Two SEO Myths That Just Won’t Die: Social Signals Are a Ranking Factor; Links Do Not Matter. Content Is King. Great Content Will Always Rank Well

Friedman 🎩
Two SEO Myths That Just Won't Die
There is no shortage of SEO myths out there. Many of them are like nails on a chalkboard to me every time I hear them or see someone pushing one of them.
But there are 2 myths in particular that really drive me nuts and are damaging to people trying to learn and/or do their own SEO
There was a brief moment in the history of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) where I think social signals were playing a role in rankings, but it was a fleeting moment. That was of course when Google had tried launching its own Facebook killer, Google+.
In particular, Google was experimenting with authorship using Google+ profiles. There was some correlation data that pointed to popular profiles getting a boost, but nothing too concrete. One thing was certain though, the authorship images you could add to your Search Engine Result Page (SERP) listing had a dramatic impact on CTRs.
There have been some SEO users that have long been trying to convince the community that social signals play a role in rankings. They point to things like top ranking pages having more Facebook Likes or Tweets as 'evidence'.
Correlation is not causation, and as Matt Cutts mentions in the video below, it's much more likely that those pages were ranking highly first and that there was something about them people really liked, which resulted in the social activity.
The other thing that the social evangelists always overlook is the fact that Google needs to be able to crawl those sites in order to incorporate any data from them. What would happen if Google was blocked from crawling Facebook or Twitter? It's happened before.
I'll let Matt take it from here. I don't think I've ever found a simpler explanation about how Google looks at social media signals or pages. Check out the video:
I'm lumping all this BS together.
Let's start with links. From the time it launched, Google's algorithms have revolved around links.
As Google has gotten better at classifying links and separating good links from spam, it's the one part of Google's algorithm that is difficult to game at any kind of meaningful scale. Not impossible, but highly difficult.
As Google continues to make advances in artificial intelligence and refining its algorithm, links are still by far the best method Google has for understanding how popular a piece of content is on the internet.
As far as content goes, I will say that content is very important, but quality content is still very subjective. There is a lot of evidence that Google is looking more at entities, TF-IDF, and the Knowledge Graph to determine what a page is about rather than relying on trying to somehow determine the "quality" of a piece of content.
Roof famously won a competition a few years ago ranking a page about rhinoplasty using Lorem Ipsum content on the page along with strategically placed entities and phrases in headings and in the content.
Others have followed his lead and done the same.
Just a few weeks ago, someone was ranking #2 for 'New York City (NYC)SEO Expert' with the same kind of strategy.
Have a look at the page for yourself:
Some real high quality content there, right?
Note: The page no longer ranks there. Like what happened to Kyle, once these sort of experiments get out in the public, it's only a matter of time before Google takes manual action against them.
Obviously, content like this will not convert into leads or sales, but that's not the point. The point is that despite all its advances, Google still is looking at content more like a math problem than an English professor.
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Links on their own will not sustain rankings in the long term though. If the content is crap people are not going to stay and read or convert. Also in my 15+ years as an SEO specialist I have seen more algo tweaks that affect the weight of links vs. quality written content. So, as always, it depends if you're in it for the long haul or short term gain.

Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Meri Lapin-Rapide
Conversions do not impact rankings. You could have total garbage conversions on a page and still stay #1 forever.
The reason you have seen more tweaks around links vs quality written content is twofold. First, they are a stronger ranking factor, and therefore easier to use to game Google's algorithm. That's why Google is always trying to refine how it evaluates links. It's not because they are becoming less important. Quite the opposite. It's because they are so important.
Second, as I pointed out, there is strong evidence that despite all its progress, Google still struggles to comprehend what quality content is, not to mention it is somewhat of a subjective idea anyhow.
Believe me, I'm not advocating to just pump out junk content. As you said, crap content won't convince people to buy from you.
Hey Mike, to be clear, I didn't say that conversions affect rankings but they do affect revenue.
Also, agree with you for the most part. If you're an "old-timer" like me you'll probably remember the days of the "link farms" when you had websites with 10k crap links that were ranking really well and then Google pulled the plug on those almost overnight and businesses crashed in weeks. A good lesson in not putting all your eggs into the one marketing basket!
I do believe that Google is getting better at sniffing out crap content though, so it pays to spend money on good SEO copywriting rather than using bots. IMHO of course.
Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Meri Lapin-Rapide
Oh sure. I'm not advocating using bad content by any means. My point was more along the lines of there is a belief out there that great content will always rank at the top, and that is just not true.
And yes, I was around for the Authority Link Network, Build My Rank, and all the other big networks out there that people were killing it with. I made a lot of money with those myself on my own projects. I just never used them on client stuff. I knew Google would come down on them someday. Just had no idea when, and I would never put a client's business at risk like that.

You trust Matt for the first myth but not for the second🤣

Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Vitali
You misunderstood. I wasn't using Matt's response as the aswer. I liked Matt's explanation. I don't believe it because he said it. I think he did a good job of explaining the reasoning behind it.
Vitali » Mike
My rule of thumb is: do the opposite Matt says. So far, so good.
Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Vitali
He was right about a lot of the things he said over the years. He was just very careful about what he did or didn't say.
Vitali » Friedman
By the way I think there is a big misunderstanding with social signals. Likes in FB are useless, but shares are ultimately more places where a single URL, for example, may appear in the same media (in this case TW and FB). More coincidences = higher Outbound Links (OBL)s = higher reputation. So basically, shares are a good thing to increase, SEO wise + they are a great "linking profile starter" since they look extremely lowkey, but ultimately populate the profile naturally (it's common that a super product has hundreds of mentions in a social media).
Likes are useless for obvious reasons (except for Twitter, that treats likes retweets page-wise, but not straightly from the home of the profile, which is a minus), still possibly worthy).
So thinking this way, for me, social signals make sense and have a little place in my heart.
Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Vitali
Links on social network sites are the same as links anywhere else. I think that is what you are getting at.
Mike, yep basically

1)What is a good methodology for revers engineering or understanding what a knowledge graph / content cluster looks like? Is that what people are doing with keyword Cupid?
2) Do you have a newsletter or channel where you share more info

Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Blisz
1) Keyword Cupid is more to do the opposite. Let's say you have spent a day or two building a list of keywords in a tool like SEMrush. You have scraped what you could from competitors. You have used their Keyword Magic Tool. You grabbed all the People Also Ask (PAA) questions you can find. Now you have a list of 350 keywords. How do you organize them? Well, you can do it manually or you can throw them in Keyword Cupid. Keyword Cupid takes all the keywords and organizes them into topic clusters / silos for you.
(Coincidentally, the tip that will posted here next week shows that exact process.)
As for reverse engineering a content cluster, probably the closest thing you will get to that is something like what Frase or Surfer SEO does where they recommend entities you include in content based on correlation data from other top ranking pages along with back tracing links to a specific page.
2) I have a newsletter at You can find me at YouTube /TheSEOPub. Same with Twitter. There is also a private Slack group but Maguire and @Dan Rok are the bouncers for that one.
Blisz » Friedman
To follow up to #1) as well as PAA scraping, why are we suggesting to amass 350 keywords? I typically find 5-10 that are the core of the business and have good volume, my projects are around $3-500 link building monthly and focus on a specific service of the business at a time . Are SEO users just blasting tons of content for every long tail variant? Or are you saying 350 is a norm for an "entire website/business" SEO project for all services, or is 350 exaggerated number
Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Blisz
It really depends on the scope of the business and the project I am working on. For some, 350 might be too low. I was more highlighting the usefulness of Keyword Cupid, as manually sorting a list like that would take a couple of days.
Blisz » Friedman
I see. I guess my current strategy focuses on "money keywords" primarily. Clients typical $3-500 / month for me plus links. Keeping affordable as I started offering this beyond my core service of Paid Ads, Paid Social. I could see getting to that number if you are also writing for informational keyword
Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Blisz
I'm more in the $5-10k/month plus a budget for links.
Blisz » Friedman
Awesome, thanks! I am at the point where I'm working on a few projects, some very successful and some dragging along. Appreciate the tips will try to review what's on the site

So I am an amateur SEO but work as web/software dev and have done my experiments. With regards to socials and links. Not all socials are created equally LinkedIn/twitter/YouTube(not exactly a social) all have positive effect on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you Google simon colman JavaScript for example comments I have made on twitter that have been on busy accounts rank well. Albeit it's not a high volume search term not yet anyway. I kind of feel like socials are a good way to gain the system outside of the pay for play world

Friedman ✍️ 🎩 » Colman
Social signals and links on social networks are not the same thing. Links are treated just like any other links as long as Google can find and index them.

Dani » Friedman
Any recommendations on courses paid or free?

Friedman ✍️ 🎩
I don't really follow the whole course scene. I don't even know what courses are out there. Courses have usually always just been the same rehashed stuff you can find for free out there. Generally, the people worth following are putting information out there regularly and not packaging it into a course.
Get on Toth's SEO Notebook email list. Follow the blogs and YouTube channels of SEMrush and Ahrefs (both have upped their content game in the past 2 years). Check out what podcast guys like Roof are going to be a guest on next.
I learn far more from people who are doing actual client work or regular testing than anyone creating courses.

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