There’s been a lot of hype about social signals lately and their role in SEO.  Many have been claiming some extraordinary things about what shares, tweets, and likes can do.  The particular claim that I’m challenging in this case study is whether or not sending socials signals to your PBN posts can actually boost their ability to rank.

The concept is straight forward.  In theory, hitting your PBN with social signals tells the algorithm that the site is being talked about socially, which in-turn establishes trust.  As an added bonus, these signals act as links from high domain authority (DA) sites.  The assumed result is that the PBN links get a boosted effect and send more link juice to your money site.

Or is this all just marketing hype?

I’ve never actually seen a case study from anyone who isn’t selling social signals or incorporating them into a service they’re offering.  My goal here to provide you with an unbiased 3rd party case study so you can decide whether or not you’re going to send social signals to your PBN.

The Testcase

Before we get started, let me just say that to setup a clean experiment for this testcase was ridiculously challenging.  After my first attempt, the results were completely inconclusive.  With the amount of daily SERP variation that we see, I simply didn’t have enough testcases to drown out the noise.  So I decided to go beast mode and expand the testcase size to 100.

The test methodology was to take existing PBN posts, hit them with social signals, and monitor the rankings over time as Google acknowledges these signals.  These results would be compared to a control group with no social signals.

I isolated 50 real money sites over various niches with the following characteristics.

  • Had keywords ranked somewhere between #5-#20 (so we can see movement)
  • Had PBN links
  • Had not received PBN links in over a month
  • These PBNs had no social signals


To account for random SERP fluctuation and Google algorithm changes, I identified 50 more testcases to be used for the control group.

Sending Signals

For this testcase I chose to use SEO Butler for sending the signals.  I use this service quite often in my anti-sandbox recipe so I knew beforehand that the signals do work.  I just didn’t know if the “technique” was legit or not.

For each of the 50 testcases, I sent the following breakdown of signals to the inner page posts on the PBNs (the posts which created the link to the respective money sites).

  • 100 Facebook Shares
  • 60 Twitter Tweets
  • 40 Google Pluses

These signals were dripped out over 10 days and I monitored rankings for an additional month and a half.



What do these results look like other than a badass “hadouken”?  The colored lines show each of the testcase’s %-ranking increase over the course of the experiment.  The red line is the one you want to pay attention to: the average result.

Here’s how the average result compares to the control group.  In yellow are the entries where I was dripping the signals.


We can see from looking at the data that the control group and experimental groups track eachother quite nicely.  They both experienced SERP noise due to algorithm adjustments (but in equal degrees), which is what we were hoping for.

Around 20 days after the signals were created, we start to see a divergence between the experimental and control groups.  While not much (2-5%), we can definitely see that adding the social signals generally has a positive effect on ranking increase.

Conclusion: Hitting your PBN posts with social signals

adds a small amount of ranking power.

Am I going to start incorporating this into my network?  Yes.   But I’ll be diversifing providers.  It can definitely be a footprint if the same social accounts are always linking to your various PBNs.

What other providers will I be utilizing?

  • FCS Networker (money saver) – I plan to continue to build my own existing social network using this software
  • Social Explosion (time saver) – I’m also excited to try out Network Empire’s Social Explosion software which automates the sending of signals to posts.

Continued Discussion on Social Signals

While the results aren’t groundbreaking, I didn’t really expect them to be.  However we can definitely say that this isn’t just marketing hype and that social signals definitely add to ranking power, albeit marginally.

Nonetheless, there are some extremely important, yet unquantifiable, factors to take into consideration for the case of social signals.

1. Social signals add a level of trust to sites

We can all agree that the concept of ‘trust’ has become a major ranking factor in today’s SEO landscape.  There is no way to quantify trust, yet all of us are making efforts at establishing it, whether it be from creating YouTube videos, getting Wikipedia links, etc.

Sending social signals is a well-accepted method for establishing trust.  It makes sense that websites that offer ranking power should at least be mentioned on Facebook and Twitter from time-to-time.

2. Social signals are necessary for justifying backlinks

If a website is receiving backlinks (especially a high volume), it should be receiving social signals as well, simply because of how much more frequently things are shared versus linked to.

Think about it.  Imagine a ‘real’ business owner of a yoga studio in San Francisco.  How often might this real website owner link to another website?  Maybe 5-6 times per year if, for example, he happens to run a cross promotion with the vegan restaurant down the street.  But how often does this same person post on Facebook?  Possibly a few times per week.

The odds are slim-to-none for a website to receive weekly backlinks and no social signals.  Start dripping signals or you’re inviting problems.

3. Social signals are good for mimicking viral

If you want to fake a viral effect for your money site, social signals are the foundation.  Create a press release and follow it up with a solid blast of social signals.  You’ve set the stage that your website has just become popular, making it completely justifiable for you to send a large influx of backlinks over the coming weeks.

4. Social Signals should Drive Engagement

Real social signals should drive engagement to your webpages and this is huge for user metrics.

The engagement and traffic from your target audiences via social media sources will help with your SEO efforts and could drive sales.

In my opinion, the best service for engaging social signals is Signal Boy (no affiliation) who share statuses into groups or communities relevant to your website. These groups drive referral traffic and can help your website go viral via social on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Reddit.



Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.