Facebook Shares Better Than Links For Google Ranking?

    June 13, 2012
    Chris Crum
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Searchmetrics released a new study finding that the volume of Facebook shares a web page receives is closely correlated with how high it ranks in Google searches. “At the same time, too many Google AdSense ads on a page are likely to have a negative effect on search visibility,” a representative for Searchmetrics tells WebProNews.

“The study analyzed search results from Google for 10,000 popular keywords and 300,000 websites in order to pick out the issues that correlate with a high Google ranking,” the representative explains. “The findings come at a critical time when many websites, as you know, try to recover or make sense of the recent Google updates like Penguin and Panda.”

According to the study, some of the top factor categories that correlate most highly with a successful Google ranking are:

1. Facebook Shares
2. Number of Backlinks
3. Tweets

Ranking Factors in the US

Ranking Factors UK

The firm highlights the following as key findings:

1. Social media signals show very high correlation with high rankings

2. Top brands appear to have a ranking advantage

3. Too much advertising is a handicap

4. Quantity of links is still important but quality is vital

5. Keyword domains still frequently attract top results

Social Media And Search Rankings

There’s been a lot of talk about how social media’s impact on search this week, with industry conference SMX Advanced having taken place. It’s interesting to see this study site Facebook shares and Tweets as major signals. It’s not incredibly surprising, given that these are two of the Internet’s major social networks, but it is interesting that they top Google’s own Google+.

At SMX, Google’s Matt Cutts spoke briefly about the +1 button and Google+ as they relate to SEO. SMX’s Danny Sullivan asked him about the topic, and he said (according to a liveblog), “When we look at +1, we’ve found it’s not necessarily the best quality signal right now.”

Sullivan asked Cutts if you have to be on Google+ to rank well in Google. According to the liveblog, his response was, “No!!!! It’s still early days on how valuable the Google+ data will be.”

That’s not to say that Google+ isn’t important to search, and if Google has its way, it will likely only grow in importance.

Here’s an excerpt from the study about Google+:

Social media signals show extremely high correlation: social signals from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are frequently associated with good rankings in Google’s index.

A note on Google+: analyzing Google +1s with a Spearman correlation, we found a significant result of 0.41. From this we can assume that the quantity of +1s has the strongest correlation of any of the metrics analyzed in the study.

However, we have not included this figure in the overview because we consider it to be too unreliable. This is because Google+ does not currently have enough users and the possibility of a +1 leading directly to changes in SERPs follows accordingly, since pages receive +1s in the order that they would already be placed without them. When Google+ has values that are stronger and more independent from SERPs, these values will also be included in the overview. That Google is trying to make Google+ an important player is indisputable and therefore SEOs should be sure to keep an eye on further developments.

Then there’s the fact that your Google+ profile is still directly tied to authorship in Google, and that helps you search visibility. It’s also heavily used in Google’s personalized results (Search Plus Your World), which we see all the time.

Just don’t expect +1s to be as valuable as Facebook likes or tweets unless Google+ growth gets to Facebook or Twitter-like numbers.

In fact, there was also some talk at SMX about Pinterest being a significant signal for Google. Even though the social network is still in its infancy, it’s gained a lot of popularity very quickly.

Bing’s Duane Forrester, in discussing Penguin recovery, recently wrote, “It didn’t take long for the Pin It button to start popping up on websites. And it didn’t take a passing grade on the MENSA quiz to see it coming, did it? Rapid growth, huge adoption, media buzz, your friends recommending it, and so it goes. An exercise in obviousness that you’d better pay attention to this little gem.”

Of course, the same session suggested that Google+ was a huge signal, beating out the others. Here are a couple of tweets straight from the session:

Social Signals Test: G+ most, Facebook like least, twitter over time, Pinterest strong overall. @yerrbo #smx #11a
1 day ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto
 Reply  · Retweet  · Favorite

Testing what social signals help with Google surprise, Google+ was huge, but also Pinterest seems to build good links @yerrbo #smx #11a
1 day ago via Twitter for Android · powered by @socialditto
 Reply  · Retweet  · Favorite

Of course different signals will be stronger for different sites. It’s likely that any of them can play a significant role with enough engagement.

  • http://www.appfortaxis.com Martyn

    Great article, it is not as easy as it once was to get facebook shares, but even ten or twenty are helpful if you have got the balance right with the rest of your SEO less is more, more or less lol

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      It doesn’t help that posting articles to your Facebook Page only gets the article in front of a small percentage of your entire fan base. Of course, you can always pay to get it in front of more.

  • http://www.appfortaxis.com Martyn

    The use of a humour fan page which jumps on the latest funny picture as it is going viral can help. Especially if a call to action is used to help get that fan base sharing whatever link is currently the flavour of the month. In fact, quite effective if interlinked with your own business pages.

  • http://www.tone.co.uk Anthony

    Can’t quite get my head round how all this data is calculated and analyzed BUT it’s clear that if you want to help your chances of climbing the SERPs then being active on social media channels is a must. Once active though, the difficulty is getting the followers/fans and the re-tweet/shares. Ultimately it all comes down to producing great content in the first place. I hate to say it but “Content is king” :)

  • http://sportsbooksforbabies.com/ Kenneth Ashe

    So advertising with Facebook might be helpful for SEO.

    • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

      Links on Facebook are typically not followed links, so the most anybody is going to see Facebook influencing what a search engine thinks about a particular page on a site is through the like buttons, and even then I’m sure if Google would consider them a strong signal if at all since there is a lot of like spam on Facebook.

  • http://2012Taxes.org Steve

    So if you used to rank first for 10 keywords but never got involved in Facebook but instead having been working within Google+, you now barely rank for any of those keywords?

  • http://dizzyseo.tumblr.com/ dizzyseo





    Perhaps the items that received more facebook likes or shares were also more link-worthy items.

    ALSO- Google will never use Facebook data as part of the algorithm. Facebook is a COMPETITOR. Have you heard of Google Plus?

    • OSB

      A bit spammy, but I agree correlation is not causation. Are they popular in search results because of social shares, or popular in social shares because of search results? :)

      The point in social shares isn’t search results, but gaining traffic from those social sites.

      The focus really needs to be on humans (the people who read the content and create the most valuable links back) and not search engines.

  • http://www.SearchROBOT.net Rob

    Letting Facebook Users decide SERPs in google, surely not. Google +1 or some other site will eventually kill Facebook. Look at my Space. FaceBook new signups have peaked about a year ago, what is facebook selling – advertising.
    Important ranking factors – Quality of Content, Navigation, Quality Links. Have these attributes and your page will be popular.
    What sites specifically where used in the study ? are they of a certain topic or random ?

  • http://xfinity.page4.me/ Bennet_Marky

    It is surprising to know that Facebook shares have the highest page ranking. Basically, it shows that many people are spending a lot of time in social networking websites. The personal face to face communication i.e. the direct communication that people have is becoming more and more less.

  • http://www.collinsonfencing.com/ Stephen Grant

    Wait – aside from the facebook stuff – you are saying having the keywords in the Title and H1 and the word count (which could all be great content) are all a negative?!?