How many times have I heard and read this question online – Do “Likes” on Facebook, or more generally Likes on social networks such as Google Plus, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, etc, have a direct impact on SEO?
Short answer: no.
In this video dated December 2010 – Matt Cutts answers a very specific question:
Hi Matt, in a recent article written by Danny Sullivan (Editor’s note: Search Engine Land founder and author) the hypothesis is suggested that Google uses links from Twitter and Facebook as ranking factors . Can you confirm it?
In response Matt says that the links from these social networks are treated like all links from other sources (as long as the pages are accessible to Googlebot), but Google tries to go further, weighing these links according to the authoritativeness of the author or the page. who posted the link (minute 0:45).
For more details on ranking factors in Google see the dedicated guide .
This was in 2010 when Google began exploring the possibilities of using social data in website ranking algorithms . But how does it work today?
Would having 1,000 fake or inactive followers help my website’s SEO? No.
Would receiving a tweet from an authoritative person in our industry help? Of course , regardless of SEO, it would help brand awareness and consumer confidence.
The correlation between the number of shares obtained by a page and its ranking in Google has been calculated many times in questionable SEO studies . However, let us remember that ” correlation does not imply causation” – translated means “correlation does not imply causation”. A page that ranks first on Google usually also gets a lot of shares due to its notoriety. However, this does not mean that a page with many shares ranks in the top positions accordingly. The concept is well explained in this video by Eric Enge (in English).
In 2012 the same question seen above was asked by Danny Sullivan to Matt Cutts at SMX. Matt responds slightly differently than in the first video: in essence what he says is that social signals for the moment do not have an important weight for Google, but probably in the future Google will use social networks more as a source of signals.
Google has always been careful not to base the ranking algorithms of its results on easily maneuverable factors (yes, backlinks were easily maneuverable). We all know how easy it is to get likes from questionable sources a kilo . Would it be correct to use like counting for SEO?
In my opinion definitely not.
Let’s start from the beginning: how could an element external to the site positively impact the visibility of our pages in search engines? External factors are called off-site factors , such as backlinks. These external elements increase the authority of the website thanks to the confluence of the famous PageRank .
Does sharing on social media generate PageRank towards our site?
All shares on social networks are nothing more than backlinks, however they are backlinks tagged nofollow or with hidden redirection chains (see Linkedin).
A nofollow link does not pass PageRank and a hidden redirect (blocked by Robots.txt) does not pass PageRank. We can then discuss the usefulness of a nofollow link if we really have to: a nofollow backlink is better than not having a backlink, don’t you think?
Furthermore , some social media pages are not open to Google spiders , see closed Facebook groups or personal profiles with restricted privacy (for example, only Sempronio sees my post). A page closed to spiders cannot be useful for SEO purposes since Google cannot read it.
What are the advantages of sharing on social networks?
Social shares (social backlinks) bring visibility:
- in the sense that they make you (potentially) known to your target audience
- they increase the likelihood that your post will be liked (therefore linked) by some blogger or webmaster
- they make your brand spin and as a result help build brand awareness
- over time they help to increase the trust of your users
- as you can see it does not say “they help to position you better”, that could if ever be an indirect consequence of everything listed above.
Consider these two examples:
- Dude publishes a new and very useful post on his blog, then goes out to go to the gym. The post will start gaining organic visibility on Google within a few days. The traffic of that post depends on its ranking in the results and the volume of related searches of the users.
- Caio publishes a new and very useful post, before going to the gym he shares it on all the social networks on which he has been active for several years now. The post will be seen by its connections immediately, then in the next few days it will start gaining visibility on Google. The traffic of that post depends on the audience that the author or brand has on social networks, the positioning of the article in the results and the volume of related searches of the users.
Caio’s article (all other conditions being equal) gets more visibility of Tizio’s article, since it will be read not only by Google users but also by users of social networks. Caio’s article is therefore more likely to be shared, and to receive backlinks. This is the secret of pulcinella.
So social networks indirectly impact SEO, bring visibility that can indirectly help SEO.
In summary: are shares useful? Of course. Do they rank me better? No, at least not right away.
In the long run, social networks help to disclose your articles in a more precise and targeted way, but there is no direct link between Facebook like and ranking in Google. A social profile with thousands of subscribers and high engagement is certainly more authoritative than a profile with a few dozen followers and zero engagement. These factors help build your online reputation which indirectly helps SEO: I see a name I remember and know in SERP -> I’m more inclined to click on that result.
Indirect factors are important
Matt Cutts’ video on the role of social media in SEO suggests that search results may be integrated with social results in the future. It is clear that the web is an intensely social place. The web is composed not only of bits and bytes, but of people, organizations, groups, causes, ideas and human energy.
Do you always want to have maximum visibility on the net? Stay active on social networks. Pay attention to these channels, curate your profile, constantly improve it and stay connected to people.
Companies that play in particularly competitive niches and do not have a solid social strategy will likely be left behind by those who do so within a few years. Social signals can become a kind of new backlinks in terms of general importance in the ranking algorithm.
The world is becoming more and more social. The kids of today are the consumers of tomorrow, and they grew up communicating with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. As these generations become adults, consumers will spend more time on social media channels than they do today, likely causing an increase in social signals. People already spend more time on social networks than on search engines , and the gap will continue to grow.
People are more likely to trust a site that their friends recommend personally than a search engine. Websites with a strong social presence are more easily shareable and accessible, and therefore easier to recommend. In the future, search engines will be able to analyze these actions as recommendations, increasing the credibility (and ranking) of the website.
Websites with a strong social presence have better conversion rates and brand loyalty, generating more sales, more word of mouth and greater brand awareness, all of which leads to more positive reviews and more inbound links.