Phill Ohren: Search and Social Media today and beyond

This week I spoke to Phill Ohren – SEO at Switched On Media – about the rise and integration of both Search and Social Networks.  Phil and I both had the unique experience of working in the specialist agency to get a deep understanding of both.  So whether you’re an SEO gun or a social media stormtrooper – there’s some real insight here.

What I enjoy about Phill’s post is that he is discussing a broad context of digital results including rankings, Twitter, Facebook and what the future holds. He’s definitely one to follow on Twitter.

Why I think Google weighs social media popularity higher than ever

Given that Social Media usage, in terms of Facebook, Twitter and Niche communities, is higher than ever, Google can now tap into metrics  that are in some ways (not all) much less susceptible to influence from spammers & SEO’s – If something, like a blog post, is genuinely popular in Social Media it’s easy to spot.

There are publicly visible metrics in Social spaces  that search engines could easily use determine popularity, to name a few would be the level of interaction, its reach, the rate of spread. Here’s just 2 of them…..

So what use will Google have for Twitter?

Twitter recently opened the doors to search engines by allowing tweets to be fully index-able. Soon after Google quickly release live feeds in SERPS, showing they could easily manipulate Social Content and put to a Search use.

In terms of tweets & SEO, I believe that Google is now capable of using trending topics towards their ranking decisions using metrics such as: link data (from places like and a tweeters influence (by analysing their friends and followers metrics) and most importantly! Googles own onsite data it collects using Analytics and Click Through Data.

Trouble is with Twitter, there is plenty of fake accounts, sarcasm and duplicate content around – things robots may struggle to manage with. With this in mind, I believe there’s a combination of metrics, I can think of a least 15, Google uses to extract twitter popularity.


Facebooks open Graph on the other hand is revolutionary piece of technology that again can be used for the GOOD of search. How you ask? Here’s one KEY way it could be done, “like”!

Facebooks “like” widget that appears on websites uses a mixture of AJAX coding and JavaScript. Although Google cannot index content within complex JavaScript, it could in theory be programmed to ready the Facebook “like” popularity of an article / page, in turn this data could be used in the ranking algorithm.

In my opinion, a Facebook popularity ranking metric would be a great addition to the algorithm. Why? The /Opengraph provides real time opinionated data that can be used to show search engines what people really think about content in terms of engagement aspects and the share-ability of content and rich media.

In 2011 SEO will….

Given its steady growth rate, I predict social ranking factors will contribute to around 15% of Google overall rankings algorithm. To top that off, I have recently noticed a large amount of spam appearing in SERPs (results pages) which kind of leads me wonder why Google aren’t doing anything about it? Are they taking a break? Maybe. Most likely I think they are planning something very very big!

I will be blogging about this particular subject frequently on both  the Switched On Media an my Personal Blog, feel free to let me know your thoughts as this is a dilemma I am more than happy to discuss.

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Pingback: » How Google ranks Social Media in search results – A Digital … | Market My Map Local
  2. Phill Ohren at 9:11 am

    My thinking for the 15% estimate was derived from the ranking factors released last year by SEOmoz combined with the results I’ve seen from testing on a few sites. Also, traditional linking is no-where near as popular as it used to be, so maybe that part of the algo.

    To reinforce the Social aspect of the algo, I believe a tremendous amount of traffic statistics are used as well, as this would help determine the spam from the genuine popularity.

  3. Josefina Agüello at 2:21 am

    I haven’t paid much attention to this before: Google showing results based on your social network. In genera,l I think Google is doing great stuff. Their approach to profiles, buzz, search wiki, and social stuff in general however, I find poor (extremely poorly when I see how well they do so much else). They are too borg-like in their insistence you do things exactly as proscribed by them. They opt you in far to often, in the way they want – completely and with few, if any, options. They don’t provide good tools to let you manage your profile and connections. The Google profile itself is extremely lame.

    Josefina Argüello – Primero en Google

  4. Pingback: » Ian Rumsby: Black holes and digital - A Digital Perspective
  5. Phill Ohren at 9:17 am

    FYI, things look to be changing in this area as of Jan 2010 – The word is out about Social & as a result theres some serious black hat “social” going on.

    Currently writing about this topic.