How To SEO: Social Signals as a Ranking Factor – Semantic Mastery
In this Hangout, we talk about social signals and their impact on SEO and search engine rankings. There has been a lot of debate about this topic and we want to add our two cents to the discussion.
Can social signals alone rank a site in Google search? Yes AND no…
In tests we have conducted, buying spam social signals (unrelated and/or from a non-interested crowd) to a well optimized post did not provide any SEO benefit.
But when we have targeted the proper audience with the same type of post and with the same level of optimization, we were able to rank the post. This is because it wasn't just social signals that the post accrued. It also gained social links. Organic social links.
There is most certainly a difference. And when you combine natural (organic) social links with corresponding social signals (likes, +1's, Retweets, etc), you also get targeted traffic to the post, which is also a positive ranking signal.
So the short answer is: IT DEPENDS. You can't rank with SPAM social signals alone. But with targeted social signals, you most certainly can, but this is due in large part because of the natural links that will be created as a result.
Another positive effect that this social signals can have is the transfer of Domain Authority. Since most social media platforms have perfect (100) or near perfect Domain Authority, DA for your target property will increase. We have seen brand new sites increase from DA of 1 to a DA of 20+ in 30 days from just social signals alone!
Quentin: So, Bradley, most of our listeners will have heard of siloing a website, but just to be clear what exactly is siloing?
Bradley: That's a question we get a lot. Siloing is a way to build a website by stacking keywords into a theme or silo. In other words, it's a way to organize data into a theme, also known as clustering. It works like this. You take the highest level keyword that you want to rank for, which is usually the most competitive and you make that the silo heading or the landing page or the top of the silo. Then you create content using related keywords, LSI keywords, generally more long tail, less competitive. And you place that content within the corresponding silo. The idea is to categorize the content to reinforce a specific theme which then helps all of the content to rank with the desired terms.
Quentin: Okay, well, I talked at the start about the fact that there are two basic types. These are called physical and virtual silos, but what's that mean exactly?
Bradley: The difference between a physical and a virtual silo is really in the URL structure. A physical silo can be seen in the actual structure to the URL fort to the page in the post on the site. You'll see the link set up as parent and child pages or it can also be done with categories if you're using posts instead of pages. So the supporting articles would be the child pages of the parent or the silo heading. A virtual silo is accomplished using internal links, but not within the actual physical URL structure. For example, from the silo heading you would link to the supporting articles and then from within the content of the supporting articles you would link back up to the silo heading. And if it makes sense, you can also link to other supporting articles within that silo. You just wouldn't see that in the silo structure in the actual URL to the content itself.
Quentin: Pretty good stuff, eh? So we know that Semantic mastery is all about testing real concepts, not theory and then seeing what happens. Can you let us know what you've discovered, especially how non siloed sites compared to siloed sites? And more importantly which types of silo actually win?
Bradley: What we have discovered is that siloed tend to rank much faster and easier than a non siloed. But it's more than that, it's also more visitor friendly. When you stack concepts or themes together in a very fluid manner, it makes it easier to understand for both human, or visitors, and machines, which would be search engines. Siloed sites when done correctly rank with only a fraction of inbound links than a non siloed site would require. What I've seen through my own testing of both physical and virtual siloed sites, tend to rank equally as well. I think for machine purposes, it a little bit stronger to have a physical silo method, but as far as for ranking purposed alone, I've seen both of them rank equally as well.
Quentin: Yes, yes. I mean information like this is priceless. So how exactly is Semantic Mastery going to deliver results like this to the world? And how are you going to demonstrate the things that we really need to know? The step by step processes involved in creating stuff like this?
Bradley: One of our major case studies of the year is going to be this exact topic here. Where we're going to basically create a case study using three different websites that we're going to start from scratch. All things being equal, we're going to try to keep all things equal as far as using a kind of a brand-able type domain name so that it's not an exact match to a name, not a keyword registered name. We are going to pick a specific niche and we're going to target that one niche. And we're going to build three sites around it. One which will be a traditional or old school type site, a non siloed site. And then we're going to have two siloed sites. One being a physical silo method and one being a virtual silo method. And we're going to try to keep all of the inbound links the same, relatively close anyways in social signals. All of the on page factors will be the same other than the silo structure itself. And we're going to track the results. And throughout the entire process from setting up the sites to the link building that we do and social signals and all that. We are going to record it all, document it via video and share our results.