Post updated September 1, 2015 and June 7, 2016 (originally published January 23, 2014)
How far along is Google from using social media signals as ranking factors? Can Google use engagement and follower metrics from Twitter and Facebook to evaluate the authority of an individual?
To me, the answers to those questions were the buried headlines in a Google Webmaster Help video (embedded below) by Matt Cutts. Even though Matt is currently on an extended hiatus from his job as head of Google’s web spam team, I believe what he had to say in this video remains the case today.
Supporting that, Google’s John Mueller stated categorically in an August 14, 2015, video that Google does not use social signals in its search ranking factors. And John Mueller and Gary Illyes both reiterated this stand in June 6, 2016 tweets.
My purpose in this post is to examine Matt Cutts’ comments in great detail in order to understand why Google does not incorporate social signals as a ranking factor.
RELATED: Why links are still a powerful ranking signal (study)
Scroll below the video embed to get my commentary and thoughts.
How does social media affect SEO?
Are Facebook and Twitter Signals Part of the Google Ranking Algorithms? That’s the question that Matt Cutts chose to answer in this video. Let’s break down the main ideas in his answer.
1. Facebook and Twitter posts are treated like any other web pages for search.
[Tweet “Google treats Facebook & Twitter posts like any other web pages for search, but NOT as a ranking factor. More at”]
First, we should understand that when Matt says “pages” he’s referring to individual pieces of content on those social sites. So on Twitter, that would be a tweet. To Google, each individual tweet is a web page on its own. On Facebook a “page” would be any status update, reshare, link share, etc. you might see in your news feed. Each of the individual “cards” you now see in your news feed, whether from a friend, a Facebook Page, or a group, are each a “page” to Google.
Not all that is indexable is indexed
But what’s really important to understand here is the unspoken implication. Most people assume that Google tries to index every page on the web. Not true! Although Google’s resources are incredibly vast, they do have their limits. Furthermore, with the number of web pages increasing at exponential rates, Google realizes not every page on the web is equally valuable, or even valuable at all to anyone. So they build into their crawling bots algorithms that help them to be selective in what to crawl and how much.
The implications of that are even more profound when it comes to social media, which now churns out many more pieces of content per day than traditional web pages ever could. The number of tweets per day is now well over 500 million!
So it is a safe bet that because of sheer volume alone, Google doesn’t attempt to index all (or even most) of the social posts generated.
2. Google is limited in how much of the social web it can crawl.
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Furthermore, Matt made it clear that Google isn’t always able to crawl all of the pages on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, he shared that they had one experience where they were blocked entirely from crawling one of those sites (Barry Schwartz says it was Twitter) for about a month and a half.
[Tweet “Google is not able to crawl all of the social web. One reason why SM is NOT a ranking factor. More at”]
The fact that they could get blocked makes Google’s algorithm engineers jittery. They have to worry that they could get blocked again in the future.
Of course, since Matt posted his video Google and Twitter brokered a new deal that gives Google access to the Twitter “firehose.” That means Google can see every tweet posted in real time. However, for the reasons given in point one above, that doesn’t meant they do index every tweet. In fact, in a study we conducted we found that as of June 2015 Google was still indexing less than 4% of all tweets.
The bottom line: Google doesn’t like signal sets with big holes in them.
3. Google does NOT currently use signals like Facebook or Twitter followers for search ranking.
[Tweet “Google says it does NOT use signals from social media as a direct ranking factor for search. More at” ]
At least, as Matt said, to the best of his knowledge. Why? Because Google won’t use a signal to influence its search rankings unless they have high confidence in the meaning of that signal. If Google can’t see all the connections and internal signals about content on a site, then they can’t have that kind of confidence.
In other words, because Google doesn’t completely crawl Facebook and Twitter, it inevitably is missing lots of data that it would need to do an accurate evaluation of the relative authority of pages within those sites.
Matt gave some examples of the problems that could occur if Google did try to use signals from those sites to rank content (and presumably, individuals, as we’ll get into below).
Problems can occur because social sites by their very nature are volatile. Numbers and relationships change constantly. Google visits each part of the web at “finite moments” as Matt put it. They only see what is happening on a web page at the moment the Googlebot visits it. Then the crawler bot moves on, and may not revisit the page for some time.
Say someone had a certain graph of followers at the moment Google crawled their profile, but then shortly after that they did something that caused them to be unfollowed or blocked by a large number of followers. Or a relationship status could change. When you combine the facts that Google only periodically visits a site with how quickly things can change in social media, along with the aforementioned problem of Google getting throttled or blocked from these sites…well you can see why their signal confidence would be low.
4. “Because we’re sampling an imperfect web, we have to worry a lot about identity, when identity is already hard.”
[Tweet “One reason Google has low confidence in social signals as a ranking factor is the problem of identity on the web.”]
Getting a usable, high confidence signal based on social profile identities is much more difficult than most people think. I’ve noticed that whenever Matt Cutts and other Google reps have talked about the topic, they use highly qualified language, such as “we want to work toward” of “we are getting better at” assessing authority based on an individual and then using that as a ranking signal.
Cutts has gone so far as saying, in hypothetical examples, that Google using author authority could be as much as ten years off! I don’t think he’s making a literal prediction when he says that. Rather, I believe he’s saying to us: “This is still a long way off.”
Why? Because it’s very difficult to ascertain individual identities across various social platforms. How do I know that the John Smith I follow on Twitter is the same John Smith I see on Instagram?
5. Social signal correlations with higher rankings for sites do not equal causation of those rankings.
[Tweet “Social signal correlations with high search rankings do NOT mean social caused those rankings. More at”]
Matt went on to make clear something that caused a fair bit of uproar online in 2013. Several sites, most prominently SearchMetrics and Moz, published correlation studies that showed social signals such as Facebook Likes and Google +1s as one of the highest correlating factors for sites that rank highly in Google search. This caused many to jump to the conclusion that these social signals were a cause of the higher rankings.
Cooler heads (such as Moz’s own Cyrus Shepard) then tried to explain that a correlating factor doesn’t have to be a causal factor. The more likely explanation, given by Matt Cuts at SMX Advanced in 2013 and repeated here in this video, is that sites that tend to get high social engagement also tend to be sites that are so excellent that they also attract many other signals (such as links) that do actually contribute to search ranking power.
Also, increased social media exposure increases the opportunities that sites will link to your content.
6. Be on social media not for search rankings but to build up your brand and drive qualified traffic.
[Tweet “Be on social media not for #SEO but to build your brand and drive qualified traffic. More at”]
According to Matt Cutts, there are very valid reasons for being active on all forms of social media even if social media, for now, doesn’t have much or any effect on search rankings.
An active social presence combined with good network building can be a major contributor to growing a brand reputation, better customer service, developing trust and authority, as well as bringing traffic to your sites via the links you post. Those considerations should all be part of any good digital marketer’s arsenal.
7. Understanding identity and social connections for ranking purposes is a long term project.
This section (starting at about 3:20 into the video) is so important!
During the three year experiment that was Google Authorship, one of the hottest topics in the SEO world was “author rank,” the idea that Google might use (or be already using) the individual authority of authors for given topics as a search ranking factor.
But in this video, Matt Cutts makes clear why utilizing the authority of individuals as a ranking signal is a goal for Google, but it remains a long term goal. As mentioned above, establishing and verifying the identity of individuals on the web is hard. Add in the reasons given above for the difficulty of assessing social signals, and you can understand why this is not something Google can just turn on like a switch.
Conclusion: Assessing Social Authority Is Like a Fine Wine
As I said above, Google is very careful with its search results. There is no incentive for them to rush an incomplete and unreliable signal into their ranking factors, and plenty of disincentives. Accurately measuring and evaluating the complex signals that might indicate how authoritative an individual or organization is on social media, and especially in regard to specific topic areas, is hugely complex, and made all the more difficult when major areas where such signals exist are difficult for Google to access.
But that does not mean that Google does not value such signals. Every indication we’ve had from Google spokespersons, including Matt Cutts in this video, has been that the areas of social signals and author’s as subject authorities remain areas of intense interest for Google’s engineers.
In his Pubcon Las Vegas 2013 keynote speech, Matt said that social signals should not be looked at for “short term” benefits (i.e., as a direct ranking signal) but rather as a “long term” play. In other words, over time Google will be watching to see who consistently gets good social signals day-in and day-out as an indication of who should be trusted.
Years ago, actor and director Orson Welles was featured in a series of wine commercials on TV that became pop culture memes long before the web. I’m referencing those ads in my own meme image above. In the ads. Welles would pontificate on the extraordinary efforts the winemaker he was hawking went to in order to ensure the quality of the product. He would then turn to the camera and let us know that this winemaker “will serve no wine before it’s time.”
In like manner, Google will serve no ranking factor before its time. Social signals are important, and active use of social media for marketing is now essential, but invest in them for the long term, knowing that if you build real value that people value, over time that will become valuable to Google as well.
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I watched the video. Just like blogging, providing real value to your readers on social media is what matters. However, i see now why Google is very much interested in authorship. Social media is really volatile with people spamming Facebook with duplicate authors, Google has no confidence in the identity of users on social media.
. In the next 20 years, everyone person on earth will take authorship serious not just bloggers; If you don’t , you might regret being anonymous.
Thanks for the comment Ikechi. I agree that Google built Google+ (and instituted Google Authorship) in part to give themselves a better handle on personal and brand identity so they could better use those entities in search evaluations. But I think they are realistic enough to know by now that there will never be a time when everyone has a Google+ account. I think they are probably exploring other ways to verify and track identity as well, and that’s probably one of the reasons why they have held off on any kind of Author Ranking in search.
I agree that everyone can’t join Google + Account for authorship. However I believe that sooner or later, other Social Media platforms coming up will take authorship serious (My Opinion).
We’ve seen changes in SERP rankings that we can only contribute to social metrics.
I’m afraid you’d have to be a lot more specific than that to convince me “SEOhog.” We rarely (if ever) can either see all the factors that might be causing a ranking change, nor can we always effectively isolate factors to make sure that what we think is the cause really is.
Based on this statement “Problems can occur because social sites by their very nature are volatile. Numbers and relationships change constantly”, how’s Google+ any different as far as collecting any truly viable information about our social identities there, apart from the fact that it’s Google-owned property and Google has not problem crawling it?
Hope my question makes sense.
Great question. I avoided getting into Google+ in this post because if I did, I’d still be writing it now, and I wanted to get it out while it’s still timely. And, of course, anyone that knows me knows how extensively I (and Eric Enge as well) have written on how Google+ interplays with search. I’ve now included links to some of those articles at the end of this post.
I think the answer to your question is that Google+ gives Google a very clear indication of those things….within Google+. Or really, a bit more broadly, because as more and more people use the web while remaining logged in to their Google accounts, Google can get data from beyond just their G+ interactions. But they also have to be careful not to put undue weight on G+, as it would give a skewed view.
1.) Sometimes I think people forget it’s not necessarily what you say or do about yourself or your web site. It’s what others say about you. As for instance Leonardo Da Vinci . Just looked him up and did not see the carousel .
2.) I had a hard time swallowing what Matt said. Don’t their analytics pick up referrers as twitter and facebook .
I have a very short comment +Mark Traphagen. I spent time studying this video last night and was thrilled with all the points you mentioned. I knew your article would be a joy to read and you did not disappoint. Very valuable and clear post. Just saying I like your style and thanks!!
I have been meaning to ask this question but thanks Mark for the answer
Great summary of what seems to be a fairly important statement by Matt and Google. It seems as though social signals would be a natural progression for Google, and search in general, but it also appears to be clear that we are not there yet – despite the many articles that say otherwise.
I appreciate the explanation of where we are, and where we may be going, and have really valued the work that Perficient Digital has put into this area the past few months (year). Thanks to all and keep up the great work!
Thanks Brent! As the butler Jeeves often said, “We endeavor to give satisfaction.”
Hi Anthony. I’d like to respond to your second comment. I don’t think Matt was claiming they get no data from Twitter or Facebook. But the data is not complete, and they can’t rely on it enough to use it as a signal. For example, they can’t see any of the likes on Facebook.
Great analysis, Mark. We need more level-headed thinking and explanation here. You nailed it with the point about Google not using signal that is incomplete. And on the other side, why would Twitter or Facebook possibly give Google firehose access? Don’t see that coming soon, if ever.
Thanks Jay! That means so much coming from you. YOUtility has had a profound influence on me. I have tons of respect for you; in a world of social media “gurus” who don’t seem to know a tweet from a Like, you’re the real deal!
Thanks for your nice information.I really appreciate in matt cutts view.
Over the years of doing SEO, i have learn to sorta listen to Matt Cutts and assume the opposite of what he say in certain situations. Stating that social signal don’t have an impact is a complete lie. I saw one of my tweet from a blog post get retweet near 200 times and my ranking for that post, almost over night drastically improved. So the way i see it, if he says it don’t help, it probably does…lol
Hi Samantha, thanks for your comment. I’d be very careful about taking a few anecdotal incidents as evidence. Remember, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, and what you related is a correlative result. It could be coincidence, or more likely, that the retweets either resulted in links to your post or your post was of such quality that at the same time it was getting lots of retweets, it was also getting links and other signals that Google does use.
Here at Perficient Digital we did a highly-controlled test last year that confirmed no discernible ranking effect from Facebook activity. See it at https://www.stonetemple.com/does-facebook-activity-impact-seo/
This is a helpful article for me, I really appreciate you efforts 🙂
Mark, did you test twitter? I would also concluded that Facebook links/shares has not shown me as much kindness as twitter. I do feel social signals, whatever they are, do influence ranking. If Google is looking for good content, and this content creates a great deal of shares; why wouldn’t that signal to Google that the content is of value. Everyone preaches that “Google is Content driven” why wouldn’t social shares indicate how good or great content is?
Samantha, as Cutts said, they would like to make use of such signals, but they have to be sure of complete and unfettered access to have confidence in the signal, and they don’t currently have that. Obviously, if you’re only able to see a portion of the signal, you’re going to have a skewed impression.
That being said, I do indeed think that they monitor as much of that signal as they can. A clue to that was Matt saying at Pubcon that having good social signals consistently, over the long haul, would be an indication to Google that you are to be trusted. So no to short term (it alone won’t cause an individual page of yours to rank better), but yes to long term (indication that overall you as a site or you as an author are to be more trusted).
Of course, by “social signals” he could just mean Google+ 😉
Even if Google doesn’t use social signals to rank pages, there IS a point to go info social because of several reasons. It will most likely use them or even uses now (not admitting it) to prevent SEOs from pushing to much on social websites – the reason number one. Another reasons is that Google might be using social signal in future, why not?
I have been testing for MANY years and have had similar results as Samantha.
In my testing the ONLY thing done was tweeting.
When an initial tweet was made, nothing happened to the page’s position in the SERPs.
When that tweet was re-tweeted by followers there was an amazing jump in position.
My test page went from #27 to #1, but it only stayed there for 9 days and then fell back to it’s original position.
The same thing happened when I used G+1 votes, but the drop was back to a couple of spots higher than the original.
I think perhaps Google uses these indicators the same way they cycle the importance of topical news articles.
Authority affects PageRank, but Google has told us, several times, that they do not include PR as a factor in computing SERPs.
IMO – It is the referral factor and not just the links or the followers.
Co-incidentally there is a new article on my LinkedIn ‘End To End Web Developers” Group, “Use These Citations to build Local Search Rankings!”
Thanks for writing this Mark, great work and breakdown! I totally agree with the fact that social media is an amplification platform and strategy in terms of getting your brand and content out to masses in order to induce natural linking. And that is its impact on SEO. Nothing more at this point.
Hi Mark, I agree to Samantha. She experienced the effects on ranking through retweets, I documented the same via +1 and re-shares. The flux is not limited to a single blog post rather to each of the post (3-4) which shared on G+ followed by +1, comments are doing great in search results.
May be you are right “By Social Signals , Matt just mean Google+) but in case of Samantha it was twitter.
I think saying all that matter is quality is just plain wrong. I’m a lawyer. I see lot of legal sites that rank very well where the quality is just awful. Maybe one day it will be all just about quality. That day has not come yet.
Ron, I’m certainly not saying that quality is “all that matters.” We are still in the early stages of a long transition in search. See Eric Enge’s new post at Search Engine Land: http://searchengineland.com/google-broken-182246
Ranvijay, It’s nice that you “agree,” but would you please provide the documented study that proves Samantha’s belief? Thanks.
A lot of people “see” things that they have not confirmed with a properly conducted, scientifically valid study. Saying “something got retweeted and then I saw it jump in rank” is not such a study. Stay tuned, as Perficient Digital will be releasing such a study about Twitter’s affect on Google in the coming weeks. Ours is based on controlled conditions, not “observations.”
And “they do not include PR as a factor in computing SERPs”? Where are you getting that? Please send me the source of that supposed quote. PageRank is very much still the foundation of Google’s search algorithm. Perhaps you are getting confused with Toolbar PageRank?
Glad it’s complicated. Harder to game that way. There are a jillion people out there whose brains have been infected with an obsession to decode “the secrets”. And as any psychiatrist will say, obsessed people aren’t obsessed with the object (audience/visitors), they’re obsessed with themselves and the high of winning
I was so obsessed with the difficulty of getting quality links from social media that it has literally been giving me head aches. I’m convinced now that it’s not so important today. In a few years though things will definitely change. But I think I have some time and don’t need to rush to get high authority. Great content is all you need. By the way – great content you have in here!
Thanks Pavel! I do try to “eat my own dog food” as they say at Google 😉
Mark, I am a food blogger with a small eCommerce business. Although I don’t understand many of the technical aspects of SEO and social media, what you have said (and your response to the comments) makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for the analysis. I will be following you from now on.
That makes me truly happy Dorothy. I’m an ex-teacher, and nothing makes me happier than knowing I explained something in a way that helped someone to understand!
Completely agree with you Helen. Social media is not just for SEOs, it can give you other benefits also and just like you said Google might be using social signals in future – as a bigger ranking factor.
I don’t have any stuffs related to Samantha’s tweets and beliefs yet I can show you the a brief analysis if you need.
I don’t think I can attach that here.
I think that until Google can successfully crawl both Twiiter and Facebook the way that it wants to, then it should not use them to rank authority. I feel like in time these social network sites will have more of a say in it, but at the minute I feel like they should be left out.
I agree with Kenny. For as long as Google can’t crawl their pages, there isn’t much they can do or use in getting these social networking sites influence search.
This really is true of big organizations and corporations and it also is true of
small mother and pop music organizations. Reciprocate – If a networking contact is helping you,
reciprocate which help all of them back. More
often than not, they may be able leave their e-mail address
to receive revisions on their opinion or they may be able sign in due to
their social media marketing ID (Facebook or Twitter).
Im confused, Should i focus more of my attention on getting more involved with social media or just continue with content marketing. Its a little frustrating. lol
Hi Mark – Everybody has limited time, so the key is to identify a good starting place, one where you can see evidence of their being people from your target market present. Once you have done that, then focus on that one place for a bit and develop momentum. That place might be one single social media site, or perhaps a column in a pretty good site that reaches many of the same types of people who might be prospects for you. Don’t worry about doing it all, you don’t have to. You can read more about this type of thinking here: http://www.copyblogger.com/other-peoples-audiences/
Very interesting read, it does show why though Google is putting so much effort into the G+ platform and the encouragement of authors to set up verification etc. One would surmise that Google went you know what fellas, if this is going to be the state of play the only choice we are going to have is to implement our own social system no matter the flack or how long it takes to get traction.
What makes all this even worse is the scare mongering which creates great confusion in the business place. Should I forget social media, is it all about them adword thingies, or why did we stop radio. It is all a marketing mix, it was simple before digital, we had a solid production to print it was known and easy.
Yes for some commenters you do still and should be putting effort into social media if that is worth while for your business at that time. If you are a small business and screaming for cash maybe putting extra hours into the social media is not the best use of effort.
Again what we mainly have is information overload and the use of statistics that can prove anything in any direction, thinking of the Gallop pole that was realised citing social media plays no role in the sales conversion funnel.
I tend to agree with Matt Cutts on this, whilst we clearly are not privy to Google’s search algo I don’t think there are dark arts at work and I dont think they secretly rank search engine signals ( or elements of ) without telling us .
The crawling part of what he says is the crux of the matter for me , until there comes a day when the bots know exactly what to look for in social and where to index it in Google’s library then I think it will just continue the way it is ,as for G+ there is clearly a strategy from Google to integrate it into everything on search and if you are searching whilst logged into G+ you are getting that relevant UX that Google wants and I guess they just don’t factor FB & Twitter into this ( why would they ) .
Social for me is just about brand building which is crucial ,however I would say if you are going social don’t do it half-hearted you have to go the full hog ! This is why we now see businesses employing young “social media execs” and engineers because in the long run it is worth it brand-wise and engagement-wise with your audience .
Yeah, So I’m kind of on the fence with this. I think I’m going to go with the opinion that social media matters. Even if it doesn’t matter now, it’ll probably matter in 6 months. So worst case, I’ll be ready when they grab hold of those signals.
Kevin, the main takeaway should be if you’re doing the right things to attract relevant social shares, you’re probably in good shape with Google, now and in the future.
This is a bit old post, but still. I still think that Facebook and Twitter aren’t used for direct ranking factors. I mean, Google doesnt give the links on these social networks much credit, but Google can see other signals, like – visits from Facebook and Twitter to your website. I believe that Google is more interested in the visits and the quality of those visits to your website than links coming to your website from social networks.
At the end of the day, bounce rate is what shows it all.
Google might not use Facebook as a social ranking signal provider. But Google indexes Facebook accounts and Facebook posts. We have found, especially in local SEO, that Facebook plays a major role. For example when users in the Google search engine enter “product_type + name_city” they often get Facebook posts or accounts as Google search result. It is therefore worthwhile to maintain all social channels.
Great article even a year later – why would Google use the number of social media followers as a major ranking signal when it is so easy to buy/automate the process. She is learning and evolving from all the attempts to scam her over the years.
As Christian says, we too have had good ranking successes with Facebook pages for local searches and also with Facebook and LinkedIn for national searches that are less competitive. In the latter, the website of the business did not rank on the front page but both its social media pages did – at #1 and #6 respectively.
I am not sure that I have seen individual Facebook status updates or Tweets ranking when I search but I wouldn’t expect anything short to be ranked for any useful search terms – not enough content for Google to make a decision on whether it is the most relevant, up to date answer for that search term.
Jo, it is indeed rare to see social media posts ranking in search for anything significant. I used to be able to sometimes rank Google+ posts for mid-level search terms (I have a very high authority profile), but they seem to have dialed that back to. Of course, Google+ posts can still rank very high for people who follow you there when they search logged in.
The biggest change recently is Tweets being shown for selected search queries, not in the regular results, but in a sliding “carrousel” that displays some of the most recent tweets on the topic.
What an amazing post with so many important information, thank you. Appreciate your analysis. You were careful to discuss correlation vs. causation throughout, which is so important in determining what really works.
Thanks, John. So glad you found it helpful!
I usually don’t believe on all what Matt Cutts says. I personally noticed that Twitter shares & Google +1 has some impact on rankings. Although Facebook has almost no effect on rankings. May be it could be true what Matt Cutts is saying but for me it is hard to believe.
Tauseef, I understand, because when I talk about this I hear all the time from people who share anecdotal “evidence” that social shares affected their rankings. I have three responses:
1) I’m not asking you to believe Matt Cutts. My post offered reasons why what he’s saying is most likely true that are not dependent upon Cutts just saying so.
2) Do you really think Google would ever create a ranking factor so easy to game?
3) The factors that affect any ranking change are highly complex. A few anecdotal incidents where you got some social shares and then rankings rose are simply not evidence. Too many other things could have happened, including coincidence. Do your rankings rise every time you get more social shares for a page? Are you ignoring all the times they didn’t? Also, I covered in the post how getting more social shares can have an indirect effect on rankings.
From recent experiences I would agree that social signals have no affect on rankings but I think the traffic social media can generate probably does.
Couldn’t agree more Mark. A strong, healthy social presence can only help elevate some of the signals Google do take into consideration. And as you say, in all likelihood you will be future proofing to some extent also.
Thanks, Marc. Obviously we agree!
Great seo content. Thanks for information. Google’s library then I think it will just continue the way it is ,as for G+ there is clearly a strategy from Google to integrate it into everything on search and if you are searching whilst logged into G+ you are getting that relevant UX that Google wants and I guess they just don’t factor FB & Twitter into!
Thank you Mark Traphagen . I really appreciate your effort.
I have a facebook company page called and I post news there about what is happening in Oxfod and so on. However, all those news updates I also have posted via a feed from the facebook page onto my actual business website page, so my question is…
I assume that my sending the facebook feed onto my website page is helping google to understand and rank my website page as indeed having relevant regular new info on my website page about Oxford. Note that my website is a site about Oxford.
I hope I am correct in thinking that all this daily update activity is helping my website page? or does it make no difference?
Please note that the website page where the facebook feed appears is at bottom of this website page address which I have inserted into your category page below.
Hi Alastair, not a bad idea to have those Facebook updates appear on your site, if for nothing else to attract people to follow your page (by showing that you post interesting and regular content there).
But I doubt that that display is seen as having much value by Google. First, without looking deeper, I don’t know if the plugin you’re using to display the FB posts is even readable by Google. Even if it is, these are just very short excerpts, so not the kind of content Google would see as high quality.
If you are really interested in driving search traffic to your site, you’d be better off publishing your content there,perhaps as a blog, with quality, useful, in-depth articles about Oxford. Google isn’t just looking for words on a page, or how often you update, there has to be some substance there that visitors to your site would value.
Thanks for publishing such valuable information .
Great piece of information, social media presence can enhance the traffic to your site so, better start using your social signals more wisely.
Thank you for sharing this valuable information! In my own understanding, Social Media will have a huge impact on search engine rankings, Facebook, google+ and twitter and even Pinterest are high ranking websites for search engines which can greatly help your brand visible on all search engines.
Hi Vince – Did you read the post? Keep in mind that all the links from social media sites are NoFollowed, so the authority of those sites doesn’t matter. They don’t pass any PageRank at all.
Even if all links on social media are nofollow, it doesn’t seem wise for Google ignore opinions and votes (links, mentions and hashtags) of over 2 billion people out there. I believe social has some weight but G won’t admit it saying “does not a direct ranking factor” (read between the lines indirect ranking factor).
Interesting discussion, though.
I do agree that they could use it as an indirect factor. Let’s be clear on what that means though. It means that they might use other signals and then use social sharing volume as one (of many) measurements to assess the quality of those other ranking factors. I could see them doing that.
Note: one major reason why they won’t use them as a direct ranking factor is that social signals are under the control of third parties (i.e. the social media sites). Those third parties can cut off Google’s access to those signals at any time, and that is not a risk that Google can afford to take (remember, Facebook is NOT their friend).
In addition to what Eric said, keep in mind one of my points in this article: Google’s indexing of social media posts is very limited. Even with Twitter, where they have had direct “firehose” access to all tweets for over a year, they don’t attempt to index the vast majority of tweets. So social is actually a much more incomplete (and therefore potentially skewed) signal than you think.
Hi I have a question:
My business is currently using an SEO guy to assist with our Google rankings. I have been told that he has automated a twitter sharing group to generate strong social signals, which has been described as proving to Google that 1. our business is real, and 2. assist with our overall SEO ranking.
I am not a techy genius, but feel like our business is being ‘had’ from the information I have read on this page.
Is there any SEO influence via twitter activity if it is not driving traffic back to your website?
I would run, not walk, away from that “SEO guy.” Aside from what I shared in this post as evidence that it is highly unlikely Google derives ranking signals from social media, a good test is this: If I were the search engine, would I count that kind of signal?
Here’s what we know: Google uses social media to discover new content. Definitely. No question there. But beyond that, are they going to allow themselves to be fooled by such juvenile schemes as that proposed by “SEO guy.” Not likely. Get yourself an SEO or SEO agency with proven track record with real, satisfied clients.
Thanks Mark much appreciated, and thanks for the quick response.
How I interpret that, is that they’re treated like any other link. Sure maybe not all are indexed, sure some have nofollows. Even if there’s no nofollow and it’s retweeted 100 times, it’s from the same domain, so not as strong as if it were 100 links from 100 different domains. Stuff like that.
I’m not sure if there’s more to read into it than that, BUT I don’t give up on social links altogether for two reasons:
1. In case there is any indirect effect, because *we dont know* (plus things always change). Ex: maybe links via social w/ nofollows dont pass PageRank but if they appear on the radar with a zillion shares, could that affect the ranking? We can’t definitively say that high share count is entirely ignored, right? Until someone over there just comes out and says it. 🙂
2. Social shares = visibility & awareness. Ex: A new trailer for Game of Thrones S7 launches and HBO puts it on the HBO site and on YouTube, but only shares the HBO site via social networks. That HBO link is being retweeted and shared like crazy, so people know it lives on the HBO site and when they write about it in blog posts and articles and fan sites they have an opportunity to link to it there, potentially affecting that HBO page’s ranking (indirectly, not directly). Without sharing that URL fans would probably just look for it on YouTube (which is probably likely to rank by default too).
When there was a Social Search vertical in Google SERPS, Danny asked Google and Bing a bunch of great questions that they answered in various forms of vagueness, but did acknowledge that they were looking at different social signals like authority. http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389
Seems like none of that really panned out, but that wasn’t *web* search it was *social* search (like video search or image search vertical). Were any parts of the deprecated social search algo useful in testing, and potentially using in the regular web search algo or did the entire social signals algo get thrown away? …. Makes you wonder…
Hi Laura – Great thoughts! A couple of notes:
1. I’m totally on board with the social shares = visibility & awareness benefit of social. That’s exactly I’m on it, and others at Perficient Digital are on it. In fact, that’s the primary way we promote our posts, and we get links from major media to many of our articles. It also helps us build a network of people who read our content, and leads to more people discovering it. This is such an awesome thing, and something we try to help our clients with as well.
2. As for the indirect effect, that’s a tougher one. There is so much data that shows the correlation between social shares and people actually reading the article, or between social shares and content getting links, doesn’t exist. People don’t appear to share the best content. That’s one problem with it. The other is that there is a strategic problem with Google using social signals, and that is, those signals are under the control of a third party, and those third parties could cut Google off from them at any point in time. Remember, Google and Facebook aren’t friends.
Note though, that doesn’t mean Google can’t use social signals in very specific ways, such as discovery of new content. That I believe they do. Or, that doesn’t mean that social activity that causes a slew of searches for a brands content might not be noticed by Google, so there may be some side doors of those types.
Also, regarding the 2010 article by Danny, that was at a time when I believe Google WAS experimenting with social signals. However, all the pronouncements they made about NOT using social signals came after that. I believe there was a change made.
But, as for the value of social, I’m all in. Frankly, the fact that we’ve built something of a social presence, and our promoting content there leads to links (from sites other than social media sites) to our site, that’s enough of an SEO benefit to make me happy!
very very nice post … i appreciate your work…. thanks for such a good informative stuff…
i think there is an impact with social shares… a little average.. but of course google give more portion with their social site which called know google plus. they treat more important than other social sharing site
Love Matts comment on correlation vs causation i regards to social media and google ranking. So many people get that wrong.
Of course, the correlated factor can be a cause of the studied factor; the aphorism doesn’t rule that out. But as you say, one always has to approach correlation with healthy skepticism and a need to investigate further.
This is a great article. Especially the diverse commentary! Is this from 2016?
Thanks! The article was originally written in 2014. I updated it extensively in September of 2015. I still stand by the contents.
Thank you for the very interesting and insightful piece!
You write: “Why? Because it’s very difficult to ascertain individual identities across various social platforms. How do I know that the John Smith I follow on Twitter is the same John Smith I see on Instagram? ”
There are companies that create identity platforms that cut across social media. Perhaps that would help Google verify whether two John Smiths on two social media sites are one in the same person.
I agree that until this problem is solved, there will be much uncertainty.
Social media is really in its infancy still. The majority of content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. is entertainment and not business content. This is slowly changing as companies realize the impact social media can have on their client base.
That being said, verifying content and/or the quality of a business on social media sites is challenging, so I can understand why these sites would not be usable for rankings. I believe that as social media moves into a more mature platform, this could change. It will take time and a lot more professional content on these sites to bring social media content to a point where it could be beneficial to a business as a way to improve ranking.
It will be really interesting to see another update on this process in about five years!
it is good to hear that google is considering tweets and fb status updates individually that good for ranking a website. but it is also true that every post on fb or every tweet on twitter cant have same value. There should be a difference. Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place.
Indeed this is the information we dont know that google may consider our tweets and fb updates for calculating ranks. I am totally agree with you mark.By the way Stunning post. Really i appreciate the effort author of this post made to share the knowledge. This is really a great stuff for sharing. Keep it up . Thanks for sharing.
Nice and informative
Just want to know if buying social signals i.e. 2000 or 3000 at a time would have negative impact on my ranking
Katph, since my article establishes that social media signals have no direct effect on search rankings, buying them would simply be a waste of money; it would have no effect positive or negative. However, the practice could have a profoundly negative effect on your social accounts and your brand, if followers get the impression there is a lot of fake or low quality activity around your accounts. Potentially, such activity could also get your accounts banned by the social media networks themselves.
I love this article. I am bookmarking this for future reference now that I have a Business website that I am working on. Thanks for this
I agree with you. Social media like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and many more have been efective means for champign. For example; soon after we share link on our facebook page there are many of our page follower go through it and check the content. Thi is a direct good side that we can see. And I am sure there are much more
First of all thanks for posting the information
Well facebook and twitter are the giants in social media platforms but we see many facebook commenting plugins does not pass the authority of the links left in the comment box but being active on social media is a different thing altogether as much you get response from the people on the social media platform ultimately someday you will be counted by google. And i believe that once you get popular on social platforms that you do not have to other marketing at all because you will get organic traffic from their directly so i think the people should give equal importance to their social media marketing like they give to SEO
Thanks for your comment “lucky.” I never think of SEO and social media (or other digital marketing tactics) as a zero sum game. That is, doing any of them does not mean you don’t need the others. Nearly all sites could benefit from both better SEO and better social media marketing. You are right, though, that there are many different ways to get relevant traffic. The smart marketer uses as many as possible that are relevant for their site.
Great article, Mark!
I have been researching my competitors (DR from 20 to 34 by MOZ) and I cannot say why they rank higher than me. All the first page results have ~100 social signals each (I know it is not much, because the country and local market is small), they have worse content, slower loading, no SSL and some even have thousands of spammy backlinks including unrelated anchor texts. I can see that only count of backlinks and social signals are the key indicators of my top 10 competitors. I have a DR 05 by MOZ and I cannot raise it. The bounce rate is below 18%. What do you suggest? Getting social signals or building more backlinks? Are local domain TLD backinks more relevant than others like .com .eu ?
Hi – I’d definitely go in the direction of getting more links. As per Mark’s article, we would not expect the social signals to drive rankings for you. Key point though: focus on high value links, which means links from places where potential customers may see you. In a local market, that could mean links from other local businesses, the local chamber of commerce, local university or library sites, and things of this kind.
Definitely what Eric said. I’d just add that if your country is small as you said, then sometimes things will rank simply because there isn’t much competition, and Google has to rank something. That’s a real opportunity for you if you follow Eric’s advice. I probably won’t take as much for you to leap over your competition as it would if you were here in the US.
My idea about it is that Google doesn’t count the links in the tweets and in the facebook status as you have mentioned that there are over 500million tweets a day and lot’s of status updates too . So these kind of links are unimportant to google .However one can make a profile page link from them and i am not sure about that too that it would be indexed or not .
If i am wrong then correct me “Matt” and thanks for posting .
Hi “Matt” (guess you have that in quotation marks because you signed in here as “Stuart Gray”?) – All links, including profile links, on Facebook and Twitter are tagged rel=nofollow, which Google reads as “do not pass any link authority through this link.” So no, they have no SEO value at all. We have seen some evidence that a link on Twitter can sometimes (but not always) get the Google bot to visit a new page and index it, and there has been some annecotal evidence that a lot of social media activity in a short time around a page can sometimes get it bumped temporarily higher in search results, but other than those (and those are never certain), we find no evidence of any direct SEO benefit from links on social media.
Thank you so much for this great article. I am completely new to this field and your article really helpful.
I agree with you about the waste of money and not only regarding the facts that you outlined. Buying followers and likes to me is utter nonsense given that the whole goal of building social media following is to have those users interact with your content and finally achieve conversions. What good are 3000 followers if none of them share your content?
What are the 2017 thoughts on this? I’m debating on whether I want to add a discount on my eCommerce store product pages for either facebook likes or facebook shares.
Obviously, I will generate a lot more of either of these given the much better incentive than the standard and current no-incentive share buttons. My facebook page for this site is lackluster (practically non-existent at this point), so those likes and shares won’t have much reach/translate into many sales.
If these facebook shares and likes don’t impact the SERPS, then I’d probably rather inconvenience and incentivize customers for something else -like product reviews.
I guess what I’m wondering is, whether an influx of shares and then a steady continuation of those shares would help? Maybe they won’t lead to a rise in SERPs but what about SERP stability?
I don’t see anything that has changed here in terms of social influencing SEO. There is one big strategic reason why Google won’t use social media platform engagement data as a signal in their algorithms, and that’s the fact that the social media site can change their systems, or Google’s access to the social data, at a moment’s notice. This actually happened to them with Twitter in the past. And, remember, Facecbook and Google are not friends.
Great Info, I am trying to build up a good Social Media Profile which complements my SEO Strategy. I heard about Google Plus as well, I believe Google gives more priority for it.
Ultimately its there platform and I am sure that won’t have the challenge of Unable to crawl issues 🙂
Social media help to make stong your backlinks profile strong and this way you can get direct few clincs by users. Even this your website gain good traffic and it might be business converts leads also.
I agree with you. Social signals from social media we are active in is still important for SEO. I can see, a post which frequently shared is indexed much faster. And it is surely will drive free traffic especially if the content is what a reader looking for.
A very useful article. Many thanks. Anyway, Do you have any update on this year (2017), I have just tried to create a page and only promoted on my FB pages then compare to another page with similar On-page SEO modification with got a BL from a formal way. It turned out that the first page is rank higher.
I haven’t updated the article recently because I have seen nothing that confirms to me that anything significant has changed since my last update. Beware of ever attributing any ranking change to any one-off activity. What affects ranking is so complex that it is just as likely (actually, more likely in my opinion) that what you saw happened for other reasons that you can’t know. Also, for some queries, the SERPs are just volatile from time to time, sometimes due to Google experimenting or making algorithm changes.
To me, I ran an experiment on Facebook and I can categorically prove that social media signals like more shares onot Facebook can boost rankings on Google. The only pitfall is that if Facebook delete those shares as they normally do, the ranked post on Google tends to fall drastically which is a let down for bloggers. Speaking from experience
Chizoba, can you please link to a published version of your experiment. I’d love to see what your methodology is.
According to my opinion, I don’t think social media affect SEO. however, you need to build your brand then you really need social media. Most of the user daily active on social media every time. if you really need good traffic and branding, you must be active on these sites. but you also want ranking on google is only hard work you perform and search engine optimization techniques.
Long story short, social media does influence SEO to a degree. Correct?
If you are talking about being a DIRECT influence on SEO, the answer is NO, it does not impact it at all.
However, IF you use social media to build your reputation and influence online, then it can have a powerful INDIRECT impact. Here at Perficient Digital, social media helps us reach media, bloggers, and influencers, and some of them choose to write about our content, link to our site, and that does impact SEO.
Believe me – getting people to like your facebook page, instagram, tumblr, twitter, etc… will increase your ranking from the social aspect of networking.
Each time you share that link – always consider every like, favorite, share, and comment as gold – because now in 2017 our networks may lead us to thousands of opportunities.
I really have been enjoying getting involved in youtube and meeting new bloggers late at night surfing the web!
Blogger outreach is easier by having a following too. Maybe the algorithm won’t impact it much today – but I promise it means a lot more when customers look at a Facebook with likes VS none.
Also, it’s important to build all your social accounts and link them to your domain, it’s a great way to establish your brand too.
Again, the law of reciprocity wins – maybe not actual algorithm checks but I promise you will not be disappointed by building a youtube video for every page and post you make.
Hi, This is a helpful article for me, I really appreciate you efforts.
Shares on facebook adre indexable .. so maybe it is a ranking factor?
Hi, Thomas. Glad the article helped you. If you go back to the article, you’ll see in sections 1 and 2 I make the point that Google does not index all social media posts, even from Twitter where they have complete access. In the Matt Cutts video embedded in the post, he explains that because Google neither sees all social posts nor does it try to assess them all, social is too incomplete a signal to be relied on for search.
And Google sees and indexes even less of Facebook. See our study showing just how much of Facebook is indexed by Google.
Thanks for this informative content but I am still in a dilemma. When I ask some people from SEO industry whether or not Social Signals still count in as the ranking factor, then they have a 50-50 opinion on it.
Matt Cutts deny the social signal not being the part of ranking factors then many say that they listed a piece of content just via social signals.
The key factor that most people overlook is that Google cannot have their algorithms dependent on signals coming from 3rd party sites that can shut off Google’s access to those signals at any time. Remember, Google and Facebook are NOT friends.
Thanks for this great article, very informative. Might change how we do SEO in the future. Always though that social signals boost rankings.
That’s great to hear, Paul. Thanks!
Thank you so much for this great article. I am completely new to this field and your article really helpful.
social media is very important for brand awareness in the long term, increasing the brand awareness and site hits with traffic from these channels. If great social media campaigns and activities are created and interact, this will also directly affect the number of entries in the positive direction. We can say that it is more effective to create brand value, at this point I agree with you.
I experienced sharp rise in rankings after one image from my website went viral on facebook. it got more than 1000 likes. Not sure how many shares though.
Congratulations on that, Peter, but one off anecdotes do not a proof make. Search ranking is so complex, and so much of it hidden, that you can never be sure that any one thing caused a ranking change. Just as likely that your Facebook success and the ranking shift were purely coincidence. In fact, I’d say more likely, given the other evidence I produce in this post. People have images go viral on Facebook all the time without any corresponding ranking change in Google. If it were really that simple, people would have discovered it and would be abusing it, as it would be very easy to do.
Is there any SEO influence via twitter activity if it is not driving traffic back to your website?
I think my post makes it clear that our position is that there is no direct influence on search rankings. The main SEO benefit of Twitter or any social network is to build awareness of and an audience for your content, which can lead to more web links to it, which definitely directly influence SEO.
Work for the long term. Patience, patience, patience! There is no quick short term organic fix. Undertake seo work a little and often. Play by the rules. If you can stick to this, you will be climbing the search engines month by month. Its a marathon, not a sprint.
Unfortunately our previous comments have been deleted 🙁
Hannah and Nat are just trying to show our support to this fantastic article.
Keep up the great work!
lots of love,
Hannah and Nat xxx
Sorry Hannah and Nat. Here’s a piece of advice: when you post multiple short comments across many posts on the same site that say no more than “thanks!” or “This is great” it looks like spam. You’ll have better success at getting your comments approved on many sites that moderate comments if you add some substance that indicates you actually read the post. Choose one thing in the post that you can point out as helpful, or have a question about. Thanks again, and glad you like our stuff!
Google takes into account the links on Twitter and associates the surrounding text as an anchor. There was a huge amount of experiments on this topic.
I can assure you that this is very limited. Can you provide links to any of these experiments? I’d love to evaluate them.
A very effective article for beginners.
Thank you for the very interesting and insightful article. I understand that was written in 2015. Does this still apply for 2017-2018?
Hey, Mark, thank you for sharing this insightful article. I am always on the lookout as to what can positively impact a website and make it more SEO friendly.
You are right, with almost a million websites born almost every day all over the world, Google, no matter it popularity and established reputation as a powerful search engine, it still has some limitations. It cannot index all web pages and information, so it has learned to become more discerning as to what websites they are going to pick up more by analyzing different elements to establish the quality of a website.
A podcast episode that I have listened a while ago talks about the importance of building and establishing Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthy when it comes to increasing your internet footprint: https://blog.spinweb.net/spinradio-episode-54-how-trustworthiness-and-risk-affects-your-seo.
very very nice post … i appreciate your work…. thanks for such a good informative stuff…
Good thing that google does not let Social Media affect SEO directly, indirectly there is an influence of course. Our brand Boxie24 offers on-demand storage solutions and sustainable moving boxes all over Europe and now in New York as well. Although we have done (and are still doing) a lot of things to become a cool / trustworthy brand on social media; moving & storage just isn’t sexy enough like fitness or clothing brands for example. Of course we still do it for trust on the web and participate in charity to give back. But for us it is hard to make it a strong channel. Busy with our blog now around storage, moving, organizing your home, cleaning tips etc. To increase impact.
Gerrit, working to stimulate positive, user-generated conversations about your brand across the web (not just social media) can actually help Google to better understand your brand and what your site should potentially rank for. See this chat our CEO Eric Enge had with Google’s Gary Illyes about how Google uses online brand mentions.
Mark, thank you very much. Interesting article. I will be more active on Storage & Moving forums with my brand. We are already on it, but will increase the effort.
I’ve come to believe that social media, if anything, makes one less memorable. I’d rather my clients find my website rather than my social media account, especially since I have more freedom to present myself properly on a well designed site. Still, I understand it helps raise awareness. It’s just that the effort could be put elsewhere for similar results.
Matthew, I would certainly agree that there is NO one size-fits-all solution for marketing of any kind. However, I can not agree with your first statement. Sure you’d rather your clients just “find” your website (who wouldn’t? marketing with no effort? bring it on!), but would they. Not likely.
Ok article.. the sheer volume has nothing to do with why Google doesn’t attempt to index all of the social posts generated. They don’t have “true” access to any of the social media’s backend. They tried to do it with authorship but failed.
Lovely Article! Really like your sixth point, Social Media definitely should be used for branding and traffic instead of SEO.
We have always felt that purchasing followers and trying to grow social accounts just for the sake of having thousands of followers is a huge waste of time. On the other hand, participating in high-end link building techniques helps to improve rankings and actually brings results. Thank you for all the valuable information that you have shared on Perficient Digital.
Thanks for the insightful article Mark! I too believe the only real benefit from social is creating brand awareness and getting some traffic to the site.
Does the traffic from social medias bring notable change in ranking?
Like everyone we also post our blogs and related contents in social medias and getting some traffic on that, but i don’t know whether it increased our ranking or not.
Thanks for the article!
I think my article answers your question!
Great analysis, Mark. We need more level-headed thinking and explanation here. You nailed it with the point about Google not using signal that is incomplete.
A very effective article for beginners.
As time goes bye it seems Google’s capabilities increase dramatically. Nonetheless, google cannot and should not lis all social media posts and all blog posts.
Great article – thanks for the insight Mark.
A fantastic article thanks, Mark. Even if social doesn’t seem to impact upon ranking directly I believe that there are still indirect impacts such as leveraging socials to encourage the use of a specific brand name in search. If you have a large social audience you can begin to have a bit of sway in the way that people search for your brand.
Great article! Connect social media with your website to drive traffic and to gain brand identity.
Unfortunately, the power of social media is not known to many people yet. If you are actively involved you can achieve a lot.
Well, Really a nice post. i liked the way you explain it.
Thanks for the information you shared. Thanks
social media can be a marketing beast but you need to have the right approach, for example Grant Cardone has turned his social media into an avalanche of sales, but you need to have a plan, for sure.
Thank you for the great advice about being on social media not for search rankings but to build up your brand. I personally have social media accounts for that very reason. I have found that linking to social media accounts from each of my websites is an essential part of SEO. Google bots like websites that look real and “Lived in.”
If you have a great followers on your end, then social media can help what you post on that. Otherwise in my opinion it wont have a notable change. Different product or services have to try different platform to generate conversion.
Social media is mostly branding not link building
Thanks for sharing this, keep up the good work.
Thank you for the info. We use social media very actively and have picked up a few tips.
This quote tells you everything you need to know: “Supporting that, Google’s John Mueller stated categorically in an August 14, 2015, video that Google does not use social signals in its search ranking factors. And John Mueller and Gary Illyes both reiterated this stand in June 6, 2016 tweets.” Social media does not influence natural search!!! Thanks for a great article.
Thank you for the insightful information!