Search Engine Optimization has always been about links. Once it was the sheer volume of links that pushed a website to top of search engine results, then it evolved to quality combined with quantity of links. Google always wanted to (and did) stay on top of their game and prevented (to a good extent) manipulative link building schemes from putting non-valuable websites to the front page of results. Relevancy and Authority were two keen signals in Search Engine Optimization that search engines weighed to decide if a website was to be placed on the front page.
Enter social media and the whole “link vote scenario” changed. Not overnight, but pretty quickly. Peer recommendations and social graphs are today, as influential as “link votes” in deciding what is “valuable content” – which itself has deviated in meaning over the last couple of years.
Value is not anymore a broad term, but user specific.
Valuable content today is a relative term to us. I have all the tools today to decide what is relevant for me. I group my friends and social circle to generate the content I need, I don’t have to go to Place A or B to get content. It is delivered to my “door step” via feeds and social aggregation today. So, relevancy to me is not relevancy to you. It has changed.
What is relevant to me may not be relevant to you.
So today, search engines has to do extra work to bring relevance to the content it brings to me. Sure, it does a good job in aggregating content from my social circles, but social circles confines me to a limit which is not scalable beyond a point. Social signals has to be universal – some of it is. This is what is of interest to search engines.
For example, in 2000’s, Site A was likely to show up on top ranks compared to Site B, because its had more number of “votes” or links from other authoritative sites.
Today, Site B shows up on top ranks (along with Site A) because it has more social sharing volumes and votes to its credit.
Social has put “Time Factor” to the front seat.
Today, time factor has pretty much reversed itself in bringing relevancy to content. If it comes from a relevant and authoritative source, certain content has more authority over “traditional legacy based content”, if it is fresh. There was no way new piece of content would show up on Google or Yahoo front page back in 2000’s. Today the story is different.
“Links” are not the only authoritative signal.
Search Engines (See Bing’s statement here) have admitted openly that links are probably not the only signals today (Matt Cutts on Social Signal & Links), and they are growing lesser and lesser influential. Social signals are increasingly getting to play bigger roles in deciding what it relevant content to users.
What is your opinion about the growing influence of social signals and them replacing (or not) the links?