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24 SEO Experts Discuss Links vs. Tweets

Natural linking isn’t what it used to be. If you wanted to share content in 2004, you created a blog post & linked to it. If you wanted to share that content today, you would tweet about it.This revolutionary change in sharing has caused me to ask 24 SEO experts questions on this very topic.

Before we start, I’d just like to give a huge thanks to everyone who participated. Here they are.

 

Aaron Wall

Aaron Wall

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Bill Slawski

Bill Slawski

Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard

Dan Petrovic

Dan Petrovic

Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan

Dr Pete Meyers

Dr Pete Meyers

Eric Enge

Eric Enge

Eric Ward

Eric Ward

Garrett French

Garrett French

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie

James Agate

James Agate

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre

John Doherty

John Doherty

”Jon

Jon Cooper

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines

Marty Weintraub

Marty Weintraub

Melanie Nathan

Melanie Nathan

Michael King

Michael King

Neil Patel

Neil Patel

Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin

Russ Jones

Russ Jones

Tamar Weinberg

Tamar Weinberg

Tom Critchlow

Tom Critchlow

I’d also like to give a special thanks to Christoph, Ross, and Gianluca for having to deal with my screw up!

Question #1: Because of the way people share content today, do you think the impact on rankings links have will start to decrease?

Aaron WallGoogle+ | Twitter

Aaron Wall

I think it already has greatly due to…

  1. vertical/universal search (mixing local, product search, youtube videos, pictures, ebooks & so on directly into the search results)
  2. vertical ads (Google Advisor in credit & finance, Google hotel comparison ads & hotel price ads)
  3. larger AdWords ad units  (product ads, ratings, adlinks)
  4. brand bias (Vince update…good luck ranking for “car insurance” without a billion Dollar brand, Panda update…a site with great links that is hit by Panda is a site that may as well not have those great links)
  5. conversations moving from blogs & forums to generalist social sites (though I expect that as technology advances, conversations consolidated onto core social networks will spread back out into more niche communities)

And all the above is before one takes into account Google+ & where it may lead.

Barry SchwartzGoogle+ | Twitter

Barry Schwartz

Well, I don’t think links will decrease that much, if any in 2012.  I think other factors will come in, like social sharing – but I think that is more on the personalization side, where if my friends like X or share Y, it will change my personalized results.  Not so much on the aggregate.  Yes, I think it will make a bit of a different on the aggregate but I still think links will be supreme in the near future.

 

Bill Slawski - Google+ | Twitter

Bill Slawski

More people publish and contribute on the Web in more ways than ever before through content management systems and blogging platforms that make it easier to do so, through social networks and microblogging and bookmarking systems, and in comments and reviews and ratings. Search engines have been building more capable data centers, and more sophisticated file systems and data analysis modules than they’ve had in the past.

The range of signals that the search engines rely upon have been increasing over the years, and with the search engines using more complex machine learning systems, there isn’t a need to rely upon link analysis as much to decide how important content might be.

For example, a query that is recency sensitive (natural disasters, election results, sports scores) might best be served by web pages that haven’t had a chance to accrue many links, and an analysis of social media and query log mentions for bursty topics might uncover queries where freshness and relevance is more important than PageRank and relevance.

Cyrus ShepardGoogle+ | Twitter

Cyrus Shepard

We’ve already seen the start of this, but it’s effect has been masked by other relevancy signals. “Fresh” content became a huge factor in 2011 with Google’s November Freshness update. The number of links Google counts as relevant continue to decrease as boilerplate links, links from Panda hit sites and directory links all take a hit. Furthermore, as Google builds out it’s G+ infrastructure, it will have a whole new set of relevancy signals to base ranking decisions on, as well as authorship signals from it’s growing knowledge base of human writers and the work they are associated with (hint… if you want to rank in the future, start associating yourself with the new linkeraiti, aka high-profile authors and well connected Google+ profiles).

Dan PetrovicGoogle+ | Twitter

Dan Petrovic

Links will continue to play a significant role in Google’s algorithm. Make no mistake though, they are on top of behavioral trends and will make all necessary algorithm adjustments to include social signals and the way we exchange information today and in the future. One firm sign Google’s committed to this is their push for success of Google+. What bothers Google is that they are years behind Facebook in terms of social user data and they are hungry – hungry for real people with real names and real profiles. Right now, they are in a rushed, fragile stage trying to work out what exactly to do with the real time information and chatter that happens daily. Let’s face it, Google’s original PageRank algorithm just isn’t designed for that, not even with the recent upgrades. I would imagine soon they will come up with an internal HumanRank factor and start evaluating the authority of each and every single registered user in their network. First glimpses of this are visible in their authorship efforts.

Danny SullivanGoogle+ | Twitter

Danny Sullivan

Yes, I think social shares will eventually take over as a more trusted way to assess relevancy than links provide.

 

 

Dr. Pete MeyersGoogle+ | Twitter

Dr. Pete Meyers In a word: yes. When Google created PageRank and made links the new currency, spammers were still exploiting on-page tactics. It took years for the game to really change, but it did change, until Google needed hundreds of ranking factors to fight spam. They’re patching the link-graph at this point, and I think they know it. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to bring in new factors and turn down the volume on links.

That said, it won’t happen overnight, and I don’t expect social factors, user factors, or any single new factor or group of factors will displace links in 2012. At this point, Google is just too big and risk-averse to move that fast. The change will happen gradually.

Eric EngeGoogle+ | Twitter

Eric Enge

They will gradually decline some, but the reality is that the active sharing audience is not as big as people think it is.  Look at it this way:

1. Facebook has 50% penetration in the US (50% of the US is NOT on Facebook)

2. Perhaps 10% of those on Facebook are the high volume sharers, 20% share some of the time, and 70% just watch.

3. That means only about 15% of the population are sharing, so 85% of the population is not active at it.

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.

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 forseeable future, but as signal quality improves on new sources of data their weight will decline somewhat.

Eric WardGoogle+ | Twitter

Eric Ward

I think content sharing will have the opposite effect. However, it won’t be universal. In other words, the rankings effect can be directed at specific known circles, friends, connections, etc. The one size fits all search result is headed for the museum. Also, I believe the highest caliber most credible link sources will become that much more important as a trust signal for engines.

 

Garrett FrenchGoogle+ | Twitter

Garrett French

I think their impact on rankings will shift and probably decrease for some types of queries. Links won’t have to shoulder as much of the work indicating some of the value factors of a given page of content as search engines learn how to leverage social sharing metrics.

 

 

Ian LurieGoogle+ | Twitter

Ian Lurie

It’s already happening. I get about 50 people a month who come to me saying they can’t understand why they got hammered by Panda. Of those, 10-20 never fail to have dozens of total trash links.

That’s not a penalty. It’s a change in link measurement. As other signals come along – social voting, for example – links aren’t as strong a signal. The weaker links drop out, and link acquisition gets a little bit harder.

By the end of 2013 I expect to see an even balance between links and other forms of online citation. There, I said it. Now everyone can laugh when I’m wrong.

James AgateGoogle+ | Twitter

James Agate

I think that as time goes by, we will see the value of links decrease slightly as we see things like social signals and user feedback metrics begin to take hold but as things stand I personally can’t see a way for search engine algorithms to become truly dependent on any other factor since links are still part of the very fibre of the web.

In most markets, if Google were to switch off the power that links hold and for example make social the main ranking factor they would have a very odd looking index with pages that should be ranking not appearing because they don’t have the social traction.

In 2012, links are still where I will be concentrating my efforts.

Jason AcidreGoogle+ | Twitter

Jason Acidre

No, I think not, as social links and links from web content are way too different to be compared. Both have their own roles in the web space, especially on how they can help users and search engines find information over the web.

Increasing the value of social links, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll have to decrease the impact of in-content links on search rankings, as these two can work with each other to help engines determine the quality of a certain content – based on its link graph and social data.

There are niches out there that would really be challenging for social media to fit in (as some may have a very small market, and others could be just too boring for people to be really interested in). And in these areas, links from blogs/articles will still be the primary source of data that search engines can use to assess relevance and quality.

John DohertyGoogle+ | Twitter

John Doherty

Yes, but links will never cease to be a ranking factor. I think links will always be important, but Google is seeking to even further diversify their ranking factors with social and author authority, all tied back to Google+. I think this is a smart move on their part, but will not “kill” conventional SEO.

 

 

Jon CooperGoogle+ | Twitter

Jon Cooper

Yes, but only certain types of links. The natural link, the voting system Google was founded on, will always be king; there’s no debating that. It’s proven to be a fantastic indicator for both relevance (anchor text) and authority. On the other hand, there’s the unnatural link. These links are black hat and defined as spam. Over the next few years I see them having next to no value as Google invests more into filtering these types of links.

 

Kristi HinesGoogle+ | Twitter

Kristi Hines

I don’t think the power of links will decrease because of social sharing, but I think they will decrease because of the ways Google is fighting to devalue low quality links from low quality sites.

 

 

Marty WeintraubGoogle+ | Twitter

Marty Weintraub

When it comes to organic ranking factors, there is only a 100% pie. Placing any emphasis on new ranking factors has to degrade the importance of others. With search engines tending to favor social signals more and more, something’s got to give. Since links are intrinsically easier to spam, it make a lot of sense that they will be degraded somewhat in value.

What’s interesting is how links and social signals might work together in a grid with time. Social signals seem to have a shorter lasting effect in surfacing content than links do. When asking the question about links Vs. likes, it’s important to consider that time transients come in to play.

Melanie NathanGoogle+ | Twitter

Melanie Nathan

I think the impact that low-quality links (still!) have will finally start to decrease as the SEs get serious about detecting them but I haven’t seen any solid evidence yet to support the whole ‘links are out, social is in’ theory when it comes to rankings.

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.

I guess we’ll find out though as Google plays around with personalized search and Google+ integration.

 

Michael KingGoogle+ | Twitter

Michael King

Absolutely not. As Wil Reynolds has proven social’s impact on rankings still has a ways to go. I think it has and will continue to hold a lot of weight for news publishers, QDF keywords and anything affected by the “freshness” update but I’m not sure that we’ll see any super competitive head terms be significantly overthrown by a few thousand tweets any time soon. If the SERPs were that volatile for head terms people would shy away from Google. Granted Google seems to be mixing up the weight of the different factors but I don’t see links having a significant decrease in impact.

 

Neil PatelGoogle+ | Twitter

Neil Patel

I don’t think the impact of links will decrease as it is harder to get quality ones. Instead of people blogging and linking to you, it is easier for them to tweet about your page. Instead search engines are starting to take those other factors into their rankings as well.

 

 

Rand FishkinGoogle+ | Twitter

Rand Fishkin

Not necessarily. But, I would guess that other signals will rise and that social, user/usage data and others might come into play to help evaluate and grade the link graph, as well as becoming a direct part of the algorithm. Ranking without links will continue to be tough for a long time, so we’ll probably have a good few years of that being a strong ranking signal.

 

Russ JonesGoogle+ | Twitter

Russ Jones

No. Nearly all of the social graph is already represented with links, albeit many of them nofollowed or obscured with javascript. It is far easier for Google to improve its ability to spider social content for link discovery (like Googlebot’s improved Facebook AJAX interpretation) than to create new direct data integrations for new social networks. As long as Google can find that shared URL, they will rely on the quanity and quality of those links as the ranking factor.

 

Tamar WeinbergGoogle+ | Twitter

Tamar Weinberg

Interesting question. I think that search engines will pay more attention to social signals, but not just the name of the user who shared the content. After all, you could argue that you could create 500 Twitter accounts, tweet out a link, and get #1 rankings. However, just like a link needs to be trusted, so too does the sharer’s account. If you’re not an established social presence, you probably shouldn’t see success. I think search engines will need to start looking at age of account, number and quality of followers (think of them as the number/quality of “links”), and other factors to ensure that rankings are more accurate. Otherwise, SERPs can be gamed.

Tom CritchlowGoogle+ | Twitter

Tom Critchlow

I think the impact links will have on rankings is already starting to decline. Not just because of the way people share content but also because of the data that Google is able to gather (and process) about user engagement, click throughs, content quality etc. This will be especially true in verticals/niches where they have more data points (i.e those that are highly social). For many more mundane industries the old school factors will still play a big role.

 

 

Question #2: Do you think tweets and other social shares will ever have the kind of impact on rankings that links have today?

Aaron Wall - Google+ | Twitter

Aaron Wall

If Google buys out Twitter then they will put a decent amount of weight on it as a relevancy signal. While Google does not own Twitter they will not want to make the algorithm overly reliant on an external signal that is centralized & owned by someone else (which is both why they will never count Facebook too significantly & part of the reason Google launched Google+).

If Google understands identity they can use it for personalized ad targeting & refining personalized relevancy by knowing who is in your circle of friends & what you like (so they could use these other networks in that way) but I wouldn’t expect them to want to count these external networks as global authority score sources.

Why?

Many of the social sites have relevancy signals that are also closely tied to their ad units.

If Google can turn their ad unit into a relevancy signal (like they have done with YouTube video ad views) then of course they will because they print money in the process, but if they were to put the same kind of weight on a network owned by a 3rd party then they would just be subsidizing a competing ad network, which is not their style.

Barry Schwartz - Google+ | Twitter

Barry Schwartz

Ever is a long time. I don’t think a share will be as valuable as a good link in the next year or so. I do think social shares will have an impact and currently do and that impact will grow as social networks become more and more utilized.

 

 

Bill Slawski - Google+ | Twitter

Bill Slawski

For queries deserving fresh answers, social signals may already have that kind of impact. User rankings based upon contributions to social networks and meaningful interactions with others may determine how much weight mentions within tweets or shares or pluses or status updates might carry, based upon whom those social signals may come from.

 

Cyrus Shepard - Google+ | Twitter

Cyrus Shepard

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).

 

Dan Petrovic - Google+ | Twitter

Dan Petrovic

Search engine algorithm is a complete system comprised of smaller individual units. I visualise all these units as flexible bubbles fighting for space in a big glass tank. Just like QDF there is also an SDS (or let’s call it “signal deserves strength”). Lower SDS factor means the signal gets squashed into a smaller bubble, stronger SDS means it grows larger.

From time to time as the web evolves new things take place on the stage. When this happens, search engine adds a tiny new bubble into the tank and observes its behaviour. They do this every time they roll out a new algorithm. If they are happy and users are happy, the signal strength grows and continues to grow until equilibrium is reached. Tweets and other social shares are no longer a tiny bubble but a maturing and well-observed factor and I see them working together with other algorithmic elements including links rather than a separate signal.

The question is – do they truly know what to do with it?

Danny Sullivan - Google+ | Twitter

Danny Sullivan

I guess that’s answered as part of my response to your first question. I think they’ll have as much impact and eventually surpass links, in some ways. Social shares lack anchor text, so links might remain a powerful way to assess relevancy of pages. But social shares might be a better basis for measuring popularity and trust.

 

 

Dr. Pete Meyers - Google+ | Twitter

Dr. Pete Meyers

I don’t think social will replace links, at least not for a long time – it will supplement the link-graph. Links didn’t ultimately replace on-page factors – they added a layer of complexity. It’s the complexity that helps fight spam and improve search quality. The exception will be if a new player comes into the mix – if Facebook, Twitter, or an upstart finds a way to build a fully social-driven search, that could be a game-changer. In the long-run, though, a 100% social search would be gamed, too.

 

Eric Enge - Google+ | Twitter

Eric Enge

For the reasons outlined above, probably not tweets and shares by average users, EXCEPT, in the case of a major authority tweeting something I would expect that to carry significant weight.

 

 

Eric Ward - Google+ | Twitter

Eric Ward

Not unless the credibility of the sharer can be completely verified and validated. Anyone can buy a few thousand tweets or likes or fans, just like they can buy links. The value of the shares originates with the credibility of the sharer.

 

 

Garrett French - Google+ | Twitter

Garrett French

No I don’t. I think their impact will first be more around indicators of news, new ideas and new stories of importance (based on the value and qualities of the “entity” sharing them). Links, especially those glorious editorially granted links, may become more about a page’s “enduring value.”

 

 

Ian Lurie - Google+ | Twitter

Ian Lurie

I think that day’s coming a lot faster than folks think. See above: By the end of 2013 I bet we see a 50/50 split between social and link-based citation.

It’s not that hard to figure out, really: It’s a lot easier to track the legitimacy of a social citation, because every social profile fits into a graph that’s deliberately tracked and measured by that social network. On Twitter, I can look at followers, friends and tweets, as well as average response to tweets. On Facebook, I can look at friends, posts and responses to posts.

You can do the same with links but it’s much harder, because the internet doesn’t have a master link API. So search engines will lean more and more on social.

James Agate - Google+ | Twitter

James Agate

In my opinion, tweets and social shares are more ‘throwaway’ than links so I can’t see a tweet ever being equal to a link in the sense that a tweet has such a short shelf-life.

Do I think tweets and social shares will slowly have more influence on rankings? Yes. But do I think they will have the same impact as links in a like-for-like sense? I really doubt it.

 

Jason Acidre - Google+ | Twitter

Jason Acidre

For sure, they will, especially if Google will be able to implement their AuthorRank on other social platforms in order to determine authoritative users/accounts. Social proof has been one of the most significant and realistic indicators of quality/useful/authority content this past year, and their recent dependency on this metric seems to work (especially in returning better search results on some industries).

Although, 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.

John Doherty - Google+ | Twitter

John Doherty

Honestly? No. Links are such a strong factor today, and will continue to be a strong factor even if they are devalued a bit because of the rise of social.

 

 

Jon Cooper - Google+ | Twitter

Jon Cooper (Me!)

No, but I think they will come close. The problem with social shares is that not every type of content that people want to find in their search results is something that people want to share. For example, when’s the last time one of your friends on Facebook shared an article on concrete construction?

On the other hand, in niches where social sharing is acceptable (photography, politics, news, etc.), I see social sharing having an enormous impact on authority. The only problem is relevance; it’s hard to tell what an article is about if the message it’s tweeted in is something like “If you’re an SEO, you need to read this: bit.ly/afs14…”

Kristi Hines - Google+ | Twitter

Kristi Hines

I think links will still rule the rankings, but social sharing will make a difference, maybe not so much on the actual rankings, but rather on the click-through rate. There’s no better social proof than seeing the avatar of your friend next to a search result giving it their vote with a +1!

 

 

Marty Weintraub - Google+ | Twitter

Marty Weintraub

Yes, when considering the third dimension of time. Also, Google’s unfortunate leap into the +1 chasm, pretty well answers this question.  Dear Google, You win…we have to user +1 and now the SERPs suck.

 

 

Melanie Nathan - Google+ | Twitter

Melanie Nathan

With the way the world has gone bonkers over social media, I don’t doubt that Google (like many companies) will come up with more ways to leverage it for their benefit. I’m not sure that tweets, FB shares etc can be taken AS literally as links though when it comes to rankings, unless social sharing can be ‘policed’ like links are now.

Some important things the SEs will need to figure out before going forward with social sharing based SERP results:

  • Differentiating between paid shares and natural shares.
  • Deciding which social accounts have weight and which don’t.
  • Determining what’s real and what’s faked.
  • Deciding who to credit with the rankings.

Remember they’re still trying to perfect some of the above where links are concerned.

I doubt we’ll see a world where 100 tweets carry the same weight as 100 high-quality links in the eyes of a search engine, but since the key to a smart link campaign DOES currently involve building both social proof and great links, it’s entirely probable that SEOs of the future will be link building and socially proving their butts off in order to rank.

Michael King - Google+ | Twitter

Michael King

I think that once Google gets to a point where they connect people to their content with a large amount of accuracy that the social graph will play a much larger role. With all the data Google has on a given person their Gmail, Google Wallet, Google+ and what have you they will be able to model the topics that they are an authority on throughout the web and within the real world and this agent or author rank will be passed to the content that they write, share and link to. Once that happens I think the social graph will be used in conjunction with the link graph but I’m not sure the link graph will ever be completely useless. There will never be someone to match with every query so in those cases they will have to fall back to the link graph entirely.

 

Neil Patel - Google+ | Twitter

Neil Patel

I don’t think so as they are easier to manipulate than building links. Yes, you can buy links, but it is hard to buy links from quality sites like the New York Times. Links from authority sites will have a lot of weight for the near future.

 

 

Rand Fishkin - Google+ | Twitter

Rand Fishkin

Possibly, but not in the very near future. However, I would say that social signals often lead directly or indirectly to links, and the two are frequently well-correlated. Social is already a very powerful link building method, and I see that increasing over time.

One more point – I’d guess that if Google+ does take off in a truly big way, we’ll see those signals (shares, +1s, etc) impact the algo more directly and with more power. Not sure Google can make + all that big, though.

 

Russ Jones - Google+ | Twitter

Russ Jones

Absolutely not. It would be very dangerous for Google to stake a substantial percentage of its search algorithm on the success of a handful of third party social networks. If Google had done just that 4 years ago, they would have taken massive hits to search quality as MySpace and Friendster crumbled. They would have taken even bigger hits if Twitter or Facebook restricted their API access. It is in Google’s interest to diversify its algorithm and, wherever possible, to prevent single points of failure outside of their control.

 

Tamar Weinberg - Google+ | Twitter

Tamar Weinberg

I think they will need to be. The evolutionary model of the web seems to show that more people are creating content in short form versus creating a blog or website and making links. It’s easier to tweet out a link with about 120 additional characters of commentary. It’s much more difficult to create an article or blog post with links and surrounding text. That said, I suspect that links will still be weighted more heavily due to the effort put forth in creating it (it’s not always easy to whip out your WYSIWYG CMS editor or edit HTML) but social media will also play an increased role — it only makes sense.

 

Tom Critchlow - Google+ | Twitter

Tom Critchlow

I don’t think any single factor will have as much weight as links have had for the past few years – I think we’re moving into an age where the number of different data points are large and our ability to process them is high so we’ll be looking at an algorithm that fundamentally more fragmented, personalized and complex. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a major update in 2012 that started to separate out different types of queries by intent/type and use different algorithms for them based on almost entirely different factors.

 

 

Question #3: Would you rather have a link to a blog post from an authoritative blog, or would you rather have the post tweeted by a highly authoritative figure?

Aaron Wall - Google+ | Twitter

Aaron Wall

By far and away I would prefer to have a link from their blog. Blog posts live on & can be cited in the future. And they are much richer with deeper information and context. A Tweet is just a quick blurb that has an exceptionally short half life.

When I was getting started in SEO, being mentioned by Danny Sullivan changed the trajectory of our sites. When other SEOs like Mike Grehan mentioned us in their articles or I bought an ad on Search Engine Guide sales instantly poured in. Contrasting those, some of our featured content has been tweeted by famous movie stars & that didn’t really do much for us.

Sure there is the awareness angle, but the thing about being featured by other people in your niche or industry is that the people who pay attention to them are also likely in your industry…so the targeting is so potent. Whereas even if one of the top 100 movie stars of all time mentions you in a Tweet, that wide reach is also reach into an audience that is likely entirely uninterested in your niche (unless you are that guy from Old Spice).

Barry Schwartz - Google+ | Twitter

Barry Schwartz

I would rather have a link from a authoritative blog, when looking at just the link value. But I know that a tweet from a high authoritative figure would end up getting me more links in the long run. I.e. If Arrington tweets a link to my blog post, I bet several bloggers pick it up and put it on their blogs. So I rather have several authoritative links than one. :)

 

Bill SlawskiGoogle+ | Twitter

Bill Slawski

Sometimes it’s easier to draw millions of visitors of all types to a broad interest site than a hundred or so very specific people to a site that may only interest them. The right link, or the right mention, at the right place and the right time is going to determine that. The context might be more important than the vehicle.

An article written to influence the future research of particle scientists working at a Large Hadron Collider might be more likely to be followed by the right people if linked to in a technical journal than tweeted.

Not the most people, but the right people.

News of Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement, tweeted by Shaq, went out to 3.8 million of his followers, and then was covered by news agencies world wide. If Shaq had instead tweeted about a very technical article on the Higgs boson particle, the researchers at the Cern Large Hadron Collider might not have got the tweet.

Cyrus Shepard - Google+ | Twitter

Cyrus Shepard

Despite everything I’ve just said, a link from an authoritative blog far outweighs the potential value of any tweet, both now an in the near future. Things are changing, but not that fast.

 

 

Dan Petrovic - Google+ | Twitter

Dan Petrovic

The pure SEO impact from an authoritative tweet is insignificant in comparison to a link of the same calibre. That’s not to say that a single tweet from a popular user would not result in a torrent of tweets, retweets, mentions and other factors which could in fact trigger direct SEO value and go beyond it as far as pure marketing and branding goes.

But guess what, a blog post will be backed up by great social activity anyway if it’s hosted on a truly authoritative site so I would get the best of both. Blogs and pages are content containers and social media is the ‘polleniser’ of it all. Two different things, but work really well together.

Danny Sullivan - Google+ | Twitter

Danny Sullivan

So I really have to choose? But if I had to, I’d probably take the tweet, hoping the short term gain and exposure would translate into more link term links from a variety of sources. Ideally, I want the authority person to write a blog post including me and tweet that!

 

 

Dr. Pete Meyers - Google+ | Twitter

Dr. Pete Meyers

The “all else being equal” questions are always tough – of course, the devil is in the details. I’ll play along, though – all else being equal, I think I’d rather have the Tweet. Blog links have a way of being short-lived, and they don’t always drive more links. One well-timed Tweet from an authoritative figure could drive dozens of solid links. It’s a gamble I’d probably take.

 

Eric Enge - Google+ | Twitter

Eric Enge

Let me draw my model out a bit more. I will refer to the link/tweet/share as an “action”. There are a few major things that drive the value of an action (from a search engine’s perspective):

1. The effort it took to undertake an action.  Hitting a +1 button = very little effort. Sharing a link = a bit more effort.  Building, owning and operating a website and implementing a link = a lot of effort + out of pocket costs (hosting, web development, …).

2. The relevance of the source taking the action.  If someone has an authoritative social media account, and their domain of authority relates specifically to the shared content, it counts for more (and the same for an authoritative website).

3. The authoritative weight of the source taking the action. If a website, does it have a killer link profile?  If a social media account, does it have a major following?

All three of these things weigh on the value of the action taken.  There is one more factor that impacts the value of the action.  The likelihood that the action will result in additional sharing and links.  Will the writing of that blog post cause other people to link to your site or tweet/share it?  Will the tweet cause other people to link/tweet/share your content?

It is this latter factor that causes me to place a lot of weight on having relationships with authoritative people on social media platforms.  But, as I have outlined above, I don’t see this as a simple equation!

Eric Ward - Google+ | Twitter

Eric Ward

I’d take the blog post link because it can continually provide traffic, new tweets, shares, etc., whereas a single tweet, even if by an authority, is fleeting and has a shorter half-life. Much more hit or miss.

 

 

Garrett French - Google+ | Twitter

Garrett French

I’d rather have the link – in my experience the traffic lasts longer and is typically framed in a context that invites a longer and more directed visit to a page. To me, as a user, reference links in an article are often more useful and relevant than tweets and indicate a stronger “vote” by the author.

 

 

Ian Lurie - Google+ | Twitter

Ian Lurie

Definitely the tweet, because it could lead to many more links, and retweets. The cascading effect is bigger.

Not that I’d turn down the link. Why, do you know someone?…

 

James Agate - Google+ | Twitter

James Agate

That is a great question and I would have to say it depends on the market…95% of the time though I would prefer the link because if it was a whole blog post or even a contextual mention in an article as well as a link then that is likely to be hugely more beneficial and have much more longevity than a tweet.

 

 

Jason Acidre - Google+ | Twitter

Jason Acidre

Both are fine to me actually, but if I were to choose from these 2, I would still go for links from blogs/articles, particularly from authoritative blogs, than to have a post tweeted/shared/+1ed by an influential figure. In my opinion, in-content links will still carry more weight than social links when it comes to rankings, for some reasons:

1) Links from blogs are mostly perceived as a cited resource (that an existing content has used to make it more thorough), whereas social shares are mostly intended for “sharing the content” and do not really imply that the sharer is citing the content as a resource.

2) Social links have shorter lifespan compared to links from blog posts. Supposing that the blog post (hosting the link to your site) is getting consistent traffic through search or other referring websites and getting clicks from those visitors, the value of the link is certain to grow stronger as it age (which adds more weight to your site/page’s ability to rank or to sustain its rankings). Unlike social links, it can get you clicks to your site, but it doesn’t stay there for long.

John Doherty - Google+ | Twitter

John Doherty

It depends. Short term, I’d rather have a tweet from an authoritative figure because it gets eyeballs on the page, and that can lead to links. But longterm, I want that link from the authoritative site, because it keeps on giving. From the tests I have seen, at this point social gives a boost, but it doesn’t stick like a good link does.

 

 

Jon Cooper - Google+ | Twitter

Jon Cooper (Me!)

I think it depends on the type of content that’s being shared/linked. As I talked about in my response to the second question, if you’re in a boring niche, social sharing is something you can’t full harness. If my plumbing company got tweeted about by a high profile twitter account, it probably wouldn’t be reaching the audience I want, because the few people wanting to find a plumbing company aren’t searching twitter or Facebook for one – they’re probably Googling it.

Going back to popular niches, I think a tweet by a high profile celebrity has more of an effect than a link from his/her blog. Celebrities usually have millions of followers, and when they tweet something, it’s got more reach than we could imagine. But if her blog, which I can almost guarantee doesn’t have that kind of reach, links to me, it wouldn’t be nearly as big of a deal.

Although we can always say a broad question like this is situational, I think the only two trains of thought on this is the social popularity of your niche.

Kristi Hines - Google+ | Twitter

Kristi Hines

It depends on how attentive their audience is on their blog vs. their Twitter.  I’ve seen people who have more influence on Twitter but little traffic on their blog, and people with huge influence on their blog but little Twitter influence.

 

 

Marty Weintraub - Google+ | Twitter

Marty Weintraub

That’s a bit like asking, “what type of chocolate do you like, dark or light?”  At this point in search engine history, both are important.  The mutual importance is not likely to change, for at least some time. How could a search engine ever devalue a link from the Wall Street Journal or Harvard.edu? How could a Tweet from a Nobel Prize winning Laurette ever not be an important signal?

 

 

Melanie Nathan - Google+ | Twitter

Melanie Nathan

A tweet about my post from let’s say @Mashable would be awesome and I’d be pretty happy with the flood of traffic and possible backlink potential, however, assuming my goal is higher search rankings, I would much rather have a dofollow link straight to my post directly from Mashable.com.

 

 

Michael King - Google+ | Twitter

Michael King

Is the blog frequented by many highly authoritative figures? I’d prefer the post tweeted by a highly authoritative figure. Say for instance I got Jay Z to tweet my link the traffic effect is immediate and his followers may again tweet the link so therefore the reach is also very wide. Finally, being that the content is being put in front of so many people those may turn into many links from their own blogs or sites and then search engines are forced to take notice. However if the authoritative blog is frequented by many active authoritative figures then that is the best of both worlds.  Either way — people first, search engines second.

 

Neil Patel - Google+ | Twitter

Neil Patel

It really depends. I will take whatever drives more relevant vistors and customers. But in most cases I would pick the tweet as it will probably get retweeted by thousands of others and cause bloggers to pick it up and link back to me.

 

 

Rand Fishkin - Google+ | Twitter

Rand Fishkin

Tough call… I’d still probably take the web link, but from an overall inbound marketing perspective, it’s close – the tweet, if sent by the right person at the right time, could be incredibly powerful and have a resounding impact. The only thing keeping me from saying the tweet is the short duration that it lasts on the web vs. the ongoing influence/power of a link.

 

Russ Jones - Google+ | Twitter

Russ Jones

This is a tough question which lends itself to the decisions we make as marketers every day. Does the blog post push a time-sensetive product or offer? If so, I would prefer the tweet, not because it would improve rankings but because it would more likely deliver customers. Is the blog post pushing a long-sale type of product that does not lend itself to impulse buys? Then I’d prefer the link. In general, I would choose the tweet due to its capacity to create more links, not because I believe the tweet itself is intrinsically valuable.

 

Tamar Weinberg - Google+ | Twitter

Tamar Weinberg

I’d rather have the link from the authoritative blog. Normally the readership of authoritative blogs is such that you’ll get more visits (and often new ones!). Plus, that stuff will still be timely a few months down the road. According to recent research, tweets only have a lifespan of three hours. Then it’s forgotten. Even though it was important enough to share, it disappears into oblivion as your message is being lost with millions of others. Blogs still have a more timeless impact, and that will likely continue to be the case.

 

Tom Critchlow - Google+ | Twitter

Will Critchlow

Probably a link – but it’s highly context dependent. Both can be incredibly powerful in their own way.