SEO Trends: Social Sharing as an Indicator of Content Quality

Chris Sams, January 17, 2013

In 2013, the importance of social sharing to SERPs is poised to increase rapidly as Google understands something we all know intuitively: great content is (generally) the most shared content.  Thanks to a recent study by Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman titled “What Makes Online Content Viral,” Google now has some data to create an understanding of how great content behaves when viewed.  That understanding correlates directly with the relationship of the user to the content.

As SEOs and Inbound Marketers, it is our responsibility to understand the value Google will place on our social shares.  If social sharing is the best indicator of captivating content, we can infer that the more shares your content has, the more captivating it is.  Users have shown their habits: they share content that they like, and comment on content that piques their interest.  These two habits are what has directed Google to being placing more weight on the social sharing of content when returning search results.

Of course, extensive experimentation will be done by SEOs everywhere to determine the value of social shares.  Black-hat SEOs will come out of the woodwork to sell shares to people, and Google will figure out how to devalue Black-hat strategies as they appear.  Thus is the cycle of trial-and-error in which we are happy participants.  It’s a matter of understanding the value of the data that has been accumulated, and Google certainly understands the value of data.

The real question is: do we understand the value of the data?  Considering the sheer volume and complexity of the data available, it is a daunting, if not impossible task.  I propose that many SEOs will find their tactics ineffective if they do not adapt to incorporate extensive social sharing into their SEO best practices.  Content is King. “Going viral” has long been considered the apex of content creation.  Thanks to the study conducted by Berger & Milkman, we now have a set of measurable characteristics that will allow us to analyze and track the potential for our content to go viral.

Considering the announcement of Facebook “Graph Search”, it seems that Mark Zuckerberg picked up on what I’m talking about.  The data that Facebook has accumulated and been unwilling to share is finally being compiled into a new type of information discovery, one that is based on your personal likes and shares, and how those compare to the likes and shares other like-minded folks.

Facebook Graph Search

It is strange set of characteristics to analyze, certainly.  I feel, although we now have metrics to determine the viral potentiation of content, the competition to generate something viral becomes more heated.  We now also have Facebook’s Graph Search to consider.  Their data will prove invaluable to determining additional unifying characteristics of the most prevalent memes and viral content.  As we begin to cross-reference our existing information with the new stream of data from Graph Search, we will see a whole new type of ranking metrics emerge based solely out of the dynamics of social sharing.

It is our solemn duty as internet-jonesin’, SEO-loving cats to ensure that we continue to increase our ability to configure content for the best SERPs possible.  The fastest way to increase visibility is to produce your content with your readers in mind.  If your readers are bored, they will not share your content.  That means you need to put captivating content in front of them.  However, as an SEO, you might not have dual-classed as a creative writer.  No, you can’t re-roll for your secondary class. However, finding someone who dreams of writing professionally and paying them to generate your content is incredibly simple.  Most writers are not employed full-time.  You need someone to generate content full-time.  The connection is easy.  If you haven’t figured out what I am getting at, hire a writer and give someone who works hard a full-time job. Help the economy.  Real writers live to generate great content.  Real SEOs should take note.

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