Facebook Shares Better Than Links For Google Ranking?

    June 13, 2012
    Chris Crum

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.