Microsoft wants a piece of the social media pie. To claim it, they are launching So.cl (pronounced “social”), essentially an alternate version of Facebook or Google+. However, Microsoft is claiming the service is not in direct competition with the social media giants, it is specifically targeting students. That sounds familiar, right Mark? For further reading about So.cl itself, Danny Sullivan’s blog post highlights the first “huh?” moments that most of us experienced when first signing in So.cl.
This blog post explores how content and links on So.cl impact search engine optimization. To understand the impact that So.cl has on SEO we conducted an experiment to see whether or not Google and Bing were crawling feeds from So.cl and following links.
Are the feed pages a deserted island?
On May 31st, Both Google and Bing had only indexed eight pages from So.cl, none of which were from feeds of users. So.cl structures its feed URL with a pound folder: http://www.So.cl/#/explore?v=feed&f=user or by user name: http://www.So.cl/#/@username. This is illustrated in the below Bing search results.
On June 14th, Bing now has seven pages in their index, and Google has twelve. Again, we can’t find any pages of user profiles and feeds.
Since the feed pages don’t seem to get indexed, we wondered whether or not they were even being crawled by search engines. As So.cl is powered by Bing, we assumed that Bing would crawl its feed on a regular basis however we were mostly curious about Google’s interaction with So.cl.
The So.cl Experiment
We set up an experiment to see for ourselves whether Bing and Google were crawling So.cl and see how they would treat links posted in the feed.
The Set Up
There are two ways to sign in So.cl: using a Windows Live ID and using your Facebook profile. We wanted to see whether the author would influence the crawling rate from Google or Bing. We set up two accounts: one from a brand new Windows Live ID (Profile 1) and an established Facebook profile with over 1,100 friends (Profile 2).
We also put two websites up, with brand new domain names, no history and no links pointing to them. The sites were off the grid and populated with just plain HTML text.
On May 31st, Profile 1 (with the Windows Live ID) posted one update on So.cl with a link to site 1. Profile 2 (with the Facebook log in) posted one update with a link to site 2.
Even though So.cl is powered by Bing, Google indexed the two sites first. It still took Google five days (on June 4th) to find the links, follow them and index the sites. They both got indexed on the same day, within the same three hours window. They rank for the made up keywords we “optimized” them for. There is zero competition for these keywords, so that is not surprising. We mostly wanted to see if we could find them in other ways than using the site: command.
Google has come back twice since, to check if the content had changed, and has stopped crawling the site afterwards:
It took Bing 3 days longer to index the sites, which happened on June 8th, but they eventually indexed both sites. Just like with Google, Bing indexed both sites on the same day within three hours of each other.
Even though it looks like Google and Bing are not indexing the feed pages on So.cl, they are still crawling So.cl and following links from it. It seems that both search engines have scheduled the robots to crawl So.cl on specific dates, as both sites were indexed within three hours from both search engines. Even though So.cl is powered with Bing, Google found both test sites first. This also may have been due to test timing.
So.cl just got out of beta not even a month ago so there are not a lot of people using this social media tool yet. Facing the competition of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, it will be interesting to see if So.cl can make it in this tough market. It is not going to be easy but they have a clear strategy by going after students because students are avid users of social media tools and have more time on their hands to learn how to use a new platform.
As for the SEO value of So.cl, it is too early to tell whether the links posted on So.cl have any value for spam SEO, but Bing and Google are both keeping an eye on the content generated on So.cl for the time being.
Are you on So.cl? If no, why not? If yes, what are your favorite features?