In 2014, the head of Google Web spam Matt Cutts (now retired), came out clearly to tackle the argument of whether or not social signals affected Google ranking. Although he had strong points and facts to support his statements, it appeared there were still some inconsistency with what he said back then.
He said that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were treated equally like any other webpage on the internet. So if anything occurred in any of those pages and their algorithm was able to crawl those sites, it would return those results on Google.
However, he also added that if a specific social media page had social signals such as a huge number of followers, likes and many others, their algorithm didn't have a signal that would allow that page to rank on Google. In other words, he was saying that Google's algorithm doesn't consider these signals when ranking a webpage.
Some time back, Moz began ranking for articles titled "The Beginner's guide to SEO...". This happened nearly the same time Smashing magazine tweeting on the same topic. There are also reports that a SEO company called Shrushti moved from page 400 to the 1st page of Google because they had some really nice social signals, i.e. +1's, shares, pins and so forth.
Google's algorithm changes frequently, so we can't rely on what he said a few months ago. But generally, it's safe to make assumptions based on what we've observed during this period (not unless he's able to disapprove it in another video this year).
The things that Google is interested in:
1. Tweets and re-tweets a site has
2. The authority of that tweet or the person tweeting
3. The number of likes and shares on Facebook
4. The number of +1 a post has
Moz published an article entitled "The Beginner's guide to SEO". Then another site called Smashing Magazine tweeted it out to its massive social media following.
After a short while, the page ranked in Google for the keywords "The Beginner's Guide", and this was followed by massive traffic back to the site. The moral of this action was that tweets from power users had the ability to influence short term ranking for chosen keywords.
An experiment was conducted with 6 similar sites in the U.S. The sites were basically on the same niche, so they shared the same audience. The results were attributed to social shares that those sites received. Here are the stats.
As you can see, this is quite contrary to what Matt Cutts had said back then. These observations are solid evidence that indeed social signals have a way of impacting Google's ranking. So what do we believe at this point? It is only a matter of time before the truth comes out. In the mean time, keep focusing on meeting all aspects of a solid SEO checklist and ensure your social presence is strong and legit.
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