It is official, Facebook and Twitter are used to help rank websites and blogs with a proviso that the quality of the links and the reputation of the member are also taken into consideration. It is also clearly stated that just going out and getting as many followers as possible in as short a time as possible is not going to get you page authority, especially if this is done indiscriminately without any thought about whether those followers have a good on-line reputation or are involved in the same interests or on-line topics you are involved in.
That smacks a little of the back linking rules doesn’t it, i.e. just grabbing back links from anywhere, sites that have no relevancy to your site, or are bad neighbourhood sites will have a detrimental affect on your websites authority rather than a beneficial affect. So it seems to me that Google are starting to take a position on what are called ‘Social Signals‘ that basically says as an author of on-line publications, you had better take care of the personal reputation you have and make sure you only mix with other authors that have a good reputation.
Now throw into the pot that Google are actively promoting the use of ownership to clearly identify that you are either the owner of the content on a site or the person responsible for that content. This is done by placing the rel=”author” on your websites articles etc. with a connection back to a Google+ account where you declare that you have an interest in a particular website. The plot begins to thicken doesn’t it, if plot is the right way to describe it.
When you stop and think about it, you can see that from the search engine perspective this makes a lot of sense, if the anonymity of Internet publishing can be swept away and who is writing and creating information for publication is completely transparent, then there will be a natural reluctance to openly try and game the system.
Blog networks for example would be a bit pointless if all links to a website or honey pot site were clearly managed or owned by the same individual. Clearly that is a bit simplistic and there are much more sophisticated methods for building back links to a site than just creating loads of different sites solely for the purpose of creating links. And actually Google’s Panda update 3.4 pretty much took care of blog networks, which is another indication that they are really serious about stopping the artificial creation of back links designed to manipulate search engine results.
Another point worth considering is that however sophisticated an algorithm is, it is still a mathematical formula and mathematical formulas cannot (currently) decipher human elements or opinions. Whereas humans most certainly can and they can vote on things they like or dislike by sharing them, recommending them, talking about them and promoting them. These are all social signals and why wouldn’t the search engines tap into this human source of opinion other than when those opinions were not well respected or came from a dubious source.
I still think this is early days in the social signals equation but I would not be at all surprised to see this aspect of assigning authority to a site grow and grow with the emphasis very much on the quality of the people behind the opinions. The writing as they say is on the wall, if you will excuse the pun.