Do Social Media Links Translate In Organic Rankings?

Most clients I work with understand the importance of link building and the effect it has on organic rankings and traffic. However, many clients, for a variety of reasons, aren’t willing to consider social media as link building tactic. They feel that it’s not worth the time investment, and the quantity and quality of links don’t result in ranking changes or increased traffic. For this article I’ll detail the impact social media stories had for particular sites. I’ll also offer some tips on how you can improve and maximize these link building efforts to boost your rankings.

To minimize any “fresh” ranking anomalies, I selected URLs that were over six months old. To make it more realistic and competitive, I chose a commercial category: automobiles. To discount domain trust, I omitted well known brand domains such as,, and others. I also eliminated top tier auto blogs such as from Weblogs Inc/AOL and from Gawker Media for the same reason. I also chose stories with less than 500 digg votes, since this is something that is possible without needing to be a top tier or a breaking news publisher.

I selected four URLs, looked at the original title, Digg title, number of backlinks and rank across all three engines for a variety of likely keywords and combinations.


  • Page Title – 2008 Saleen American Flag Patriot Edition Mustang
  • Digg Title – Saleen Pays Tribute To Soldiers With Patriot Edition Mustang
  • Original Digg Date – December 12, 2007
  • Digg Votes – 311
  • Yahoo Backlinks – 57
KEYWORD Google Yahoo MSN
2008 Saleen American Flag Patriot Edition Mustang 1 1 1
2008 Saleen Mustang 1 2 1
2008 Patriot Edition Mustang 1 6 1
Patriot Edition Mustang 1 5 1
Patriot Mustang 14 37 1


  • Title – Best Gas Mileage Four Wheel Drive
  • Digg Title – 20 Four Wheel Drives with the Highest Gas Mileage
  • Original Digg Date – December 20, 2007
  • Digg Votes – 353
  • Yahoo Backlinks – 35
KEYWORD Google Yahoo MSN
Best Gas Mileage Four Wheel Drive 1 1 1
Gas Mileage Four Wheel Drive 1 1 1
Four Wheel Drive Best Gas Mileage 1 1 1
Four Wheel Drive Gas Mileage 1 1 1
Best Gas Mileage 10 (diff page) 7 4
Four Wheel Drive 50+ 16 50


  • Title – Ferrari 612 Scaglietti One-to-One Program
  • Digg Title – Build your own Ferrari
  • Original Digg Date – March 31, 2008
  • Digg Votes – 445
  • Yahoo Backlinks – 259
KEYWORD Google Yahoo MSN
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti One to One Program 1 1 2
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti 44 50+ 50+
Ferrari 612 37 50+ 50+
Ferrari Scaglietti 15 50+ 50+
Build your own Ferrari 10 (digg page #1) 3 (digg page #1) 1

URL – (Editor’s note: The original URL no longer functions but the content can now be found here.)

  • Title – Cell Craft G440 flying concept car
  • Digg Title – The Flying Concept Car
  • Original Digg Date – December 19 2007
  • Digg Votes – 408
  • Yahoo Backlinks – 59
KEYWORD Google Yahoo MSN
Cell Craft G440 flying concept car 2 2 1
Cell Craft G440 4 2 1
flying concept car 7 7 1
flying car 50+ 50+ 50+

What can we make of the data?

Looking at the data above, here are the conclusions that I feel are noteworthy:

  • Social media links (when not part of a larger strategy) are most effective for mid to long tail keywords. The head keywords were dominated by bigger brand domains with more domain trust and inbound links.
  • Getting your most desirable keywords into the Digg title is crucial since subsequent links will use it as for the anchor text.
  • Links and rankings gained from social media “stick”.

Looking at the above information, here are some ways that you can improve the end results of your efforts:

  • The title of your submission has a very high likely hood of becoming your inbound anchor text. You should either submit the story yourself or ask sympathetic, friendly colleagues to do it for you.
  • If you are trying to rank for a very competitive or “head” keyword, it will require a single very successful story or multiple stories pooled together. Plan out a multi-month, multi-part story strategy. After several moderate successes, consolidate all the parts into one larger story and use a 301 redirect to transfer and consolidate all of the inbound links into that single location. Don’t approach it as a “bait and switch” tactic. Instead look for ways to integrate and improve all of the information under one URL. Altering or significantly changing the content would be a questionable tactic; updating and improving it isn’t as likely to be seen this way.
  • Don’t ignore the benefit of having a second listing from the social media site itself. While the title and description should be commercial free to have the higher chance of succeeding, having a second listing will ultimately result in more traffic.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: has over 10 years experience in website development and internet marketing. He has helped companies with internal search engine optimization strategies for both ecommerce and informational websites. He publishes controversial industry thoughts and observations on his blog at

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