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Questions Grow about Social Signals in Search

Ever since Facebook introduced its now ubiquitous Like button, there has been a debate over how much social content - a category that includes Tweets, Quora and similar interactions - is impacting search. A little? More than we realize? A little now, but expect greater impact as other social initiatives like Google+ takes off?

Clearly there is a link between the social signals and search. As SEOmoz writes, there is often a very strong correlation between the number of people talking about a given subject or keyword in social media and the amount of search volume for that topic.

"Due to this correlation social listening allows you to uncover what topics and keywords will have search demand and what topics are going have a spike in search demand –in real-time."

Quietly Discarding Some Strategies

Six months ago, it seemed that it would be the next major algorithmic change in Google and Bing. "Both Google and Bing tell me that who you are as a person on Twitter can impact how well a page does in regular web search," Danny Sullivan wrote in December 2010, although his post took great pains to show how fledgling of a trend this was. "Authoritative people on Twitter lend their authority to pages they tweet."

Now, though, there indications that search engines are not focusing as heavily as the industry assumed it would on social signals.

After running some tests with searches, Eric Enge at Search Engine Watch, suggests that Bing may no longer be using the Facebook data stream as part of a social search and social ranking service. He also points to a post from Google's Matt Cutts, in which Cutts points out that author authority matters in terms of social signal. "This likely means that the number of people who are generating a material signal with their shares or tweets is even smaller than 4.8 percent of the population," Enge says.

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