Can Author Rank or Other Social Network Rankings Get You Crawled First?

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Can social networking rankings influence which users profiles and interactions get crawled and then indexed first by a search engine crawling program? A Microsoft patent application asks and answers that question. Is it something that Bing is using, or will use?

Importance Metrics for Prioritizing Crawls

Back in the early days of Google, PageRank wasn’t just a way of ranking pages based upon the quality and quantity of links pointed to your pages. Google also used PageRank as one of the importance metrics used to decide which pages to prioritize when they had to choose which URLs to crawl first. The paper, Efficient Crawling Through URL Ordering (pdf), co-authored by Google Founder Lawrence Page pointed to a few other metrics that were used to decide which URLs to visit first on a crawl, including PageRank. Another of those looked at how close a page is to the root directory of a site. The idea behind that one is that it’s better to index a million different home pages than it is to index a million pages on one site.

With the growth of social networks and an incredible amount of user generated content that comes with them, there’s a lot less reliance upon links, and yet search engines want to crawl and index as much content from those types of sites as well. The lack of links to those means that something like PageRank is out of the question – and probably would be if we were talking about Google, too. Search engines don’t just want to crawl and then index user profiles, but also the things users of those networks post and the conversations that they have. Why not focus upon crawling content from people who are more active on those social networks?

Social networking content should be relevant and recent when shown in search results. But the ranking of that social content is an area that fairly new to social networks, and something that there’s really no established methods for. A search engine can grab a crawl list from a social network, with the URLs of pages and posts and pictures to crawl, but where should it start? Such a crawl list can even be easy to retrieve, especially in cases like when a social network like Twitter might turn over an XML feed to a search engine. But again, where to begin?

The patent filing tells us that Bing might make a decision, and might use something like social network rankings as an importance metric in deciding which URLs to prioritize in a crawl list. These rankings might be based upon things such as how active a person is in the social network, how active they are with respect to a search engine, how many connections do they have in the social network, and similar signals.

The patent application is:

Prioritizing Crawl Lists Using Social Networking Rankings
Invented by Kevin Haas, Yi-An Lin, Shankar Kalyanaraman, and Sameer Indarapu
Assigned to Microsoft
US Patent Application 20120284251
Published November 8, 2012
Filed: May 6, 2011


Methods, systems, and computer-storage media having computer-usable instructions embodied thereon, for prioritizing crawl lists based on social networking rankings are provided. Various scores are associated with users based on a variety of factors including activity levels with respect to social networking services, activity levels with respect to search engines, and interactions with other users in a social networking environment.

The scores are used to compute a ranking for the users and, based on the rankings, a crawl list is prioritized such that content associated with the social networking environment is crawled at an appropriate time.

The patent also provides a way to temporarily boost a social network ranking for someone who is fairly new to a social network by using scores of people they may be connected to as they start out to impute a score for that new user.

Factors that might go into creaing a social network ranking

Some of the signals that might be looked at to derive a social ranking:

Activity on the social network – Can include messages sent or received, number of friends, identity of friends on the network, number of times the user logs in, number of posts sent or received, and so on. Someone with a higher level or activity will have a higher score than someone with a lower level of activity.

Activity with respect to a search engine – Search queries performed, number of times user logs into the search engine, and so on. I’m not sure why a person’s use of a search engine should influence the priority of their social networking content being crawled. Sounds a little like Microsoft might be trying to reward people for using Bing.

Rankings of Connections – The social networking rankings of people whom you may be connected to may also influence your social networking ranking.

These social networking rankings may be in a constant state of flux as social and search activity vary, and the people you’re connected to change.

Demographic information about a person, such as careers and locations and interests, might be taken from places like their social networking profile, and may also influence their social ranking.

Take Aways

I’ve written a number of posts about how someone might develop a reputation score or Author Rank score in Google, which could influence the rankings of their social content. I’ve also written a few posts on a similar topic from Microsoft, such as Microsoft Weighs in on Ranking Authors in Social Networks. But those were about ranking social networking content.

This patent filing is about crawling and indexing social content, and the decision of which content to crawl first. Since social networks move very quickly, and provide the most value in appearing quickly in search results, having an intelligent approach to crawling that content can be really important. This is especially true with recency sensitive content posted on a social network, like content about breaking news and natural disasters.

Basing a crawl priority on a social networking ranking sounds like a good idea. It’s better to prioritize content from people who are active, and who post things that are meaningful and interesting.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Google also may base the way they prioritize the crawling of social content upon reputation scores of users or author rank or something similar that doesn’t have the benefit of using PageRank as an importance metric.

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40 thoughts on “Can Author Rank or Other Social Network Rankings Get You Crawled First?”

  1. This is very interesting conversation about Author Rank. Anytime Google is leading the way (Google+) it’s worth paying a few extra moments of attention. I do see Author Rank influence continuing to grow. Anytime we feed data about our pages/sites to Google we must assume they are using that data to crawl, index, and rank faster.

  2. At last it means that social media is now a part of ranking in Bing’s Algo…
    But does also mean that Google might be doing exactly the same and that a bunch of SEO consultant might be joining in Social Media Spam.

  3. Fantastic article. Just before reading this, we were literally talking about the direction of how search engines are going to go.

    With the amount of information and false information being submitted on the internet, it’s got to somehow start to be ranked by what influential people in that sector think about it.

  4. hi Bill, well you brought up associations a few months back; yes, that’s it!

    and you know what I’m seeing from watching competing websites; google plus seems to be working … 3 sites I have seen in just the last 2 weeks; totally different markets, even continents; some competing site popping up out of nowhere; they all have 1 thing in common; a massive amount of google plus’s … totally fake ones, the type of crap you buy for $10 from the Chinese spammers; google left 1 door open; their own google plus!

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  6. I’m hearing about Author Rank these days. I’m trying to understand it, but it should not be this way. Social Networking sites are for personal use and should not be relate to professional mean. I’m a tech blogger, I’ve friends who are not interested in in my work but it’ll irritate them when my activity includes on my about my professional work!!!

  7. A great post! I think far too many people neglect social media marketing and authorship and fail to understand just how important it can be. Naturally; until Google opens its book of secrets we can never know just what effect the aforementioned will have on a sites rankings but, like the Schroedinger cat theory we have to think that it will and keep ploughing through!

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  10. We all know social media is a factor. How important of a factor? Don’t know. The problem as I see it is SO MANY people simply cheat with social media – they pay for “likes”, “followers” and even “Google +es”. Did I just write +es? It must be late. I have recently discovered ways to get the message (read: quality content) out to others but I would be lying if I didn’t say it is either going to be time consuming to do it yourself or expensive if you have others do it…when someone come up with a solution that isn’t either, you know where to find me…right here, reading Bill’s pretty not bad awesome articles. HA!

  11. I have always suspected social sharing and crawl rate were linked – especially sharing via G+ for Google. Now it seems Bing have made their position known, I’m sure we’ll see more social signals impacting search like this in the very near future.

  12. Thanks for giving this round up about the influenzes of social metrics. I think you are right to say to be active in social media can help with your seo effords, because it definetly does NOT help to buy 10000 chinese facebook likes.

    Maybe a quality website with good content is still the best way to get ranked. People will reward you for that with spreading the word mouth to mouth!

  13. This sounds pretty good to me. It is Google’s search engine, and it makes sense that they would want to use Google’s social media platform. Author rank is probably one of the best ideas that Google has pushed out in the last few years so I am all for this idea.

    What is an interesting thing is that we might see a future where people sell their “AuthorRank.” When your site lacks links, would it be advantageous to get someone with a high AuthorRank to come to a new site and post some content with attribution to that person? It will be interesting to see, but I do see this as a positive movement as opposed to some of the questionable changes in a few of the updates.

  14. Thanks for the post Bill, i have been pondering over this for a while, and decided to run an experiment to try and prove the power of G+ and Author Rank.

    You can find the experiment at 57 Flip – We would really appreciate your inclusion!

    Cheers – Stu

  15. Hey Bill, obviously Social Media (Networks) have a form of SEO influence on the other side of things like page shares and likes but from the crawling network perspective, would high privacy users be at an disadvantage as their profiles and information cannot be accessed? I suppose that is the give and take of what is necessary to have an online presence/profile. There are some reputable individuals who may highlighted by other channels but have very private profiles online, I suppose this becomes a reputation management strategy for individuals in the long run. Thoughts?

  16. Thanks for the great article. I am really curious if there different social metrics which get prioritized first. For example on Facebook: the more comments the more your post is being showed to your likes/followers. So it is interesting to watch if likes, comments or shares have the most influence on the crawling process or is just adding the link enough of a signal for Google and Bing?

  17. Very good article, I do believe being very active on Facebook and having a great community of people who “like” your page is very beneficial SEO wise. A client of mine managed to increase her SERP mainly due to the “followers” she managed to acquire throughout a year. Getting involved in social media is very beneficial.
    I’ve never really put too much thought on the Twitter case but in terms of Google+, it’s a similar idea to this of Facebook. Except Google+ is also part of Google who will use the data acquired on Google+ to display search results. So if your Google+ page is part of many people circles it is very likely to be promoted even more on Google.

  18. I believe Pagerank and Alexa rank are slowly losing their importance. I have websites that are highly ranked in both yet they sit lower in search results than my lower ranked sites. The key will always be content, frequency of updates, and usage of proper key words and phrases and understanding your target audience correctly.

  19. Hi Bill,

    Just to confirm: do you believe that the activity levels of a social media author directly affects the crawl rate from Google/ Bing?

    Do you think that this also affects the PR of any links posted by the said author?

    Thanks Bill,


  20. Well since gaining authorship, the CTR for my Tendify blog has increased 92% in a few weeks so i’m happy. Also happy to have found this site, great stuff Bill i’ll be following!

  21. Hello Bill, if I understand correctly, being crawled first in relation to a topic will get you indexed quickly and you will appear in good position in SERPs for fresh topics (news related especially) but is it really a ranking factor “per se” (on not so fresh topics)? Nice weekend to all!

  22. I think it’s worth a short. It’s well worth spending an extra 10-20 minutes creating a Google+ profile, no matter how redundant it may appear, for the possibility of an extra SERP boost.

    Even if you don’t gain the extra appearances in SERPs, you could always improve your CTR simply by having an avatar appear next to your results!

  23. Hi Bill,

    Interesting to see how even ideas like this can be patented. I’m in favor of using social media rankings as a factor in search rankings, but worry that it would not be done fairly across the various social networks. If Google ever buys Facebook (seems like a longshot now but who can predict the future?) we will really need to start worrying about keeping our social media status in good shape.

  24. We have had good luck with Google Author Rank. Besides getting my picture on my listing – our firm has stayed up in the top 5 of Google Places for the last month. I notice the other five have their pictures up too – and the top five that were there a few months ago are no where to be found.

  25. Hello Bill
    Excellent Post and very important tips. Social networking content should be relevant and recent when shown in search results. But the ranking of that social content is an area that fairly new to social networks, and something that there’s really no established methods for.

    Tanks for share post.

  26. I have always thought social sharing and crawl rate were linked. Now it seems Google have made their position known, I’m sure we’ll see more social signals impacting search like this in the very near future. thank you.

  27. Hi Kathleen,

    While there have been some hints about social sharing and crawl rate in the past (I’m thinking of a Yahoo patent filing from a couple of years ago), I can recall any explicit statement from anyone at Google that said that the two are linked – not from Matt Cutts, and not from anyone else.

  28. Hi Clark,

    Thanks. There really aren’t any clear or established methods for it, and the search engines could do one thing one day, and something completely different the next. 🙂

  29. Hi Dan,

    We don’t have enough information to clearly state that Author Rank is really the difference in what you’ve observed. It would be nice if it was, but there are just too many other factors to take into account. Let’s just say that the people who are taking steps like using authorship markup may have been taking other steps too, to help them rank well.

  30. Hi John,

    Technically ideas can’t be patented, and patents have to provide some idea of how a particular process might actually work when its filed.

    What is fair, when it comes to the different social networks? Google has access to the data behind the scenes when it comes to Google Plus, but no access to that data from Facebook or Twitter or other social networks. They don’t have the IP addresses that things were posted from, or other information that might help Google determine whether social posts are more likely to be legitimate than to be spam. I don’t think it’s a question of fairness, but rather of access to data.

  31. I think social signals and author rank are definitely something every SEO should be considering right now if they are not already. I keep reading more and more stuff like this and it gets me thinking about how it’s becoming less about what links say about you and more about what people and the pages that mention/link to you say.

  32. I think that social signals definitely make a lot of sense and for search engines to notice this. Interesting to think that the bloggers that are working for companies could possibly have a very marketable asset just by doing their job! Years of experience could be right along with authorship rank.

  33. Awesome post Bil! I think social media is the future of the internet
    and probably SEO. Search engines should take more into account the
    social signals. It should be done fairly across all the social networks,
    not giving any precedence to google+.

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  35. @Andy Ascent I am agree with you, social media is the future of internet and SEO but now a days there are lots of fake accounts on social sites and many peoples use tricky tools to make their presence on social networks.

  36. Wow. I can’t believe you guys have been at this since 2005. Nice work. I really enjoy the site and It will be awhile before I run out of stuff to read here. Thank you.

    I am definitely aiming for social media sites these days. Just like with a YouTube video, social sites can create a viral effect with an article or video that can bring some nice extra traffic.

  37. Interesting, we have to keep abreast on the latest, if not we lose our rankings. It seems that every so often, Google and these other search engines come up with something new – to rank the multitude of web pages.
    This Author Rank sure hit me in the face after reading your article. Guess, I will now have to read up on this some more.

  38. I think that author rank will be an increasingly important factor in the field of seo. I also believe that sooner or later we will also talk about a sort of publisher rank, or something like that, that will probably be influenced by the social activities on G+ grand pages.

  39. While some experts say AuthorRank and Social Links bring positive effects, experts like HubSpot say AR and Social links don’t change the game much.

    It is really confusing because Google is tearing the SEO world apart into Social SEO’s and Non Social SEO’s. I tried Social stuff but never found any tremendous impact on the website.

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