Is Social Sharing More Important Than Links?

by on July 6, 2012 · 12 comments


There is a lot of buzz within SEO the community about this. When you publish a blog post or article, are social signals like Facebook Likes, Twitter Tweets, and Google +1’s becoming more important for ranking than traditional back links?

Google’s Matt Cutts weighed in about this in a recent interview with Danny Sullivan at SMX Advanced. Here’s a 2 minute excerpt of the interview:

The net net: Quality back links are still important and will be for the foreseeable future. Social Signals will gain in importance, but as Mr. Cutts says in the interview, “dont write the epitaph for links yet…”

As Barry Schwartz points out in his post on Search Engine Roundtable, “Social does factor in big time when you are on Google+ and searching logged in.”

So we have to pay attention to social signals, but it’s important to take in what Matt Cutts is saying – links are still very important.

I was discussing this with Matt McGee at a conference, and I like how he summed it up. At the conference, a presenter was showing how much better certain articles ranked than others, and the ones ranking better had more Tweets and Likes. Matt said, and I’m paraphrasing here:

“it’s important not to confuse correlation with causation. The # of tweets isn’t making the article rank better. But the fact that it was a good content piece that many people shared, probably resulted in it getting more links!”

To learn more about getting back links (quality ones), listen to my recent podcast interview with James Martell: Backlinks, the Hardest Part of SEO.

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyndon NA (theAutocrat) July 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Social Signals play currently hold No Direct Ranking Influence.
G instead seem to use them in a secondary measure (validation/verification of other signals (such as links), and as a modifier/contributor to others (such as trust)).

The fact that so many in the industry have jumped up and down saying that Social counts as a signal goes to show;
1) how many don’t do their own monitoring
2) how many don’t test/think things through properly
3) simply parrot others

If G get their way (and they really do want to!), then SS will become Direct Factors – but only once G has comfortably managed to handle the Noise:Signal issues (which are large and numerous).
Even something as simple as References (non-linked URLs) or positives/affirmations (+’s, likes etc.) – is infact far from trivial (requiring things like sentiment analysis, reason for the action etc.)

Then again, we are much more likely to see Authorship & Profile Authority kick in before we see that side of things as a solid signal.


Don Campbell July 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I agree with you – the Authorship markup is something everyone who publishes on the web should be looking at.

Even if it doesn’t improve your pure rankings yet, it does affect the search results of people you are connected with on Google+, and it will improve the chances someone clicks through to your site because you are displayed as an author that Google has verified and your picture shows up next to the post.


Resev July 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

Google+ very very important Google social network to your network rewarded in the algorithm penguin


Kamera July 7, 2012 at 6:57 am

I am answering “no” though It is my personal reply 🙂 There may be people who care about social sharing more….


CDFlik July 7, 2012 at 11:54 am

Good Information, for the people who likes the world of SEO.


Will Scott July 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

Hey Don,

I think Matt’s point is a good one. It’s important not to confuse the two.

I think we’ll ultimately move to a place where “signals are signals” and we won’t think of links, shares and citations as different so much as all part of the same ecosystem of “signals”.

That said, as we’re seeing with non-diverse anchor text, diversity of signals will become critical.



Don Campbell July 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

Very good point Will – I agree. As you say “Diversity of signals will become critical.”

If you were to look at a very good piece of content on the web that was not being promoted or “optimized” you would naturally see this diversity of signals (follow and nofollow links, comments, social mentions, etc.) and so that is the pattern Google is aiming for to determine if an article is rank-worthy.


Lyndon NA (theAutocrat) July 8, 2012 at 11:56 am

That’s already happening.
As I said, they use some of the Social Signals to vet/verify the links etc.
In other cases, they are used for “trust” rather than “popularity”.

The downside is – it means business site owners have more to do.
It’s not just optimising the site/server, creating content, marketing/promoting … it now includes ensuring you have at least a bare-minimum social presence/set of profiles, and preferably some level/frequency of interaction.

I think many SMB site owners are in for a rough time over the next year when this lot kicks in more prominently.


Juegos de Sopa de Letras July 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

thanks for this usefull information


Ray August 3, 2012 at 4:21 am

Hey Don, thanks for your positive energy and all the help you have given me mate. Cant thank you enough


Don Campbell August 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm

You bet – thanks for the kind words Ray!


Office List August 9, 2012 at 8:15 am

There’s been a lot of buzz and the more you read, more confused you’ll be. Some say it matters and but we agree with Don, It’s good to pay attention to social signs but links are more important.
With links you are doing a long term work, while social networks give you temporary relevance.
100 social shares might get you to first page or rank No 1 but it won’t last long. Maybe a few days.
Instead 100 links (hopefully good links) will rank you better and will last longer depending on what the competition does.
Good Post Don


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