I just finished watching SEOmoz webinar with Eric Enge from www.stonetemple.com 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 www.searchcreativly.com 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 www.iblogzone.com 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…

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