Eric Schmidt Confirms: The Social Signal is a Ranking Factor

Eric Schmidt can always be woken up to make a remark which might just go around the world. So when he took the stage at LeWeb 2011 last week our ears were wide open. And we were not disappointed.

Next to a lot of ‘commercial’ talk from Schmidt there were a few lines which drew the attention. For example he stated:

“The social signal, the people you ‘hang with’ is actually a ranking signal”.

The remark was made in a segment of only a few minutes about Google+, the first video below highlights the specific segment:

So with this remark he confirmed that it now matters for your rankings who you connect with. Results are not just based on content or links anymore, social signals are right up there with all the other ranking signals.

Schmidt not only confirmed this, he also explained that the people you have in your circles are a factor, especially when it comes to YouTube:

“Google benefits of having social information of you and your friends. The organization of your circles for example can help Google to make a better selection of YouTube videos for you.”


LeMeur asked Schmidt about Facebook, do they want to beat them? Schmidt urged to say that he believes Facebook has done a great job and that it would be useful for anyone to have competition, but even though you could ‘feel’ they do want to beat them, he didn’t say that out loud. In stead he focused on the area in which Google and Facebook compete (Google wants not to compete directly, but in an area where Facebook still has some catching up to do), he focussed again on the data:

“It is not just a question of competing with Facebook. The information allows Google to be better and that is our objective.”

Below you can find the entire interview. In the first part of that interview Eric Schmidt calls Hugo Barra to the stage who demonstrated the Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) platform, with the face recognition feature we highlighted earlier today.

Bas van den Beld

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.

35 thoughts on “Eric Schmidt Confirms: The Social Signal is a Ranking Factor

  1. Interesting.. so people/companies with killer content and no social activity will rank not as good (if his statement is true..don’t see anything going that direction at this moment) as low quality/spammy stuff with lot’s of ‘social’ activity 🙂 ?

      1. Yes, ‘a’ rankingfactor but in theory it would still mean that an article with social activity would have the potential to rank higher than (perhaps) a better article without those signs ?

        1. No, I think you should see it more in the lines of that you will see articles shared by those within your social circle, who you have a more connected relationship with, get better rankings.

          So if we are connected and communicate often through social, you will see articles I shared go up in the rankings you see. That might be different for your colleagues or even other friends. Things are getting more personal by the minute.

          1. Got you…

            Am i’m the only one that doesn’t really like this evolution 🙂 ? Personalisation is fine but when going to far, it’s putting you in a corner where a lot of possible good/better/from an other angle content will be not visable for you anymore..

  2. I think this is a good thing because it brings a human element to link neighbourhoods and if people like/+1/share something it is because it’s good and less of a throw away endorsement than a regular link.
    I agree with you, Dave, that personalisation can limit what you get to see and so on, but I would argue that you can either sign out or that sites like cool hunter and tools like stumbleupon are better and more efficient at finding new stuff than I would be on my own.

  3. While I do believe that Google is working on using data from Google Plus to build an Agent Rank/Author Rank/User Rank that may influence Web search results rankings, I don’t think Eric Schmidt’s admission in this video could be used as anything more than a statement that Google might be using this data to build implicit profiles for people to better recommend YouTube videos for themm and possibly make other personalized recommendations.

    That might extend to personalized web site, but his statement didn’t make it sound like those social signals are being used to influence the rankings of web pages that all people see.

    1. Thanks for your comment Bill. You are right he takes YouTube as an example and doesn’t literally say it is for ‘regular’ rankings also, but the statements “Google benefits of having social information of you and your friends.” and “That information allows Google to be better and that is our objective” really hint towards that direction, also because he is talking about Google, not YouTube and in the case of Schmidt that means a lot, I think every word counts here.

      I do believe we are already seeing some of these elements, as you have pointed out on your website also.

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