One of the most talked topics these days is the recent and more visible integration of tweets in Google SERPs. If you’ve done a search lately, you should have noticed that Google is now putting relevant Twitter data related to your search key terms on the first page of the results. Take the screenshot below for example.
When you searched for Barack Obama, part of the main results on top are links to his Twitter page and his tweets. Now, that Twitter data have occupied a more visible portion of the SERPs, is this the sign that social signals are slowly dominating and links are already less valuable?
Are Links Becoming Less Valuable Today?
Well, it depends on what type of links. Low quality ones are surely not valuable. But, those ones with high quality and authority are definitely very important. Since over three years ago, there were already a lot of speculations if there would come a time that social signals would become more valuable than links. But, even experts during those years were not seeing it that way.
We came across a very informative article from over three years ago wherein 24 SEO Experts discussed the same topic that many are talking these days. One comment from an expert Eric Enge caught our attention as it reflects our opinion about the issue. Here’s what he said.
“While some have complained in the past that the links as votes system is inherently elitist, because you need to own a website to vote, that is actually the benefit they offer. Votes by website owners are made by people who are more invested in what they vote for by nature of the fact that they have invested in a website. The average social media person has not done that.”
Eric further discussed why links will always be more valuable than tweets.
“Look at it this way, would you place more weight on a post with a link on pointblankseo.com or a tweet with a link by a random user? Or even 100 tweets by 100 different random users? See what I mean? Links will count for a lot for the foreseeable future, but as signal quality improves on new sources of data their weight will decline somewhat.”
Links will always be part of the main signals that tell a search engine if a certain website is worthy to be ranked on top or not. Although tweets are also important, they are more used as a signal if the content is fresh or if a certain topic is the latest craze.
Are Tweets Becoming More Important?
Of course. Even before Twitter data are integrated in Google SERPs, tweets are already part of the important signals when it comes to determining trends and latest news. If you always hang out in Twitter, you’ll notice that every breaking news or hottest topics all over the world is determined through their Trends List. See screenshot below.
But, the real question is, do tweets can also contribute on how search engines would rank your website or content in the SERPs? The answer is, may be in some ways. But, it cannot surely compete yet on how links are valued when it comes to search rankings.
Here are good points raised by a few of the interviewed experts in the article I mentioned above.
“Social sharing definitely has its marketing benefits, but when it comes to pure organic search, links remain one of the simplest ways for search engine spiders to judge the reliability of a webpage.”
– Michael King
“Depends on the link and the type of social sharing. Even now, a high profile tweet can move your rankings more strongly than a site-wide footer link on a low value directory. When I see a Google+ post reshared 100’s of times, the post itself not only ranks, but the site it links to receives an enormous boost (but what benefits more… the G+ post or the original content? No one knows yet).”
– Cyrus Shepard
“Based from my tests about social signals last year, rankings caused by social links don’t last that long. If search engines can keep social shares on their indices longer and be able to assimilate the texts and sentiment surrounding the link to gauge keyword relevance (which I think they’ve already done), then I think it’ll certainly have more impact on search rankings compared to its capacity to sustain rankings last year.”
– Jason Acidre
Tweets are definitely important because they are now being widely indexed by the largest search engine in town. But, same as with links, you can’t just consider any tweets as important. The authority of the Twitter profile, the number of followers, and the niche of the content being tweeted need to be properly evaluated.
There is always a possibility that Google would index more social data other than tweets in the future. But, this doesn’t mean that link will lose its value in ranking content in the SERPs. Links are still one of the major factors that help Google in ranking gazillions of content all over the web. Thus, as of the moment, it is quite short-sighted to assume that tweets are now more powerful than links.