Over the years the online presence has increased tremendously and the major credit goes to social media. Over 1.55 billion active users in a month and hundreds of millions of people are interacting and engaging on Facebook. It is very well known that social media platform is a large part of most digital marketing efforts and it has the power to drive traffic, be it organic or through paid channels. The Google team, in 2014 opened up to admit that social signals are not an active part of their ranking algorithm, which is the complete opposite of what Google said in 2010. For the past few years, the entire Google team is somewhat quite about the value and importance of social signals for SEO. So, there is no straight answer from them. Many SEO analysts are still not sure whether or not Google is using social media signals, like engagement and follower metrics from Facebook and Twitter to evaluate the authority of an individual and give rankings accordingly. Let’s find out the answer below:-
- Simply a Search Webpage or a Ranking Factor
Google uses Facebook and Twitter posts like any other web pages for search, but they are not used as a part of the Ranking Algorithm. According to Matt Cutts, the Google Spokesperson, “pages” refers to individual pieces of content on those social sites, like tweets on Twitter or status update, reshare, link share, etc. on Facebook. But Google does not index every page on the web, as it has its limitations and can’t give value to all the web pages. So it uses the crawling algorithms and be selective in what to crawl and to what extent. The number of tweets per day is over 500 million, which is more than traditional web pages and is impossible to index them all. So Google does not attempt to index all of the social posts generated, simply because of sheer volume,
- Google is limited in how much of the social web it can crawl
Matt has made it clear that Google does not have the rights to crawl all the pages on Facebook and Twitter and even shared that once they were blocked entirely from crawling one of those sites for about a month and a half, which has made the algorithm engineers jittery and they have the fear of being blocked in future. Google now has access to Twitter “firehose”, but due to the large volume of tweets it does not attempt to index all of them and is indexing less than 4% of all tweets, according to a study conducted in June 2015.
- Signals like Facebook or Twitter followers are not used currently by Google for Search Ranking
As Google cannot completely crawl Facebook and Twitter, it is surely missing a lot of data that it would need to make an accurate evaluation of the relative authority of the pages on those sites. It must have complete confidence in the signals’ meaning. According to Matt, Google may face problems if it tried to use signals from those sites to rank content, as the social sites are very volatile in nature and Google visits each part of the web at “finite moments”.
- Worry about Identity
As Matt has said, “Because we’re sampling an imperfect web, we have to worry a lot about identity, when identity is already hard.” Google representatives always use highly qualified language while accessing authority based on an individual and then using that further as a ranking signal. Cutts predicts that there is still a long way to go that Google uses author authority because it is difficult to ascertain individual identities across various social platforms. Some person named as John Smith having a Facebook account may not be the same John Smith available on Twitter.
- Correlation and Causation factor are not same
In 2013, Matt made it clear that social signal correlations with higher rankings for sites do not equate to the causation of those rankings. Sites like SearchMetrics and Moz, published correlation studies to prove that social signals such as Facebook Likes and Google +1s as major correlating factors for high-ranking sites in Google Search. But Cooler heads explained that a correlating factor does not necessarily be a causal factor. According to Matt, the sites with high social engagement also attract many other signals, like links that actually contribute to search ranking power. Also, with the increase of social media exposure, there is an increase in the opportunity for other sites linking to your content.
- Use social media for brand reputation, and not for search rankings
According to Matt, though social media does not have much impact on search rankings, still there are valid reasons for being active on all forms of social media, as it can help to build up the brand value and drive qualified traffic. It is essential to have an active social presence and good network building to contribute to your brand reputation, better customer service, developing trust and authority and increasing traffic to your sites through the posted links.
- Assigning Author Rank is a long term goal
Google Authorship was a three-year experiment and the hottest topic related to SEO was “author rank” and that whether the individual authority of authors should be used or not for search ranking factors. But according to Matt, it is a long term goal for Google to understand identity and social connections for ranking purposes as it is difficult to establish and verify the identity of individuals in the internet world. So, because of this reason Google finds it difficult for assessing social signals.
So, by going through the above points of discussion and words of Google representatives, we now know that Google is very careful with their search results. Matt has mentioned that Social signals should be accounted for long-term benefits and not short-term goals such as a direct ranking signal.