Does Facebook influence search engine results? Yes, sort of, but not in the way you’d think. Thank you for reading. This blog was written by Jake.
Oh, I guess I’m actually expected to explain my findings based on experience and research. Right. So the social media debate has been raging for years in the search world. Matt Cutts, head of the Google Webspam team, has adamantly denied that they matter. On the flip side, smart people have done studies and basically said “nah, they do matter.” Below is a snippit from the Moz ranking factors survey, that shows social media—especially Facebook—really correlates to search results.
So what is it? I think it’s time to play my favorite game—correlation or causation? Overall, Facebook likes and shares are correlated pretty highly to high rankings. But those numbers deserve a closer look.
Why Does Content Get Shared?
The content marketing version of the “chicken or the egg” riddle is “is content shared because it ranks, or does it rank because it gets shared?” Literally thousands of blog words have been spilled on this question, and the overwhelming answer is that no one really knows because the Google algorithm is a secret. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You see, content ranks and gets shared for similar reasons. Let’s go back to Content Marketing 101 real quick. Your content should be:
Doesn’t that also sound like something you would want to share to your social media page? If it doesn’t, then I hope we’re not Facebook friends, because you’re probably the person who seriously shares articles from The Onion with just the caption “big if true” over and over and over.
Basically, there’s a very real chance that Google doesn’t care about Facebook—a chief rival—and that good content just performs well no matter what platform it’s on. And the same could be said for likes—good companies probably have good websites (which rank well) and they probably invest in social media (so they have a ton of likes). The part of me that hates extrapolating causation from correlation wants to think that Facebook really doesn’t matter. However…
Face(book) It: Social Matters
Facebook likes and shares may not be explicitly factors for ranking, but they certainly don’t hurt. We’ve seen time and time again that sharing your good content helps your business. It doesn’t matter how good your content is—if people don’t see it, then what’s the point? Facebook shares and likes can get you there—fast. And you know what? I don’t trust that social signals don’t matter. Google straight up indexes Facebook posts—there’s probably a reason for that!
Google can see how engaging a post is on Facebook—which means that they know which content is doing the best on popular websites, like you know, Facebook. It’s not quite as valuable as a backlink, but it probably matters, even if it just barely moves the needle. Plus, do you want all of your eggs in one basket? With how often Google changes its algorithm, sites can get penalized for things that previously were totally ok. Google loves hitting you with those ex post facto laws. You have to diversify your investments!
So, like I said at the top, Facebook likes and shares influence rankings—just not in the way we think of a traditional ranking. Simply getting more likes and shares isn’t going to make a direct result—but it means you’re attacking your web marketing strategy in a successful way. We know Bing has played around with Facebook influencing results—and they very much matter there, still. Eventually, with web personalization trends, Facebook and other social factors are going to play a major role in how we find things on the internet going forward. The time is now to get going on it.
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About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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