Below, you’ll see two different sites showed an increase in rankings that correlated with Google Plus activity and another two sites were positively influenced by Facebook and Twitter signals. You can read the full study on SearchMetrics and you can view an infographic of the data on Quicksprout’s Blog.
Many people argue that correlation is not causation which is what a study by Stone Temple Consulting attempted to demonstrate.
The results of their study only led to more heated debates by industry professionals, but they do determine that at a minimum, Google +1s drive discovery and that they most likely lead to faster indexing. The study also notes visits by GoogleBot to the shared page shortly after the +1 occurred. Stone Temple goes on to note that repeat visits are made to the same page from subsequent shares.
Since both Quicksprout and Stone Temple are very reliable sources for information, it is safe to assume that they each had the results they disclosed. As pointed out by Stone Temple, correlation is not causation. This means we can assume that social signals do not always directly impact rankings and when we combine that with the information from Quicksprout we are left with the following possibilities.
1. The impact of social shares on keyword rankings is dependent upon the niche and competitiveness of a keyword. This could explain why Stone Temple did not see a result and QuickSprout Did.
2. Great content is more likely to be shared and as such, natural links will occur and result in increased rankings. In the Stone Temple Study, no inbound links were indexed for the test pages, in the QuickSprout study, it is not disclosed whether natural links occurred as a result of the shares so we can assume the shares led to links and that is the cause.
In a recent article on Website Magazine, Travis Bliffen, from Stellar SEO says:
“When social shares occur in conjunction with inbound links, they validate one another and have a greater impact on rankings. We know that Google can determine an unnatural influx in back links to a site; so why are all sites not penalized for inbound link spikes?” He goes on to say, “If you have a new site or one with a history of generating few back links and you attempted to build links to that site rapidly, you would likely get penalized. If that piece of viral content mentioned above happened to be on your new site and it lead to a massive influx of links, you are more likely to improve your rankings than to get in trouble.”
The difference is essentially social “signals” and “citations.” By “citations” we mean un-linked mentions of a brand or website on other sites.
How do we capitalize on these signals and citations? Travis will be going into detail on his upcoming webinar, “The Only SEO Advice You’ll Ever Need” scheduled for July 9th.