and extract all the information/ juice I want rather than expressing my theory :)

  14. Kizi Games on February 1, 2012

    I like to call it social engagement. When it was blogs we leave comments when its social network we comment but more of a discussion or a conversation that is long when the post is short. The key thing with social media is all about engagement and discussions.

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