Social Signals: Do They Matter?

Google’s former head of webspam, Matt Cutts released a video tackling the question of social signals back in 2014, and despite this being 4 years ago, his answer is still relevant today. The video focuses on Facebook and Twitter as vehicles for SEO success.

The video addresses the question, “Are pages from social media sites ranked differently?” to which Matt Cutts’ response is no, they are “treated like any other page.” So why this blunt denial that social signals affect rankings?

It has to do with the micro-changes that take place on all social pages. People move from “In A Relationship” to “It’s Complicated”. Users follow  and block each other in a heartbeat. All of these constant changes in followers, relationships, statuses, and more are extremely difficult for the Google Bots to track. The bots are more accustomed to checking a page at “finite periods of time,” for the sake of argument, let’s say, every week. The difficulty for Google comes from tracking all these changes in real time. They don’t want to believe data that is out-dated and just plain wrong.

So then all social media focus should be abandoned?

Absolutely not. Social signals are still great drivers of traffic and awareness and as such, hold SEO benefits. Great content is shared because it is great content, thus making it rank well. So to summarize, if you are making great content that people care about and want to read, social media can be your SEO friend.

This video was released in 2014, and since then, Social Media has changed and evolved,  but the answer to the question, “Are pages from Social Media ranked differently?” still remains the same.

Google still treats Facebook and Twitter pages (as well as other Social Media sites that have emerged since 2014) like any other webpages for search. However, for the reasons listed above, not all of these pages are set to be indexed by Google. In addition, Google still does not use number of followers on Facebook or Twitter as signals for search ranking.

In the video Matt makes it clear that Google rankings of social media pages could change in the future. It’s been 4 year since this video was released, and currently, these changes have not been made, but that doesn’t mean that they never will.

Matt was quick to make the distinction between social media and Facebook and Twitter. Google+ is left out of this discussion. This links in to something else he mentioned. Google hopes to understand social connections better in the future. Something I would argue they are using Google+ to perfect.

This medium has seen ‘Circles’ brought to the forefront of its usability. What is this if not a way of asking people to clearly delineate friendships and how they work? Getting ahead of the game in terms of social relationships?

Having watched this video and thought of the ramifications, I feel the best advice I can give would be to power on with social media efforts. Google has their hands full trying to work out how best to deal with it, but they will figure it out eventually. Google+ may be key to this.

Matt Cutts’ full video can be seen here. Do you reach the same conclusion?

Originally Posted On 3/11/14. Updated On 1/31/18

Jan, 31, 2018