Google Confirms Use of Social Signals
Google Confirms Use of Social Signals

After months of speculation, Google have finally confirmed that they are using ‘social signals’ (information on Twitter followers and Facebook Likes) in their search results calculations.

Currently, Google is using your social popularity in the main as an influencing factor in their real-time search engine, but in the video post from Matt Cutts (see below) it seems that it won’t be long before we start to see this creeping into the ‘main’ (i.e. web) search results.

So, should you go out and ‘buy’ in a ton of followers? Unsurprisingly, this isn’t encouraged by Matt Cutts: “In the same way that PageRank depends on not just the number of links, but the quality of those links, you have to think about what are the followers who mean quality. Who are the people who actually are not just bots or some software program…”.

What do Google mean by ‘quality’? Well, think about the follow/follower ratio, frequency of tweets, number of retweets, the destination of the links in your tweets etc. Tools such as twittergrader may give a hint as to the kind of things Google will be considering when evaluating your Twitter account strength and authority.

And as for Facebook? Well, Google are just currently taking into account public profiles – no surprise there.

So what else do we know? Well, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land put some questions to Google and Bing about how they are using social signals. Here’s a lightening fast summary:

Google = Retweets help organic and news rankings, Google do compute Twitter user authority, links in Facebook posts as powerful as those Tweeted.

Bing = Use follow/follower ratio, they also compute Twitter user authority but not for Facebook users, see links posted on both Twitter and Facebook as more authoritative.

What are the implications of this confirmation from Google? Well, the admission that during summer 2010 Google started to incorporate social signals into their algorithms is a wake up call to those who believe that they can ignore social media and hope to maintain their current search engine rankings. It’s a vindication for all those (including our Insights Director, Dr Dave Chaffey) who have been saying for some time that social and search need to go hand in hand. If you want to keep your search engine rankings, ensure that your Facebook and Twitter strategy is sound – and you’ll benefit from the positive effects of an engaged customer base to boot!

Still need convincing? Here’s the video post from Matt Cutts… enjoy!

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About the author:

John Newton has 14 years of strategic marketing experience across Online Display, Search Marketing and TV and Outdoor Advertising, in companies which include Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. John has written on blog monetisation for Web Designer magazine and was the editor of ClickThrough’s two books. John is a CIM Chartered Marketer.