Testing social signals
Can social media activity boost organic search ranking? Google rankings up?
The tests, in a nutshell
5 websites, 5 social tests.
- Twitter followers.
- Tweets & retweets.
- Facebook shares and likes.
- Followers to Google Plus business page.
- Google Plus votes to homepage.
Plus a control test!
The test, details
We created 6 websites in 6 similarly - sized US cities. The websites were all in the same niche and bore domain names that included: 1) the City name; 2) the specific home service (i.e., www.city-home-service.com). Ten months later, we began this study. Our study is a simple controlled experimental study that explores the relationship between certain social media activity and organic search engine rankings. We undertook particular promotional social media activity (such as promoting a website to secure Google Plus votes) through friends, relatives, and business connections (non-authoritative, regular folks) and then measured the average change in search engine ranking position for a range of search shares after a period of one month.
This activity... yielded this rise/fall in Google position
- 100 Google Plus followers. Details: we promoted a target website through our social connections and secured 100 followers to a linked Google Plus business page. (14.93+)
- 300 Google Plus - one votes. Details: we promoted a target website through our social connections and secured 300 Google Plus 1 votes to that target website. (9.44+)
- Facebook promotion. Details: we promoted a target website through our social connections and secured 70 Facebook shares for the target website and increased "likes" by 50 to a linked FB business page. (6.9+)
- Tweets & retweets. Details: we promoted a target website through our social connections (and tweeted ourselves) and secured both original tweets and retweets pointing to the target website homepage (50 total tweets). (2.88+)
- Twitter followers. Details: we promoted a target website through our social connections and secured 1000 Twitter followers to a Twitter account linked to the target website. (1.22-)
and, the control
- No social activity. Details: we selected one website as a control, and undertook no social activity. (0.11-). No meaningful change!
We believe that although our controlled experiment was small, there is significance to its findings, in relative terms, that certain promotional social media activities bear a causal link to increased search engine rankings. The big winner is the Google Plus system. It's probably not surprising that Google's plan to cut out the crowd-sourcing middleman by enticing users to directly vote on a site's relevancy would positively affect ranking. Regardless of the individual results, this study is another confirmation of the growing consensus that any well-rounded SEO strategy will have to embrace an element of social media signals.
We know our experiment isn't statistically ideal. When designing this test, we knew it would be nearly impossible to create a perfect environment in which to conduct the experiment. For example, each market we tested offers a different competitive marketplace, with competing websites in varying numbers and in varying degrees of sophistication and ranking power. As such, we see the value of the test as illuminating the value of various promotional activities, and not a precise indicator of the degree to which a particular promotional activity will impact a website's rankings. Our experiment was intended as a rough comparison between undertaking social media activity and undertaking no activity at all.
Study by Tasty Placement, Inc., a Search Engine Optimization and Digital Design Co.