Rand Fisking of SEOmoz recently gave a presentation that included a section of how they have documented a correlation between Facebook “likes” of a page to its ranking within the search results. His presentation received a bunch of chatter and last week he wrote it up at the SEOmoz blog to illustrate that correlation.
The article is worth the time to read, and re-read it because it really helps you to understand where Google is, especially right now, and where the near-term future lies.
When you are logged into Google and do a search you see some search results you may not see otherwise. Below is when I’m logged into Google and do a search for my favorite barbecue joint:
The interesting thing in the screenshot above is that the Twitter feed for The Pit is showing up as the 4th search result. Since me and ThePitBBQ are friends on Twitter and actually chat regularly, Google assumes that link is important to me and floats it up.
When I’m logged out:
The result for their Twitter account has disappeared from the top of my search results.
If you didn’t catch what happened and why it’s important stop right here. Your search results are now being affected by your friends and what they like and recommend.
This isn’t new, Google has been pushing their “profile” pages for a while, and Bing is doing something very similar.
That fact alone is enough to make you start building out your social graph. If you are an in-house SEO then you have to wonder if you can compete with a big agency that has a much wider net to cast.
Maybe that doesn’t impress you because you know that only about 20% of searchers are logged into Google.
If you just want to stare at some social networking data that will bring you up to date start at the latest social media report out of the Pew Internet group on Social networking sites and our lives.
The report has some great stats. Did you know that only 4 out of 5 Americans say they used the Internet? What is that 5th person doing with all their time?
The number of those using social networking sites has nearly doubled since 2008 and the population of SNS users has gotten older.
In this Pew Internet sample, 79% of American adults said they used the internet and nearly half of adults (47%), or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one of social networking site (SNS). This is close to double the 26% of adults (34% of internet users) who used a SNS in 2008. Among other things, this means the average age of adult-SNS users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult SNS users are now over the age of 35. Some 56% of SNS users now are female.
Facebook dominates the SNS space in this survey: 92% of SNS users are on Facebook; 29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.
So now it’s clear – everyone and their aunt is on Facebook.
Does that matter to search optimizers? Um, yeah.
Last year if you wanted to rank for the term “big red dogs” the best way to do it was to buy the domain bigreddogs.com.
Over the past 12 months many things have changed. Direct match domains have become much less powerful and Facebook “likes” have a very strong correlation to higher search results.
Another study out of SEOmoz shows Facebook and Twitter’s influence on Google’s rankings
This data was so unexpected that the guys at SEOmoz didn’t believe it, so they started digging deeper. When they dug even deeper it was even more obvious that there is a super strong correlation between Facebook likes and page rankings.
Twitter is a distant second to Facebook as far as influencing rankings.
So where does this leave us?
Social signals are just that – SIGNALS. They are one of many signals that the search engines use. With that said, I feel like they will continue to evolve and mature as the socially connected web continues to grow and displace the document web in share of time that people actually spend online.
As we move towards a much more mobile online world, nobody wants to search for answers the old “desktop” way – so information will need to be consumed differently and shared differently.
So here’s the take aways:
- Get more connected socially.
- Make sure your website makes it easy for people to share your content, especially to Facebook.
- Make your site better in every way!
- A better looking site gets shared & linked to more often
- A user friendly site gets shared & linked to more often
Other resources and articles you should read for more information:
- How Facebook Says Likes & Social Plugins Help Websites via Search Engine Land
- What Social Signals Do Google & Bing Really Count? from Search Engine Land
- First Comprehensive Study on Sharing from ShareThis & StarCom MediaVest Group
- Facebook Like Button Vs. Facebook Share: Why I’m Keeping Both from Daggle
- The Science of Social Timing Part 1: Social Networks from KISS Metrics