SEO & Social Proof

by Jim February 17, 2016

UPDATE: Video transcript available for ‘SEO & Social Proof’.

We talk a lot about “social proof” these days which basically means evidence that you are popular. That can mean, the number of likes or followers, the number of reviews or comments or the number of shares. We know that Google looks at these things and presumably the popularity factor is built somehow into the algorithm.  Here’s something I’ve been seeing over the last 6 months. When a website is busy, the Googlebot comes in more often to take a look. By combining data out of analytics and the Google search console we can see the correlation between bot activity and site traffic.

Is social proof an SEO ranking signal?
Is social proof an SEO ranking signal?

The client above is in the gift category. I see the spikes match up only from direct traffic in analytics. Maybe I just have a severe case of apophenia but I have seen this on several clients over the last 12 months. It’s certainly not the only time bot activity spikes but there does seem to be a correlation between a site being busy with direct traffic and increased bot activity.

What does that mean for SEO?

I think Google maybe looking at popularity as a ranking signal. After all that is all PageRank ever was right? A measure of popularity. Google already knows when a retail outlet has the most foot traffic.

Does foot traffic affect SEO?
Does foot traffic affect SEO?

It makes sense to me that if a site was popular with direct traffic, Google would see that as a positive sign. I don’t think organic or PPC traffic would have much of an impact on the bot crawl rate but I can imagine Google sending the bot out to take a look at what all the increased direct traffic activity is about.

How does Google know?

How does Google know when your site is busy? Well there is analytics code on your site so Google would know from that although we have been told in the past that the analytics and webspam teams do not work together. The other way that Google could know about a sites popularity or increased traffic is by all the chrome browsers they control. How do they know about increased FOOT traffic? Probably Google maps use and Android devices.

Are you seeing this?

Love to know if you have noticed something similar in your data. Please leave a comment or drop us a line.



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