Facebook Shares and Ranking signals – In the Eye of an Experiment
SMX, like every year bring some great insight from the search industry and clear the misconceptions present in the search industry today; one of the hot debates this year at SMX Advance was the presentation of Sir Rank Fishkin on Facebook signal as a ranking factor. SEOmoz few months back launched the New Edition of Ranking factor like the one they did in 2009 and according to that correlation data Facebook share data has the most influence on rankings in Google.
At SMX, CEO of SEOmoz presented evidence on the same topic that there is a strong correlation between Facebook shares and rankings in Google.
The presentation turn in to a debate when Head of Spam Matt Cutts said that Google dosen’t sees facebook share data at all. Danny Sullivan wrote a detailed article on this at Search Engine land and he explained the difference between correlation and causation and why correlation can’t be causation?
Matt Peters, the data scientist of SEOmoz also updated the post on SEOmoz blog in which he agreed that yes facebook shares didn’t havea direct impact on rankings, he said, ‘Earning Facebook shares (probably) will not directly boost your Google rankings (though it may have positive effects that indirectly promote links, tweets and other signals Google may use).’
After reading all the discussion by the responsible giants in the industry the confusion is pretty much clear but while reading all the discussion on this topic I thought to run a small test myself that I would like to share…
Note: Obviously SEOmoz run many tests and then come up to that statement so this test can be a piece of shit but this is the small test that shows the result somewhat different from the statement by Matt Peters
Ok, I create a unique content on my blog to support one of the local events going on in my city and upload it on my personal blog where I write all the stupid stuff and my keyword was ‘Karachi Tips’. If you Google this term you will see 6,820,000 results in Google against this term. Not much competition but not bad either.
Currently, my blog is ranking on no. 8 for that term but initially it was ranked some were on the 2nd page and then it moved up by the time:
There can be various factors that can rank the page in search engine for desired key phrase and few of them are back links, Total No. of social shares, Use of keyword in the domain name, title tag and URL and many others…
The back born of the SEO strategy, backlinks can be one of the factors so in order to check that I run this query in Google search bar ‘link:http://abnormalthinker.blogspot.com/2011/06/karachi-tips-on-facebook-rocks.html -site …’ and the results were:
So, there are no external links for that post available but if you run the same query for the two links below my link on the 1st page there are 8 to 10 links pointing totheir URL (can be do follow and no follow), so I am basically ranking above them without having any back link for that URL.
As this is not a very competitive keyword so results can be achieved by on-page optimization factors. There are too many On-page factors but I select few which have a valuable impact in rankings like keyword in the title and URL.
If you see the top 10 results of the desired term in Google.com you will see most of the results have used the term at least once in the title and URL (results below me also used it at least once) and so as my post so it’s not much of a big different that can/should be considered.
After done with the on-page optimization i jumped up to social shares.
Total No. of Social Shares
In order to count the total social share I used shared count and here are the stats for that.
Results of 2 Links below me:
9th Rank: 3 Facebook likes, 3 shares, 5 comments and 2 Tweets (http://bit.ly/iUSoDs )
10th Rank: No Social Share at all. (http://bit.ly/lV715D )
Results of 2 links above me:
7th Rank: 5 Facebook likes and 2 Delicious (http://bit.ly/j79EwW )
6th Rank: Itself a twitter profile and have thousands of share on twitter itself and Stumble upon (http://bit.ly/jFq4jn)
My Results:40 Facebook likes, 9 Shares, 5 Comments, 5 Tweets and 3 Google +1 (you can see on the page) (http://bit.ly/iB4spP)
Both links below mine have site linking back to them but have no or low social value then me and the links above me, one of them is the twitter profile which have thousands of share on twitter and stumble upon and the other one have comparatively low social share but strong backlink profile.
Conclusion of Experiment:
I am not writing to challenge any giant of the industry but this experiment make me hard to believe that facebook shares have simply no impact on rankings. The experiment stated above says the following things:
- Facebook didn’t have much impact on rankings like delicious, twitter or stumble upon but having simple no impact on rankings is hard to believe (Google can see the public fan pages)
- You can beat the website with lower no. of quality back links through facebook likes and shares
Reality can be exactly different from what I have extracted from the experiment but right now it seems like facebook somehow have an impact on rankings (may be lower than other social networks but there is…)