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The last time I was involved with search engine optimization, Alta Vista was a player. I was working on my own sites and making a killing by taking advantage of the new world of search engines. Yahoo was making its move to the top. Google wasn’t even a word at the time.
Flash forward to 2007 and social media became my thing. I was able to drive great traffic with the social news sites and started really getting involved the marketing components in 2008. That’s when JD Rucker and I hooked up and started working the various social angles for clients, but he would always handle the search engine components. At the time, I never thought I would get back into SEO, but things have changed since before the Penguin update. We knew it was coming – listening to Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester at the first SXSW I’d ever attended made us realize that the things I was doing in social would soon apply to search.
Fast forward to today. Social signals are a big thing. Many websites are able to make exceptional moves up in the search rankings through social signals alone. Now, rumors are spreading about a social-focused update called Zebra. Chances are good that it’s just a rumor, but the data that we’ve seen shows spikes in social signal influence over search when the signals are real. Those who are buying fake +1s, getting retweets from spam accounts, or inflating their Facebook likes are not seeing the same results that we are.
Social signals are the easiest way for the search engines to get human interaction with pages that they can monitor and utilize in rankings. There is no reason to believe that the usefulness will slow down. What will happen is that they will figure out more ways to sniff out the spammers. They’re already doing it with reviews; those who create accounts and write reviews with no past or future activity end up getting removed.
The point is that the rumors that social signals are losing value in search are being spread by those who are not putting out strong content that is able to get real social shares. Social signals simply make sense. They’ll be effective for the foreseeable future.
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