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March 10, 2014

Revisiting the State of Social Search

Last month, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, confirmed social signals from Twitter and Facebook do not factor into Google’s search algorithm. Twitter and Facebook are not given any preferential crawl treatment and are treated just like any other site.

If you think this sounds a bit contradictory to what you’ve been hearing about the rise of social SEO, you’re not alone. At one time Google did report on real-time social search and Twitter played a significant role.

What changed? Here’s a quick recap:

The deal allowing Google to include Twitter updates in real-time search expired in July 2011. There was some debate over why the deal was allowed to expire, but many surmise the release of Google’s own social efforts, Google+, had a lot to do with it. Facebook also took steps to ensure Google+ did not integrate with its network.

Now, Google does not give preferential treatment to sites like Twitter and Facebook simply because they can’t. As Cutts mentions, it’s a risky investment for Google engineers to spend time on evaluating data from social platforms knowing they could be blocked in the future.

Does this mean brands should drop their social strategies altogether?

Absolutely not. Here’s why:

While Google does not crawl pages for its number of tweets, likes, or shares, Google does actively try to rank and understand the influence of specific author identities online.

Clearly this is a hint at the importance of Google+ authorship markup, but this also suggests Google will eventually incorporate a wider scope of sites in its understanding of author influence. In the announcement video, Cutts used SearchEngineLand’s Danny Sullivan as an example. Since Sullivan is a widely recognized SEO expert, Google wants to serve what he posts regardless of whether it’s to an authoritative site or a little known social forum or network.

SearchEngineLand also reports that while Google does not yet include this type of data into the current search algorithm, they are working on a long-term solution.

Plus, there are tangible benefits to building your brand’s social influence beyond Google search right now. The brand awareness factor is obvious, but there is also a strong correlation between social sharing and inbound links, which in turn impacts SEO. In fact, Dan Zarella’s study found that sharing across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all had a “positive relationship to incoming links pointing to a URL.”

What should your social media action plan look like?

In short, while social signals from popular social networks don’t directly influence Google search ranking today, building your social influence serves two hugely important SEO benefits:

  • Social sharing increases the likelihood of inbound link building.
  • Building social influence supports a smart long-term search strategy by fostering individual author or brand publisher authority.

It should be no surprise that quality content is the driving force behind these two goals. If content creation isn’t already a permanent fixture in your to-do list, get started today.


Lauren Blecher is the marketing manager at Webmarketing123, a leading digital marketing agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area.