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Google Makes Social Signals Top Factor for Organic SERP Rank

Despite Recent Algorithm Updates, Social Signals Remain Highest Correlating Factor For Organic Google SERP Rank...

Research showing that social signals correlate with higher Google SERP rankings is not news to automotive marketers specializing in Search Engine Marketing... According to a recent survey from BrightEdge, 80% of search marketers believe social sharing of content will be either a much more (31%) or more (49%) important means to improve organic SERP rank this year when compared to in the past.


In the Searchmetrics study, other social signals correlating with Google rankings included:

  • Facebook comments (0.33)
  • Facebook likes (0.31)
  • Pinterest pins (0.29)
  • Tweets (0.28)
  • Google +1's


It is worth noting that both Google +1s and Pinterest pins are new to the study this year... Still, the report cautions that social signals – as with other factors – cannot be said to be causal, but only correlated (i.e. well-ranked domains have many shares, +1s, etc.).

Despite the limitations of making a correlation through studying post indexing SERP rankings, the researchers cite studies suggesting that achieving fast indexing by Google's "spider" bots is only possible through achieving a critical mass of social signals.

Aside from social signals, backlink-related factors also continue to show up in the study as having a positive correlation with rankings. The number of backlinks was one of the highest-ranked factors, and other related factors found to have positive correlation included the proportion of nofollow links (0.25) and the proportion of backlinks with a stop word (0.18). The study notes that when combined with other factors, backlink factors tend to produce a very positive correlation.


Additional Relevant Findings:

  • On-page coding factors appear to be a basic prerequisite for a high ranking.
  • Unlike in last year’s study, this year keyword domains have decreased in importance and do not seem to be relevant for ranking. However, Google does not seem to have the same standards for brands as non-brands, such that there are some domains for which the factor “keyword in domain” has a more positive correlation. In fact, overall, there seems to be a running theme that Google strongly prefers brands and ranks them highly even if they do not meet some criteria.
  • Keywords in the description, title and H1 are still important, and the researchers recommend placing them close to the front of the title.
  • While Searchmetrics expected author integration to have a strongly positive correlation with rankings, that was not the case. The researchers still believe it will become more relevant.
  • Word count in text has become a more positively correlated factor since last year, though the number of internal links (0.15) is the most highly correlated on-page content factor.
  • Positive correlation for the number of images on the website (more = better) has increased from last year.
  • Whereas integration of ads (AdSense and other Adlinks) resulted in a negative correlation last year, this year the correlations are virtually neutral.


About the Data: The report cautions that correlation does not equate to causation, and these results do not in any way guarantee that the factors have an effect on rankings or are even used by Google as signals.


Searchmetrics largely excluded specific navigational keywords (as was the case last year) from the original data pool, which included the top 10,000 keywords according to search volume, not wanting to distort the analysis. Search queries are considered to be navigational keywords if they return results, which are largely irrelevant and only return one exact match (for example: “Facebook Login”).


The first three pages of organic search results were always used as data pool. That keyword set covers approximately 90-95% of the data pool used in the study last year. Here, the researchers attempted to strike a balance between two factors, namely the preservation of the “greatest common denominator” as an optimal basis for comparison with last year’s analysis, and the consideration of new keywords that have emerged due to growth in search volume in the top 10,000.


The researchers note that their data pool is always kept up-to-date.
Therefore, new, relevant keywords are used in current studies, such as, for example “Samsung Galaxy S4″ or “iPhone 5,” which did not even exist at the time of the 2012 study.


The 10,000 analyzed keywords led to:

  • 30,000 SERPs with 300,000 titles, descriptions and URLs; and
  • Approximately: 150 GB in data; 600,000 AdSense blocks; 5.3 billion backlinks, 4.15 billion Facebook shares, 12.95 billion Facebook likes, 600 million Facebook comments, 1 billion tweets, 330 million Google plus ones, and 14.5 million pins.

Views: 11900

Tags: Algorithm, Correlating Factor, Google, Google SERP, Highest, Organic, Rank, SEO, SERP, Search, More…Social Signals, Updates


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Comment by Alexander Lau on July 8, 2013 at 6:09am

For those of you not using HootSuite to manage your Social Media, I'd definitely give them a second look.

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 3, 2013 at 5:50am

BTW, we seamlessly integrate WordPress as our blogging platform. This is done through a proprietary coding system. Maximum exposure, Googlebot LOVES, repeat LOVES WordPress content. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 2, 2013 at 12:20pm

Thanks Lenny, that's a trick I use as well. I triangulate the link process.

Comment by Lenny Gomez on July 2, 2013 at 12:13pm

My boss would kill me but use Blogger and there are some really cool features that you can use to rank organically in the hyper local arena..... You push the content out to FB for a Like (Social Indicator), there is a little secret sauce I am not going to go into but that link can be social bookmarked and then created into an RSS feed to be pinged - 

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 1, 2013 at 7:00am

A briefing on how 13 of the most significant algorithm changes impa...

  • G+ Integration with Organic (1/10/2012)

What Google said:

‘Google Search has always been about finding the best results for you. Sometimes that means results from the public web, but sometimes it means your personal content or things shared with you by people you care about. These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience. Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. Today, we’re changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.’

What it means for search? Until this point, a lot of users were struggling to see the value of G+. This update showed Google’s intention to integrate its own social activity into search results. Results were far more personalized and took into account your own interactions on G+, displaying results from the wider web as well as accounts you were interacting with on G+. Suddenly everyone wanted a G+ account.

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 1, 2013 at 6:44am

I would also argue the 'analysis of a site / page value to users' still matters more or as equally important as Social Signals. Have presented this many times.

Comment by Alexander Lau on July 1, 2013 at 6:25am

As J.D and Manny might recall, we've all been talking about how important social shares are, and how they are going to progress in weight in the future. Of course Google is going to take into consideration how Google+ users are sharing content. That was something I think we all saw coming a mile away. They control what they want to control; take into consideration what they deem relevant within their own proprietary system(s).

There are so many good aspects of their current algorithm changes, I can't wait to see our client's competitors drop to the bottom of the charts for their crap SEO techniques. 

Great point J.D., SEOs deny it because they don't want to put forth the effort in creating a process to create and maintain quality content and how it's shared. It puts them on the chopping block, creates accountability on their part. In other words, forces them to spend more money internally on resources they currently ignore. 

I've been stating this for some time, but get a tool that enables you to measure every metric important to Google's indexing requirements and that obviously includes Social metrics.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 29, 2013 at 5:59pm

We invested big into social signals back in 2008 (a different type, albeit, but still social signals), again in 2010, and again this year. I've found that the reason that many vendors aren't pursuing it is because there's a ramp up - if they didn't get started with it in the last couple of years, they're too far behind the 8-ball to start it up. Unfortunately, we all know what this means - deny, deny, deny. It irritates me when supposed SEO vendors say that social media isn't important for SEO when they know darn well it is.

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