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Are Likes and Retweets the New Links?

SEO is No Longer Just About Search Engines

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Search has been evolving for years, and it looks as though its really starting to enter a new era entirely. While search and social media may be two different animals, it is becoming more clear that they’re directly related, and will continue to be more mixed into one another.

We’re already seeing search engines attempt to place some kind of ranking on social updates. For example, we’ve already know that search engines take things like follower quality into account in how they rank tweets (see more on that from Google and Bing).

There has been a lot of talk of Facebook "likes" and Twitter retweets taking the place of links. Nobody’s saying that links are dying exactly. There is obviously plenty of room for link sharing on either of these services, but in some ways these kinds of sharing are replacing links in many cases. Before Facebook even announced its plans to take over the web, WebProNews talked with Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz about how Twitter is "cannibalizing the Web’s link graph":

Now that Facebook’s Open Graph and social plugins are devouring the web, suddenly liking is taking the place of linking in some speculative scenarios. We talked about some implications Facebook’s initiatve has for search in a recent article.

While I dont’ think anyone specifically saw the Open Graph stuff coming too long before it was announced (maybe somewhat in the days leading up to it), it’s really still reflective of what we’ve known for some time. The way people are obtaining information online is diversifying. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse (as I’ve written about his repeatedly, but it’s just what the big picture is about. Google’s real competition isn’t coming from other search engines. It’s coming from different avenues of information access.

The biggest threat to Google the search engine (as opposed to the company, which offers a lot more) is people not having to rely on the traditonal search engine. While I don’t think Google has anything to truly worry about in terms of losing users, it has to worry more about users just not using it as often, because they’re getting their information from apps…from friends via social networks…even when they’re not necessarily at Facebook.com itself, but on any given site or app, via things like social plugins (Twitter has its own @anywhere platform, and we’ll probably see more ways networks are penetrating sites. Hell, Google already has its Friend Connect and Buzz…I would not count the company out in expanding into more of this kind of stuff).

Style Coalition CEO Yuli Ziv has an interesting article at Mashable about "5 reasons Google and Search wont’ Dominate the Next Decade". Her reasons include:

1. The search process is inefficient
2. Mobile GPS Eliminates the need for location-based search
3. Social Matching Could Create Valuable Connections
4. Content Recommendations to Replace Search
5. Suggestions Will Be the Core of Our Shopping Experience

She elaboraates on each of these of course, and some of them are debatable, but really, the diversification of how people obtain information has already begun.

Facebook likes may not translate to better Google rankings, but so what? They may translate to a better Facebook ranking. After all, the more people that "like" you brand, the greater the visibility within Facebook. With over 400 million users and counting, and Facebook expanding its presence, that means more visibility period, and at a more meaningful level of personalization. It’s not about choosing between likes and links. Both are ideal.

WebProNews recently stopped by comScore’s New York offices, and had a chat with search evangelist Eli Goodman who made some good points about where search is headed, and how not only the technology of search engines changes over time, but the habits of users, and the relationship between the two.

As far as optimizing for search, it seems pretty clear that social and mobile will continue to play larger roles. It also seems clear that if you want social success, you need to work at your relationships with others within your networks. Look at Twitter’s Promoted Tweets strategy around "resonance." Look at tools like Trst.me, which uses a PageRank-like strategy to score Twitter users.

Look at the implications of Facebook likes. Regardless of what Facebook chooses to do with this data itself, they’re already being utilized in other places, like in search via OneRiot. The whole point of Facebook’s Open Graph is to connect the web. It stands to reason that Facebook likes will be of influence in plenty more places.

The point of all of this is, it’s not just about getting links anymore. Links will always be of use, but social interactions may equal them in importance, and in some cases may be of greater use to your visibility, and ultimately getting people to your site, your content, your store, or your shopping cart.

Are Likes and Retweets the New Links?
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  • Shyam Kapur

    Another good post, Chris. I have read and commented on several of your earlier posts because they are always of a very high quality. How people search/look for information is changing at a rapid pace. Even the so-called experts are only slowly waking up to this new reality. For some of us, this is not much of a surprise. I wouldn’t have invested three years of my time to build the incredibly powerful tool TipTop had I not anticipated this coming revolution many years ahead of others.

  • http://www.webpro.in Bharati Ahuja

    Yes, SEO is No Longer Just About Search Engines but much more now.

    The social graph linked with quality search results to inform the searcher about what people are saying about it is the next extention to make the search results more qualitative.

    If we compare this to the real time decisions we take, logically we also want to know more about the owner of the company or the company culture before finalizing any deal with a company.

    But SEO will very much be there but with a more wide connotation. As SEO has only evloved further and the SEO services shall always be in demand as long as there are search engines.

    The like buttons of the social media merely state the preferances of the people who are connected with eachother and the preferances, likes and dislikes vary from person to person hence that cannot be the metrics to judge or influence the rankings. That can just depict the popularity of the product and inform you about the latest buzz.

    Search is not getting replaced by the social media but rather getting supplemented by it and shall become more qualitative, once the search engines have their algorithms for integrating social media in their results up and running.

  • http://www.weddingcarshop.com/ Nice

    SEO will change or evolve according to Search Engines, USERS and Traffic. SEO’s are concentrating on RANKS! which won’t be useful in next 5 yrs. Becz say if i get great quality based traffic and good conversion from Social sites, then i don’t need search engines.

    Social will evolve, Engines may change but they can’t be like social, even if they try they will lose there essence of engine. However Google and top engines will survive. Technology is important in the long run but it still depends upon users choice of search. So its all about data and which type of data is shown accurately.

    Pieces of metas and links won’t just work in coming years, as its all about Traffic in the long run and not rankings. So its possible that there would be an extinction of SEO in future may be in 2015 or 2017, becz tech would be so advanced that there is no need for SEO. I believe Optimization would prevail but don’t know how much? Its all about Niche marketing and able to reach users as fast as possible.

    Extinction of SEO’s is Possible just like million years ago Dinosaurs had an extinction!

  • KnownSeo

    If facebook “likes and twitter “tweets” carried any weight, then bookmarks on delicious and stumbleupon would carry even more weight. This is all pretty silly. It takes no investment of one’s own reputation to “like” something on FB. And most tweets are nonsense. And quite a few are little more than spam promotion. Social bookmarking from twitter and FB simply revalidate Google’s algorithmns. And with the mass of garbage coming out of these social media puffballs, it only helps to differentiate google’s serps even more. If I want to jack around and kill time, I go to twitter or facebook. If I want to search, I go to google.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    SEO will ALWAYS be about search — it’s Search Engine Optimization.

    Website marketing has never been and will never be all about SEO.

    Nor has SEO ever been all about links.

    Tweets and Likes do not in any way replace links. They are all just part of the environments in which Website promoters work.

  • http://www.superfloorcoat.com Epoxy Paint

    Retweets will not replace links, or likes from Facebook will not replace links as well. However, having many likes & retweets combine with links will help you dominate your market. This is a no brainer in any market from boat paint to carpet woodinville.

  • http://www.kvmstuff.com/extenders/kvm.html KVM Extender

    Though there may be 40million users on Facebook(FB), but most people or I think 90% of them are there for chatting, placing their pics, playing games and different other works. But they never use FB for finding anything new(My assumption). Users who come to Google are really result oriented, and use it when they really need it. Many FB users dont even return to FB twice in a month.

  • http://www.twseo.com.tw twseo

    Although facebook is so strong and most people on earth use it.
    But the searching engine (google or yahoo) would not be replaced forever fot its strong search results. I can give you the imformation. In Taiwan, yahoo is the most popular search engine better than google. For its multiple community, like shopping, knowledge and other fancy parts. It’s strong than any other yahoo in the world. But professinals always know if they want to search, they always use Google. Cause you can find more truely results with less spam. Yahoo in Taiwan control the search results very powerful.