Use Social Signals to Boost Solid Authority Organically

Use Social Signals to Boost Solid Authority Organically

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Let's dig into the topic of Google+ authorship, social signals, and how to build authority for you on Google+ and for your blog. I'm sharing my theories along with a few experts on SEO, Google+ authorship, and Google. Social authority is a fantastic way to get blog traffic and to build your social media presence. But what does it mean to build authority and how to do social signals come into play within this conversation? Your social signals are everything that you do on social media. Writing an article, sharing a post or talking with someone all send social signals and build authority for you online. Social signals are the heartbeat of your social interaction. {click to tweet}

My goal in delving into this topic is to encourage people to be authentic in their social media and do their own thing. Don't be a sheeple and blindly follow everyone's advice, even mine! Test these practices yourself! See what works best for you, feels the most natural, and your audience likes. Think for yourself and create your own path. I'm sharing my theories and my guests expert opinions behind boosting authority to help you weigh your options.

Using Social Signals to Boost Authority OrganicallyI write for people. My theory is that if I write entertaining and informative content for people, people will read it and share with their network. My best SEO advice is from Guy Kawasaki, who says “write good shiitake.” I apply this theory when I post on social media and write on my blog without following any complicated SEO plans. I strive to provide value and/or entertainment on each post that I create. I don't write for algorithms, Google, or web crawler things. I don't even know what those are, spiders maybe?

I believe that Google creates an algorithm and sends it out into the online world. People try to crack the code to the latest Google update and improve their SEO rankings. Spammers use underhanded methods to grab web traffic, and it's these people who Google tries to stop. I believe Google SEO experts are making educated guesses on these complicated algorithms.

This is why I write for people. My theory seems to have weathered all the updates and algorithms. Could I have more traffic to my blog if I had an SEO audit and worked on keywords? Most likely yes, but it isn't my goal to trick Google into finding my articles. The most authentic way for me to post is using social media optimization (SMO). SMO builds authority by having conversations on your blog, on Twitter, and posting on Google+ which lead to organic authority.

#1 tip Be yourself and act natural.
#2 tip Great content spreads and builds with conversation around the web circling back to your original post.


One big debate on Google+ is how you should share your content on the platform. Some research has shown you can receive a bigger SEO/Google benefit by embedding the link to share the post. Experimenting with this type of post gives me no engagement or activity. Facebook also favors embedded links and has recently made the photo preview larger which is fantastic. I understand that embedded links are “supposed” to be better, but when I use my perfect post recipe with a large photo and links in the text, I get the most engagement on my Google+ posts. I also add a link to Pinterest with a “pin it for later” call to action which has boosted my Pinterest presence and web traffic as well as for others who use it.

Share great content in an authentic way to build a substantial social presence and build authority. Everything you do on Google+ send social signals. Posting, sharing, mentioning other people and being mentioned by others. Overthinking where to add links and should I mention here or there is not authentic to me. Should you edit it the post and add a link later? All these overcomplicated ways to post appear to have a  goal of manipulating Google and Google search.

Enter all my questions; I brought in a team of smart people to answer some complicated things. Buckle up, get some coffee, and start reading.

Joshua Berg

Question for Joshua Berg

If I post to Google+ with a photo and text with two links, receive 100 +1 on a Google+ post but only 20 transfer through as +1 on your blog, am I still receiving the social signals, do they count, on Google+?

The +1's by themselves are not considered to be the strongest of social signals in general, but that depends on some factors:

  • Whether or not the +1 is from a high authority person.
  • Whether or not that person has their +1's tab on their profile set to public.
  • Whether the link or website shows up well on their public +1's tab.
  • How conservatively the same high authority profile +1's a lot of other content.

Sharing is caring on Google+

In most cases, not much authority is transferred through these, though there are some rare circumstances in which they are. As far as “do they count on Google+?” This depends on what we're looking for. From a technical SEO perspective the +1 value is moderate (mostly for personalized results), whereas the biggest value we will see transferred to Google+ posts is through the shares.

There are other facets to this as well & shortly I will have a new article dissecting in further detail the authority received to Google+ posts from engagement, with actual examples.

Question: Does this mean they are just not shown on your website as a social signal on the +1 button?

There are a couple of factors that vary the way those +1's are transferred. As some have pointed out, editing the post may, or may not make changes here. I would strongly recommend against editing posts solely for the purpose of removing links, as this has other negative effects with breaking link chains on your profile.

That said, if the +1's are not seen to show up on a particular site or page, then they're not there. There is no reason to think there is a private tallying of +1's that don't appear publicly. Regardless, I will go back to not being too concerned with the specific numbers of the +1 tally, and that looking at your overall engagement with the content is more worthwhile.

Question: What if you embedded the Google+ post on the blog post? Would that boost the Google juice?

The embedded Google+ posts appear in an iFrame & do not render as well as show up in Google's text cache of the blog page. In my opinion, thus far, these embeds are not known to, nor likely to pass authority directly back to the post. However, whether or not the link to the iFrame itself may pass any authority back to the blog page, has still not been definitively answered & how Google may treat these in the future.

Either way, the public users see the embeds, engage with & may go back & share it.

Ben fisher

Question for Ben Fisher

If you post great content on Google+ within your area of expertise and interests, your “authority topics,” does this help your social signals and overall authorship regardless of whether you post an embedded link, text-only post, post with a photo?

Absolutely. This is complicated to explain, but the semantic relevance to your profile and text from your posts ( along with hashtags ) all create overall authorship authority, in a sense.


  • Post an embedded link – social signals flow to the post,  to the poster's profile, and to destination embedded link. Plus, anyone +mentioned and Hashtags
  • Text only post – – social signals flow to the post,  to the poster's profile, plus anyone +mentioned and Hashtags
  • Post with photo – – social signals flow to the post,  to the poster's profile, plus anyone +mentioned and Hashtags, to the image itself on G+

Question: Does this mean that the +1's count on the original photo post but no social signals share? And the goal of accumulating social sharing is to add PageRank and authorship to your blog/Google+ presence, correct?

Correct, the +1's will not flow to any of the links, so all the social juice is being attributed to the post or the photo itself. The goal depends on your strategy.
For me, I will usually have one link in the text area so the +1's will flow to my URL ( especially in a photo post ) – Any additional links I add to the comments. Now, in the case where I want to just send the signals to a brand or profile I make sure to +mention in the text area.


(From me) Therefore, if I share with only one link in the text of the post, the +1's will travel through to my blog. Honestly, I don't care how many +1's appear on my blog, I care how many people found the article to read it which isn't the full picture when you look at just +1's.  I also care about the extended life of my posts with the Pinterest pins. The lifespan of a pin is the longest of any social media platform. Understanding the longer benefits of the “pin it for later” call to action makes sense for those who are looking beyond just Google+.

For me, posting authentically and sharing the social signals with those who +1 and share my posts means more to me. Social connections and conversations are more important than keeping all the Google juice for a post. You can add the link to “pin it later” or whatever link you'd like to add in the first comment, but honestly, that looks and feels awkward to me. People try this on Facebook with text-only posts with a line saying read the link in the first comment. How many hoops do you think people will jump through before they might just say forget it? I like to post things so that there's the least amount of friction for the reader. My goal is to share things for them to read and following multiple steps to do one thing could be frustrating. Let's face it; people have short attention spans on social media platforms.

Sharing in a generous manner builds positive reenforcement with your network. {click to tweet} Worrying about keeping all the goodness for yourself by not adding a link or +mentioning someone seems selfish to me. It's poor social etiquette not to thank people or give a +mention when you share something that you found from them. In my opinion, putting more weight on your social signals over being a generous person is not a good social strategy. The benefits of sharing and +mentioning others will come back to you positively in your social media.

Mark Traphagen

Question for Mark Traphagen

If you post great content on Google+ within your area of expertise and interests, which I’ll call your “authority topics,” does this help your social signals and overall authorship regardless of whether you post an embedded link, text-only post, post with a photo? (I repeated this question because it was most important to me and I wanted more than one opinion.)

Google has talked for a long time about wanting to identify subject authorities, ascertain which are seen as “stand out” trusted authorities in each subject, and to boost search results for such trusted authorities for relevant queries. The question is: are they doing that now.

It's a very difficult question to answer definitively. Over the past year or so, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts has made some public statements about subject area authorities as a ranking factor, but in each case, his language is somewhat time-ambiguous. He says things like “we're getting better at…” and “we'd like to be able to…” and even “over a multi-year or 10-year span we'll know more about this.”

Add to that how difficult it is for us on the outside of Google to discern whether subject-authority is ranking. Google uses hundreds of different factors in ranking content for search, and the reason why any particular piece of content ranks high is always a mix of any number of those factors. So even if Google were using subject-authority ranking, it might be impossible to point to a particular search result and say “there it is!”

Social signals boost authority organically

But I think that we don't need a Google algorithm factor for subject authority as a result of one's use of Google+ to be a real thing. There is an organic or natural aspect of building subject authority in a social network, and Google+ has ways of amplifying that.

If I'm consistently sharing and creating useful content on Google+ in my area of expertise, and I'm engaging with and building a relational network with other people who are doing the same in relevant topics, over time they are going to come to add me to their circles, to share my content, and to recommend me to their following. Naturally, people who have some interest in my subject expertise are going to be most likely to become part of my expanding network.

Google+ magic and authority

That's where the very structure of Google+ kicks in its own magic. As I explained in my article “How Google Plus Profiles and Pages Gain Search Authority,” the authority of a Google+ profile is built by engaged connections in the person's G+ network. Connections like a reshare of my content or a +mention of me in a post act like links on the web. They pass authority from the person giving the engagement to my profile. And the more authoritative the engager is, and the more often he or she engages with me, the more authority is passed.

What does that authority do?

For one thing, it means that my Google+ posts will rank higher in Google search. That gives me more visibility when people are searching for the things I write about. Those people are more likely to follow me then and/or create links to my content. That begins a wonderful cycle that continues to build my authority. And since the network I'm building is likely to consist mostly of people interested in what I talk about, in effect, that's subject authority!

Now here's the bonus: if you are working hard to do that now, if you're earning a valuable network of people who share and recommend your content, you may be in very good position if and when Google ever does start using such data to boost subject authorities in its search results.


Question for Eric Enge

Does posting authentically using +mentions and links in your Google+ post boost your social signals? If you transfer some of your Google+ mojo by mentioning someone else, doesn't that ultimately boost your own social signals by forming social connections?

There are several layers to this question that are worth separating.  The first layer is to separate out the difference between social authority within the Google Plus platform itself.  The second layer is the Google+ impact on SEO result.  Let's take each of those in turn.

How Google might measure authority on Google Plus

There are algorithms within Google Plus that reward engagement and connectivity with others within the platform. While we don't have direct visibility into what these algorithms are, here are some of the types of things that Google might be using:

1. Google can easily measure the level of engagement that your Google plus posts and comments get. Also, Google can see WHO is engaging with you. For example, if an influential person interacts with you in Google+, Google could place more weight on that then they do on someone else's interaction with you. This metric can be done on a “per post” basis.

2. Google can also track the volume of your activity on Google Plus. As part of this, they can track the total volume of engagement you get. They can do this on a “per day,” “per week”, or “per month” basis, or however else they choose to do that.

3. While Google certainly places extra weight on the interaction you have with influencers, it would not surprise me if they also look at the breadth of engagement you have, i.e., with how many different people this occurs.

4. They can also map out who your followers are. More followers are also in theory good, but Google can also track your average engagement per follower, so I don't think they place much weight on this. They may take note of who follows you, but it is probably not worth much if an influencer follows you but does not ever engage with you.

So getting on the Suggested User List or doing a million circle shares is not likely to help you much from an authority perspective, as assessed by Google. However, there is a clear social proof benefit to having a large number of followers. If you have a large number of followers people, simply assume you are more important.

5. Google also will do things to monitor natural behavior as well. People who try to artificially manipulate social authority will be in for a hard time. Google has been learning how to fight spam since 1998, and they built the Google+ platform to be resistant to it.

Benefits of Google Plus “on platform”

There are many different benefits, so let's take a look at what some of those are!

1. A plus one or a share of post by you can cause people who follow you to see that post in their streams. This is what we call a “recommended post”. It may also be seen in your extended circles, which consists of anyone who you have circled, and people that they have circled as well.

2. A further benefit of recommended posts is that if the person was seeing it does not currently follow the person who authored the post, the person seeing it will also see an Add [post author's name] button along with the post.

How often this happens for you is determined by algorithms that we do not have visibility to, but are likely driven by the types of analyses we speculated on above. You can read about this is more depth, and with screen shots, right here.

SEO benefits

From an SEO perspective, there are many benefits as well. This also has many layers. Let's break it down:

1. Personalization:

This is the clearest benefit of Google Plus. If you publish, share, or plus one something, people will see that content higher when they search on terms relevant to the content in Google. If you build a large audience of followers, this can be a gold mine. By definition, people who follow you are probably interested in content similar to yours, so having them see it frequently when they search on Google can really reinforce your brand.

2. Google Plus shared posts can themselves rank in Google's results:

This is also very cool. Here is an example of such a post that shows up in the results for the query “Google Plus Impact on SEO.”

google plus

This particular post ranks in SERPs because Mark Traphagen has a very strong presence on Google+, and he has established authority on this topic – probably due to signals similar to those that we discussed above!

3. Google Plus impact on non-personalized results:

This is a controversial topic on Google+ with many divergent opinions on the topic. Part of the debate has been driven by correlation studies published by Moz, the latest of which you can find here. This study, and others like it, observe a very strong correlation between Google+ signals and search engine rankings.

However, correlations don't mean causation (for example, there is a very strong correlation between ice cream consumption and drowning deaths: because they both happen when it is hot outside). This caused me to run an extensive study on the topic which you can see here. This study went to great lengths to directly measure whether or not google plus impacted search rankings.

The conclusion was that there was no material impact found. Google+ shares would cause Google to discover and index content, but not change its rankings. Since this study focused on measuring the impact of Google+ shares in the absence of all other signals, it is still possible that G+ could have an impact on non-personalized rankings when combined with other signals, such as links.

Also, after the release of Google's Hummingbird version of their search engine, I did an interview of Danny Sullivan in which he said that Google told him that one part of the Hummingbird platform is that it will make it easier for Google to use social signals in the future. You can see that interview here.

So there you have it, a lot of complicated thoughts about Google+, social signals, and building authority. I'll repeat my goal in asking questions of these experts who dig deep into the world of Google and Google+; please use these as guidelines.  Post your own great content in an authentic and engaging way to boost your authority organically to create stable relationships and bring traffic to your blog or website.

Thank you to Ben, Joshua, Mark, and Eric for sharing a little bit of their vast expertise on these complicated topics. I really appreciate it!

I hope this gives you something to think about and I hope you learned as much as I did from these responses!

More reading on social signals, Google+ authority, and SMO:

How to Prove ROI from Google+ Plus Activity – Use a Shortener

Social Signals and Google+

Social Media Optimization for SEO. The Future of Search.


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  1. Outstanding article Peg, you pulled together all the pieces that surround SEO, SMO, and authority rankings. Regarding your point about +1’s and image shares on Google+, my only added insight for readers would be this: the reason we want those +1’s (and tweets, likes, pins, etc.) to flow back to the article is to create the perception by others visiting the article later that it was a good article (perception is reality, let’s face it). So, with that in mind, one might want to optimize their post to get the most signals for a particular platform, if the article were about that platform.

    By example, your perfect Google+ post recipe article should have a high # of +1’s, because it’s about Google+. If I came to the article and saw only a handful of +1’s about a Google+ article, what’s my perception of it? Does it go down? Maybe, maybe not, but worth thinking about when you post and share an article about a social platform ON THAT PLATFORM.

  2. @stephanhov  I agree with your perceptions and how people look at the numbers. I really wonder how many people do look at those or if it’s more our hyper-focused group?

    As an example, I did something last week on my LinkedIn post and broke the flare count on the post. I had hundreds and it went to zero and finally some ticked back in. The total flares for the post are only in the 40’s but the total traffic to the post to date is about 1400 page views. So, while it might matter if there are more +1’s on the post, I’m not sure if many people look at it. They might though!

  3. PegFitzpatrick  I’d wonder that as well. For myself, I tend to look when I’m on a new blog or evaluating a new author, and especially on older posts that I find through search. In other words, I’m asking myself (by looking at those counters), “are people talking about this person? Was this a successful article when it came out?” Obviously I’m going to read it to make my own actual judgment but it’s a quick little litmus test.

  4. stephanhov Also, Google+ is hardly ever in my top referrals to my blog. So while I would love people to come and share the love on the Plus, it happens but not as much as through Pinterest. In the past month my top 4 referrrers were Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUp, and then Google+, followed by Twitter.

  5. PegFitzpatrick see, you know your traffic, your audience, and therefore can craft the right strategy around your posts 🙂 Great takeaway.

  6. Awesome article Peg.  Way to grab some of the experts in the industry and ask them some thought-provoking questions.  The only thing I’d add after reading stephanhov and your comments is that I also think it depends on the life cycle of the blog.  I think your strategy would be different on a brand new blog post vs one that has been established for awhile.

  7. Jeff Sieh stephanhov I think each blog probably has it’s own needed strategy. It’s not as easy as saying doing XYZ and ABC will happen. There are so many variables.

  8. Not only was the article an informative read, but the comment thread should not be missed. Thank you stephanhov and Jeff Sieh for taking it to the next level. And thank you PegFitzpatrick for giving us yet more nuances to consider.

  9. ltsailiata stephanhov Jeff Sieh 

     The comments on an article do lead to great discussion. I’m grateful that you, Jeff, and Stephan took the time to comment. And this was a long article to get through.

    I hope it was a helpful read.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  10. Simply put, social signals are any means of showing actions by others to
    share your website across social media channels. You see them all the
    time – those social media share buttons, coupled with a numeric count,
    signifying how many times that page has been shared. Essentially, the number is signaling the web page’s popularity. In
    effect though, higher numbers influence users to perceive not only
    popularity but authority, lending itself to greater website trust. If you’re looking to grow traffic to your site, then social signals are going to play an important part of your strategy.

  11. yauline13  Google+ rocks for bloggers and your activity there will help with your PageRank and help build your Google+ authorship. I hope you like What the Plus!

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