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In 2010, Danny Sullivan, the chief editor of Search Engine Land, claimed that social signals impact ranking of web pages in Google and other search engines. A few days later, Matt Cutts, head of Google Web Spam Team, confirmed Sullivan’s statement. Since then, web site builders who aim to get high page ranking on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing began spending time to enhance their social signals.  Some even got to the point of buying likes or shares. It has become common to see an advertisement on internet about several thousands of Likes for sale or follows, or even +1 for Google plus. Internet marketers are willing to do anything to be at the top of the results on major search engines.

There have been conjectures about the impact of social media signals from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites on the ranking of your web site. The belief that the more likes you have on Facebook, the higher your web pages will be ranked by Google have driven web marketers to get as many likes as they can, either from their friends or acquaintances and even from strangers by paying to like the pages. Some web site owners have spent considerable amounts paying for liking their fan pages, thinking that this can make their web pages get indexed and ranked higher by Google.

Truth Revealed About Social Signals

Social signals impacting ranking in Google

Source: Moz

Before we move ahead check this chart for the Ranking Factors – Social Signals

Four years after social signals have been declared as effective tools to get high ranking, results of a research and Matt Cutts’s latest statement that these signals do not impact rankings have made many website owners confused. But since Google has undergone many changes in the past year including the way they index and rank web pages, this change on the role of these signals in web page ranking did not come as a big surprise. The first study conducted to determine the impact of likes on Facebook, as well as shares, was conducted by Eric Enge, a consultant at the Stone Temple Consulting. For his study, he focused on how the Likes and the Shares affect ranking by Google.  For the likes, he chose 6 web pages and had them liked. There were 900 likes in just a few days. However, Google did not crawl the web pages or indexed them. This led him to conclude that this social signal does not affect the ranking of a web page.

Enge speculated that the result is caused by the fact the Google cannot check the authority of the people liking web pages on Facebook. With backlinks, for example, Google can check if the link comes from a website with high page rank and authority while likes on Facebook can only be counted but there is no way for the Google bots to see whether the like comes from a person of authority. These findings have brought lots of changes on the SEO practices of web site owners.

Watch here a debate on Google + and SEO

 

Aside from the findings of this study, it is no other than Matt Cutts, pointing out recently that Facebook likes or Twitter followers do not help improve page ranking of web pages. According to him, this is because Facebook profiles and likes, as well as those of Twitter change frequently. Moreover, there are instances when even Google is blocked from a Facebook account, making it impossible to establish relevance of a connection or social signal. Just like Enge, Matt Cutts concluded that social signals have no direct impact on the ranking of web pages.

When the “shares” are taken into consideration, the findings of Enge were inconclusive because of the small number of sample population. Enge asked 50 people to share web pages of several sets. However, the shares averaged 10 shares only. Results showed that Google does not use shares to find and index web pages, leading him to conjecture that these signals have nothing to do with page rank.

Matt Cutts, likewise, stated that a great content makes a web page rank high because readers like it, not because the page got many likes on Facebook, which is true. In fact, some people liking the page do not even read the article before hitting the like button. In short, for him, social signals do not cause a page to rank high. Watch the video below and listen as Matt Cutts explains why these signals do not determine page ranking.

Check this video from Matt denying the fact.

 

The Value of Social Signals in Traffic Generation

As Matt Cutts pointed out, social signals does not cause high ranking. However, they should not be disregarded because they help generate traffic. For marketing purpose, these signals can bring in more people to see your site and convert them into active customers later. One aim of having high page rank is to be easily seen in the internet. Posting your pages on Facebook or Twitter is a short cut to becoming more visible without being on the first page of a search engine results.

However, social signals are still very important for people who engage in internet marketing. Data reveals that by 2017, the number of social media users will most likely exceed 2 billion and people will be spending more time using multiple social media networks. Hence, despite the findings that these signals do not impact page ranking of web pages, they will be affecting marketing trends especially in internet marketing.

Oh! Matt confirms here that Google do consider these signals….confusing?

 

The role of social signals in traffic generation must not be disregarded especially for people who are using their web sites to market products and brands. Marketing strategies use social media as leverage. When people you know especially your friends endorse a product or brand, your tendency is to consider buying the product because you think that these people will not endorse it if it is not good or effective. This is also true with content. Once a friend shares a link to a web site, you will be inclined to click the link and see why your friend liked it and why he shared it to you. As a result, traffic to the web site increased and once it becomes highly popular, Google or other search engines will notice it and index it. In short, although Likes and Shares will not make Google crawl your web site and index it right away, once people start visiting your site and traffic increased, you will most likely get noticed by search engines, including Google.

Perhaps, there is no tangible proof that social signals have any bearing on a web page ranking in short term. But when a website is liked and shared consistently and people start visiting it, these signals can help get your site noticed, indexed, and ranked. And of course, Google policies change a lot and no one can tell how the search engines would see the worth of these signals in the near future in improving ranking of web pages.

So all said we believe that social signals do play some role in ranking because:

1. More social sharing brings more traffic
2. More content sharing
3. More probability that people link to you
4. More links so chances of ranking increases

Let us know if you have something to add to this, we would love to read your comments.