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Social media signals' influence on Google ranking

     
2:45 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Not sure if this was shared here already, but it is some pretty interesting and thorough research: [seomoz.org...]

According to the results, FB Shares has more correlation than Twitter and than regular links to higher SERPS.

That 2nd conclusion is astounding, but it does not necessary show that FB Shares are the cause for the high ranking (which I doubt). It probably shows that higher ranked pages also get more Shares on FB, which would make sense, as you need to 1st find the pages on Google in order to be able to share them on FB.

This opens an interesting circular argument for Google's engineers (and use webmasters too). Just because a page is found high up in the SERPS it might get Shared on other sites more; does these Share signals mean that the page should be even higher in the SERPS (maybe yes, a little, or maybe not at all).

In any case, the most important conclusion from the article is that we should go after FB Shares and not FB Likes.
7:04 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In my recent experience, Facebook has more of a long term affect and Twitter is a shorter, "fresh reults" thing but with a bigger pop than a FB share for the time it's active. I'm still collecting this kind of data on a wide scale, so I also cannot confirm that this is anything more than a general impression right now.
7:23 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm still trying to wrap my mind around social media/engagement so I'm stumped as to how Google can use FB data. Bear with me on this question:

How can Google measure FB shares? If people share a page with their friends on FB, how would Google know (unless people have their walls visible to everyone and search engine spiders)? I realize the "Like" or "Share" button on a webpage will show the number of likes/shares, but I am finding that a lot of pages are displaying fake Like buttons with very a very high number of likes (often for another domain). Can Google even even detect the number of likes shown in the iframed FB like button?

I have a FB page for one of my sites with about 1500 fans, I link to the FB page from my website, but it seems to have no effect. Rankings have only dropped since I added it well over a year ago.

If Google can't measure FB shares/likes, then maybe the correlation of rankings with shares is an indirect result of linkage (as a result of the sharing or other buzz/natural linkage, but not the shares themselves...a page with a lot of shares is probably popular with a lot of inbound links).
7:09 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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CRobb305. You can query facebook's API to fetch like statistics for any url:

[api.facebook.com...]
7:42 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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>>In my recent experience, Facebook has more of a long term affect and Twitter is a shorter, "fresh reults" thing but with a bigger pop than a FB share for the time it's active. I'm still collecting this kind of data on a wide scale, so I also cannot confirm that this is anything more than a general impression right now.

Agree 100%. In my experience Facebook shares are far, far more valuable than Twitter. Longer, better conversion, better engagement.

So it wouldn't be a surprise for Google to give them more weight.

I'm not seeing any effect on ranking personally, but then I've been Pandalized and I don't think any number of social signals are being considered for me anymore until there's some adjustment in the Panda algorithm.
8:34 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I tried to use "Share" but I read that it has been replaced by "Like". So share and like are the same thing now?
9:45 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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That article failed to consider the echo chamber effect inherent to passive citation acquisition. There's an echo chamber effect to the way people share information on the web that I believe distorts not only these kinds of signals but run of the mill link signals, too.

For example, there is a kind of forum spammer that pretends to be knowledgeable by running the OP's query into Google then cutting and pasting their "discussion response" from one of the top five ranking websites. Non-spammer forum members do a similar thing. I see this every day in what people are linking to. Someone asks a question, another person Googles it. The link to an existing top five ranked site goes up.

Once a site ranks in the top five the site will begin to receive casual links simply from ranking in the top five. While it's important that the ranking page answer the query in order to get the link, once it satisfies this need the ranking becomes self-reinforcing, the link acquisition goes on autopilot.

I suspect Facebook sharing and other methods of spreading awareness of a site follows this trend as well. Google probably doesn't have to filter for this but if someone is going to do a study on Facebook ranking influence, I believe the better way is to actually move the SERPs (or not) rather than attempting to extract meaning from correlating the SERPs with Facebook data.

The above is one scenario Rand did not and could not investigate, as this was a study over the course of weeks. Still, he could have mentioned this as a possibility.

Link data was present for nearly every result we examined (99.9%+), which is to be expected, but social data? Of this magnitude? Even for plenty of weird, uninteresting queries? Shocking. If you had asked me to guess, I would have said we'd find Facebook share data on maybe 5-10% of the results - 61% is mind-boggling.


It's not mind boggling or shocking if you consider that citation patterns can follow a self-reinforcing pattern.

I noticed this phenomenom many years ago when I acquired a link from the ZEAL directory and started receiving traffic from sites that had copied and pasted those links into their website "links" pages. After Google became popular my sites started passively acquiring links from top five rankings in Google. As mentioned at the beginning of the post, I can see this kind of self-reinforcing linking in the links that forum members post. It's a common pattern and not surprising to see correlation of SERPs in FB, where FB data reflects the top ranked websites, not the other way around.

I am not denying that FB/Twitter can move the SERPs. This post [webmasterworld.com] is a better read about how that can happen. I'm just pointing out a flaw in how the data was interpreted at SEOMoz.
11:25 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I tried to use "Share" but I read that it has been replaced by "Like". So share and like are the same thing now?

Not "the same" but since February they are very close - see Facebook's Like Button Gets an Upgrade [webmasterworld.com]. Even more, Facebook said at the time that they will continue to support "Share" but not develop it any further. "Like", however will continue to evolve.

Facebook Spokeswoman Malorie Lucich tells us that while they’ll continue to support the Share button, Like is the “recommended solution moving forward.”

“The Like button is easy to implement, encompasses the functionality of Share, and offers additional features (such as faces), while being lightweight for users,” Lucich said.

[mashable.com...]
So as far as social signals go, it looks like "Share" already has one foot out the door.
 

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