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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Social Tweeting Outstrips Social Linking 100-1

If you're a blogger like me, you may subscribe to something like Google Alerts or use another simple tool to see how many folks have recently linked to an article or blog post. With our friend Rich Skrenta of Blekko fame, our observation is that genuine social linking as a means of recommending an article or post is for all intents and purposes dead.

Likely it was Digg, Stumble, and Sphinn, that sort of kicked off the trend. Social "bookmarking" and "recommending" was no longer about the ol' "link from another part of the web, from your pages on your site" routine. It was now a quick flip, a quick reputation bump, go-see-this cue - using a third-party service.

Mike Grehan has for some time referred to the death of social linking in terms of a "haves vs. have nots" problem for search algorithms that rely on link analysis. For the few that have authoritative sites, they can confer their authority by linking. The vast majority have recommendation juice inside their heads, but don't own any website, let alone an authoritative one.

Or you could express it in other terms: some people still have remnants of any inclination whatsoever to engage in 1998-era social linking, taking the trouble to wrap a relevant link around anchor text in a post like this. The vast majority have no such inclination. They prefer something quick and easy, like a tweet or any number of other forms of social behavior across different digital venues.

So only old school, super-conscientious sorts of bloggers, and SEO's and spammers, do "proper linking". Hmmm.

Twitter is taking off as the social recommending tool of choice, hand in hand with the requisite link shortening toolsets to help people squeeze comments and links into 140 characters.

Comparing old time linking to new-school tweeting, recent posts we've made here have been spontaneously tweeted and retweeted all over the place; a 100-1 ratio of tweets to regular links is roughly in the ballpark. No going around asking people to do it. Just the Twitter community and typical code of behavior working its magic. Here on Backtweets you can see hundreds of recent tweets for a couple of our posts. By comparison, only old schoolers like Danny at Search Engine Land can be counted on to regularly link to stuff that's relevant. A handful of ordinary backlinks from folks like him turn up in our reports every week.

PageRank dead? Certainly, PageRank as we know it is dead as any kind of reliable measure of what it was formerly supposed to measure.

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