Danny Goodwin of Search Engine Watch was covering SES San Francisco on Wednesday while Matt Cutts was on stage with Danny Sullivan, Brett Tabke, and Mike Grehan. They talked about Knowledge Graph, Panda, Penguin, Transparency, etc. If you’re interested in hearing about all that stuff click here. There was some pretty interesting stuff in there but, the part about social signals reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to post about for a while. So here goes.
When social signals came up Matt had this to say -
QUOTE – “Can Google tell how many times a page has been shared/Liked/tweeted? Cutts said they can do a relatively good job, but Google is a little leery of relying on social as a signal. Google crawls 20 billion pages a day.”
I think if Google stopped using the link graph and changed over to the social graph, within a year there would be more spam on the 1st page of Google then there was before Panda rolled out. Far more. Right now people mainly buy followers and likes to create fake social proof. Something that’s crossed my mind but, I really want to operate with integrity. I don’t want to mislead people like that. There are a few people out there who overestimate it’s current SEO value but, most people just want fake social proof.
Quiet algorithm updates won’t stay quiet for long
Social accounts are just far too easy to create. What do you really think will happen once word got around that Google was using social signals instead of links as their primary ranking factor. Withholding that info wouldn’t do any good either. If I got a link from Techcrunch or any other major high PR blog tomorrow, you can bet your buttons that I’ll notice if my search traffic doesn’t go up in the near future. Let me put it another way. If a site like Amazon, with their massive link profile, stopped getting search traffic, people would definitely know something’s up.
When Panda rolled out, the first thing that happened was people like this one started changing things on their sites until they got the result they were looking for. When Panda rolled out, people like Mister Fong tweeked his site until he recovered. So yeah, trying to keep quiet about it probably won’t do much good. Besides, Matt Cutts already said at the SES SF keynote -
QUOTE – “Cutts says they will “turn up the knob” on transparency, to tell site owners that the site is good but Google might not trust some links.”
“Cutts acknowledged that it doesn’t do anybody any good if they don’t give actionable advice. He thinks Google will get there toward end of year and moving on.”
Until early this year, there was a program called Tweet Attacks that people used to create bot armies so powerful that they could decide what terms showed up on the “Trends” widget of Twitter. They could then just flood the feed for those terms with URLs to whatever page they wanted and get mountains of free traffic all day every day. Tweet Attacks closed down thanks to a lawsuit from Twitter. Tweet Attacks aren’t the only ones being sued but, the word around the forums was – they are by far the best Twitter bot for the money. I never heard the really hyped bragging until Tweet Attacks was no longer available though.
If Google were to really change over to the social graph lawsuits wouldn’t be enough to stop all the social spamming that would arise. The last time I checked, the dollar is a de facto currency in many countries and some countries even use it for their default currency. As long as the distributors of the bots – were living in a country with banks that can exchange dollars and accept mail from the US, they shouldn’t have any problems. That’s all assuming Twitter manages to pull enough strings to make all that necessary.
In 2011 Google’s total revenue was $37.9 billion and 96% of that came from advertising. According to Ryan Singal, ” the majority of which comes from little text ads next to search results.” It stands to reason that SEO is really big business if there’s that much money in search advertising. If anybody thinks I’m being dramatic, think about the figures I just showed you and imagine what lengths many people will go to get a nice fat piece of that pie.
Massive Share Swapping Networks
There’s already one network that I know of where people get together and Like each other on Facebook and follow each other on Twitter(using fake account of course). That site is called Twiends. Glen Allsopp wrote a good post about it here if you want to get the low-down on it. Right now, all services like that do is create fake social proof for businesses and people who want to look important. If it were to become a major part of a $50 billion(educated guess) a year industry, networks like these could start popping up all over the net with their own armies of spam bots following Twitter feeds, ‘Liking’ Facebook pages, and sharing websites. It could work really well. Sooner or later the BuildMyRank of social spamming would come along and your rankings could potentially depend on whether or not you have a membership. They will have learned from BuildMyRank’s mistakes.
Best news about search I’ve heard in a while
Matt Cutts saying that “Google’s leery of social signals” is the best news I’ve heard in quite while regarding search. The only time I trust social as a signal is when it’s regarding a site that I already know gets massive amounts of traffic. I could go to Fiverr right now and get a great deal on 1000s of FB Likes and Twitter followers. You can rest assured that the social spammers would start getting really sophisticated. When I was thinking of all this, I came up with 3 people who have the programming skills right off top of my head to build the ultimate social spam bot according to my specifications. I’m talking about a massive army of spam bots, indistinguishable from humans by Google-bot or Google’s engineers, that I can set and forget.
I walked around my house for over an hour making a list of everything that bot would need to be able to do. I’m not even going to start explaining that, even though it’s tempting. Hmmm. The things I do to entertain myself. I’m quite sure that whole idea will be easier said then done. Everything is. One thing is for sure, building a massive private network of websites, each on their own hosting account and loaded with Panda-proof content, is far more expensive than spam bots will ever be no matter how sophisticated they are.