Social Signals vs. Authority Links: Which is Better (and Why)?
It’s been said a rumour makes it half way around the world before the truth has even managed to put its pants on. It’s hard to argue with that. In life, there are so many misconceptions that lead people to draw false conclusions. For example, did you know penguins don’t actually mate for life? And you can’t actually see the Great Wall of China from space?
Most misconceptions are harmless – but a few aren’t. When it comes to SEO, we have a handful of them ourselves, mostly around link building. And they cause site owners to make bad decisions.
To make sure you don’t fall into a similar trap, we’re going to clear up the confusion surrounding social signals and authority links. We’ll describe what each one is, how to attain them, and why you want to focus on one more than the other if running an SEO campaign.
What are Social Signals and Authority Links?
Have you ever visited a restaurant and had a steak so tasty you felt it deserved more than the price you paid for it? If so, you probably went home, logged into Facebook, and shared the restaurant’s details with your friends. In essence, this is a social signal.
An authority link, on the other hand, is harder to come by, which is why it’s more valuable. Imagine a respected food critic visited the same website, ate the same steak, and loved it. When home, he posted a glowing review of the restaurant on his website with a link to the company’s page.
The latter is far more impressive according to Google, and in case you haven’t worked out why, here’s the reason.
Why Authority Links are Far Better for SEO
The problem with the internet is there’s no quality control department. Nobody’s weeding out the lies or the inaccuracies. Web users have to do that themselves. And Google’s no exception.
To make sure something is legitimate, we like to verify it against an authority source. Is a rumour spreading on Twitter? What’s CNN saying about it?
Authority sources have a reputation to uphold. They’ve likely invested heaps of money and man-hours into their reputation or business.
A social signal, however, could be put out by anybody.
Why Social Signals are Useful, but Not in the Way You Think
The misconception surrounding social signals cropped up in 2010. Many online marketing gurus told their followers social signals would improve a site’s SEO credentials.
But it wasn’t so. Despite the confusion, Google later admitted it didn’t pay attention to social signals when deciding how to rank sites.
So social signals are worthless, right? Not quite. These signals can do a lot for your site or business. They can indicate your size. They can indicate your ability to satisfy customers. They can also demonstrate your global presence, if you have one.
So don’t neglect social links and signals – they’re valuable, just not in the way people believe.
How to Get Authority Links
Part of the reason social signals have been equated to authority links almost certainly stems around the fact that social signals are infinitely easier to get. Think of this misconception as a convenient delusion people enjoyed buying into.
In reality, though, there’s not much to be scared about when it comes to building authority links. There are several ways you can get experts in your niche to link back to you (and don’t worry, none of these methods include handing the site owner a stack of $20 bills.)
Consider trying the following:
- Write link-worthy content – think controversial posts or breaking news.
- Invest in images – more sites will link to yours if your images are one-of-a-kind.
- Guest post – currently one of the more popular methods of link-building.
- Seek links from government or educational sites – an underused method!
There are many more ways to get links from authority sites, which we’ll discuss in more depth over the months to come.
Unfortunately, the idea that social links and authority links are equal isn’t going to go away any time soon. But at least now you have a better idea of how to structure your SEO campaign, even if others don’t. In fact, it could be said you have a distinct advantage over your competitors who are likely going by false information.
Going forward, any authority link you’re able to attract to your site is going to be valuable.
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