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The Value of a Tweet – How AuthorRank, SEO, & Social Media Are Inextricably Linked

Nov 16, 2012

A few weeks ago, we did a post on AuthorRank about its growing importance as a ranking variable, and today we want to expand on that a little bit. As we mentioned in that previous post, AuthorRank is a measure of a person’s status or relevance as seen by search engines, and it can affect the value of a link from that author’s website. But, can AuthorRank also make a link from that author’s social media account more valuable, not just in terms of visibility and reaching more people, but actually for ranking power?

It seems that it can. Way back in 2010 (that’s like the 1980’s in Internet time), Matt Cutts confirmed that Google does use social links a ranking signal. Back when he made that video, he mentioned that these signals were used “relatively lightly,” but he also mentioned the importance of connecting with quality users. Today, social signals are being used much more heavily than they were in 2010, and that idea of user quality has a formal name: AuthorRank.

The Changing Landscape of Link Building

An essential part of any SEO campaign, link building has traditionally focused on gaining links from other websites, meaning blogs, company sites, and personal websites. However, as social media signals have gained importance and influence, so have links coming from social media accounts, and these two traditionally separate areas have merged, as this article on searchenginewatch.com discusses. Social links may be nofollow for the most part, and they may not be as powerful as regular links just yet, but they can still be extremely valuable.

Finding High Value Authors

Knowing that social links can be helpful for link building, the natural next step is to ask, “How do you determine a person’s AuthorRank?” Similarly to evaluating a website for link potential, an author analysis can include a seemingly infinite number of variables. However, there are a few key traits that provide a good indication of their relevance and importance:

• Number of followers – How many people are following or “Like” the author’s Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and/or other social media accounts? On Twitter, you’ll also want to see how many people they are following; it’s best to have the number of followers exceed the number of follwees.

• Follower engagement – When this person posts something, how often does it get comments or retweets? How many comments does it get, and from how many different people? More people engaging with a post equals more importance.

• Posting frequency – This factor is a tough one because it’s somewhat gray. Does the author post/tweet a few times a week, daily, or do they blast their followers all day long? The “best” amount again depends on engagement. If an author can post multiple times a day and still get lots of replies or comments, then they are likely more valuable than someone who posts bi-weekly with little engagement. However, if someone posts less frequently and also gets high engagement, they could be even more valuable, since it will take longer for your shared link to get pushed down by their newer posts.

• Frequency of link sharing/tweeting – Is your link going to be one of a hundred, or is a share from this author a more exclusive privilege?

• Relevancy of posts to your industry – Is the author a thought leader in your industry, or is their specialty unrelated?

• Credentials – Does the author have any “official” credentials, like a PhD or MD? Are they the head of an organization or hold another important position?

• External Websites – Do they have a personal website? If so, how active is it? Are they referenced on any authority websites?

Where Do We Go from Here?

Marketers are already paying for tweets and shares as a method of advertising, but as social signals become a more important ranking variable, we believe that paying for links in social mentions will become as common a practice as buying links on other websites. However, since Google frowns upon buying links, we believe that they will also apply this standard to purchasing tweets or shares, and if an author is found to be essentially “for sale,” the value of links from their posts will decrease. When you’re evaluating an author, this is another factor that should be considered.

Developing relationships with thought leaders in your industry and getting them to share links to your site is one method of leveraging social media, but another and perhaps more effective one is to make yourself a thought leader in your industry (in addition to connecting with others).

Regardless of which way you choose to go, the bottom line is clear: The importance of social networks with regard to SEO is growing quickly, and if you want to have a successful link building campaign, these networks and particularly AuthorRank must be a part of your strategy.

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