Twitter & Facebook links affect SEO on Google and Bing

twitter-bing-facebook-google2Few days ago Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, published a very interesting article which confirms the suspicions of many SEOs: Social Media buzz does affect the organic rankings of Google and Bing.

As we recommended in a previous article “How to Speed up Search Engine Indexing”, social media links can help you speed up your website’s indexing and they are taken into account by Search Engines even if they are nofollowed. Certainly social media buzz could serve as a great signal for search engines but the main question is does it actually affect directly the rankings?

In the short interview, Danny Sullivan asks whether the data that come from Twitter and Facebook are used as a signal and whether they affect the regular search results. Both Google and Bing answered that not only they do take them into account but also, as expected, they try to evaluate the authority of the author and the quality of the post.

Below you will find the hottest questions that have been answered form this interview along with the replies of each Search Engine:

Google Bing
Are Regular Search Results affected by social media buzz? Yes. It is used as a signal especially for news. Yes it is a signal. Some weight is passed and regular results are affected.
Are Social/Realtime Search Results affected by buzz? Heavily affected Heavily affected, Authority metrics are used to determine the hot posts.
Are Twitter links taken into account (aka do they pass link juice)? In some limited situations the data are used. The data are used. The weight depends on how often a link is posted, the number of tweets & retweets and the authority of the people that post it.
Are Facebook links taken into account? The shared links from Fan pages are treated similarly to Twitter links. No links from personal walls are used. Only the publicly shared links from Fan pages and Profiles are taken into account.
Is there an Authority Rank for Twitter Profiles? Yes, the author quality is measured. Google calls this Author Authority. Yes. Several metrics are taken into account. Bing calls this Social Authority.
Is there an Authority Rank for Facebook Profiles? They are treated similarly to Twitter Profiles.

Note: Normally if this is true, they measure only public profiles like Fan pages.

No. They take into account only the Facebook data that are publicly available.
Does the Twitter Authority have an impact on the weight of the links that are shared? Yes. The weight depends on the authority of the person. The Author Authority is used in limited situations and it is independent of PageRank. The Author Authority affects the link weight.
Does the Facebook Authority have an impact on the weight of the links that are shared? Similarly to Twitter. The weight of each link depends on the authority of the profile. They don’t use Facebook authority. Instead in order to find if something is really popular they compare Twitter & Facebook shares.

So how do Google and Bing evaluate the Social Media Buzz?

First of all let’s stress that you should not focus only on Social Media. The fact that the buzz does affect the rankings does not mean that it became the most important ranking factor. In fact both search engines made it clear that the effects from buzz are still limited and that they do lots of calculations to filter out spam.

Nevertheless, since our suspicions are confirmed, we can easily speculate what are the key factors that are used by Search Engines when they evaluate Social Media Buzz. Their main target is to filter out the spam, to evaluate the trust and the weight of the links, to ensure that a page is indeed popular, to find the authority of each author and to get a clue about the topic or theme of the post.

socialmedia-connections

Below you can find a list of factors that are most likely to affect the authority and the trust of the social media links. Please note that the below factors are not officially confirmed by Search Engines, but most of them are already used by several web services & tools that evaluate Social Media popularity:

  1. The number of Followers on Twitter
  2. The number of Fans on Facebook Fan Pages
  3. The number of tweets & RTs on Twitter
  4. The number of Shares & Likes on Facebook
  5. The ratio between Followers-Friends
  6. The authority of the people that follow you
  7. The authority of the people that share your content
  8. The average quality of your previously shared messages
  9. The number of unique mentions/shares (similar to Link Diversity)
  10. The rate and the source of links that you share

Moreover search engines are expected to use Social Media buzz to determine:

  • How fresh a particular post is
  • If an page is still useful/valid/up-to-date
  • What are the current trends
  • Which terms are related to the particular post. They are likely to use the keywords and the hash tags that can be found in the content of the shared messages.
  • The theme or the topic of expertise of each Author. Users that tend to post high quality messages about a particular topic are likely to be considered as experts. Bing already uses this feature by recommending users on Twitter.
bing_twitter-500x317

Wrapping things up

Social Media become more and more important and Search Engines have already made in the past several deals with Twitter and Facebook in order to incorporate social media results in their SERPs. The fact that the buzz is a signal is no news for the industry, since we all suspected that it had to be used in order to determine trends, popularity, authority etc. Finally it is certain that in the following weeks we’ll have more info available and it is very likely to get additional indications on which factors are more important.

Stay tuned and don’t forget to share this article if you like it. It is very likely to help our SEO campaign! ;)

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  • sithburns

    Thanks for posting this one. I had suspected this was the case and had even begun using custom URL shortners to see if the words in the URL shortner could in essense become “anchor text” for twitter links and Facebook links.

  • bbriniotis

    @sithburns: Chris this might be a great choice indeed. Nevertheless if the url has a 301 redirect you might get the same result. Let us know how your own URL shortner works for your SEO. Maybe a blog post? :)

  • Andy @ FirstFound

    So from that, we can postulate that the main thing that counts on Twitter is the quality of RT’s, not just the quantity? Makes sense, to keep the bots out of the loop.

  • bbriniotis

    @Andy: Sure, I strongly believe that Topsy model could be used from Google & Bing. Followers vs Friends, Quality vs Quantity, RT rates etc.

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  • Wade

    Thanks for the post. It only makes since that google wants to promote active engaging businesses and I think many of us saw that coming just nice for it to be positively affirmed

    Cheers

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  • Rebecca Caroe

    thanks for confirming some of our suspicions. Will add blog post referencing you! Also thanks to Sithburns for the hint about Topsy… will check it out further.
    Best wishes from New Zealand.

  • Katherine Williams

    I’m a SEO newbie and I’m looking for all sorts of information in order to get myself up to speed with what’s happening in the field! Thank you for all the information you provided. I’m starting p a new business and I will be using Facebook and Twitter a lot so I have found everything in your article very useful!

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  • Faith Gauthier

    The assumptions made by our own experience have been confirmed by the content of this article. Thank you for posting this it is very useful information for all those affected by internet rankings.

    Ken & Faith Gauthier
    The Inspired Edge

  • Rachel Alexander

    The search engine optimisation trail we need to blaze gets ever more complex, though these are all logical factors which make good sense. I thought that Facebook pages weren’t indexable to Google but it looks like I need to do some more homework as this is changing.

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  • Jewel

    Finally, an answer to my most burning question: What impact do social media links have on your site’s SEO. Still, it seems like quite a mountain to climb, yet another popularity club that most bloggers won’t succeed with. Yes, they need to weed out spam, but jeesh . . . they’re also probably weeding out 90% of us who merit some SEO link love.

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  • Pensacola Real Estate

    Lots of interesting observations. As someone alluded to earlier, those of us that are relying on the internet for our business are indeed blazing a trail which is becoming increasingly dense. Can’t wait to see what this all looks like 5 years from now!

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  • SEO Reseller

    Great post. This is very interesting. This should be a great opportunity for the group of PR people who say they are in charge of social media marketing for their companies. But it also means they need to understand SEO in order to be successful. However, relatively few PR people have learned how Google News and Yahoo! News work, so the PR industry as a whole has got a lot of catching up to do before it learns how Google and Bing real-time search works.

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  • Dave NewGates

    I’m trying my best to learn more about social media and how it affects the search results. And I know we really need this constant change for good; that’s what we called a real time search for users.

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  • Rahul

    Thanks for the tips ! When faced with numbers, Facebook is pretty impressive, and definitely one of the main outlets to focus on when embarking on brand marketing.

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