Matt Cutts on Why Social Signals Shouldn’t Be Considered for SEO

Let’s be honest, watching how many tweets an article gets or how many Facebook “likes” you get from a post can turn into somewhat of an obsession. You can watch other analytics on your own and get excited about numbers, but the social numbers are the only ones that everyone can see. That number in the little Twitter box is a way to show the world, “hey look, I wrote an awesome article.” It makes you feel good, and once you start to get a lot of social shares, they always seem to increase like a domino effect.

This then brings up the idea of SEO and rankings. It makes sense that Google would be able to see and analyze social signals, so why wouldn’t they use it in their algorithm? Why wouldn’t they take that information and see for themselves that yes, this was clearly an awesome article. Believe it or not, Google has quite a few reasons, and last week Head of Google Webspam Matt Cutts confirmed: Social signals do not play a role in rankings.

Matt Cutts Announces that Social Signals Don’t Play a Role in SEO Rankings

Matt Cutts created a video that answers the question: Are Facebook and Twitter signals part of the ranking algorithm? How much do they matter?

Cutts essentially gave us one big answer: Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other indexed page. If Google is able to craw it on Facebook or Twitter, it will be shown in search results. Nothing in the algorithm treats these pages differently; however you cannot assume that just because there is a signal on Facebook or Twitter Google can access that. There could be something is block, nofollow, etc.

There are essentially two reasons that Google doesn’t use these social signals:

  1. They Were Blocked. The first reason is because they were blocked from crawling these pages at one point for about 1 ½ months. They would have had to put a lot of time and energy into engineering another way to crawl these pages, and that’s risky because they could be blocked again at any time. Search Engine Land thinks Cutts was talking about Google’s real time search deal, but Cutts never does specify.
  2. Identity Issues. Identify information might change—relationship status, blocking followers, etc.—and they do not want to extract outdated information if it deals with identity. He says we’re dealing with an “imperfect web,” so engineers would be weary of this fact as well.

Also to specify, Cutts only talked about Twitter and Facebook. There is other information out there that can lead us to believe that Google+ is a different story (such as this article from Moz), but for now nothing has been confirmed except that Twitter and Facebook numbers are not taken into account.

What This Means to You

This doesn’t mean that Facebook and Twitter are less important by any means. Facebook and Twitter have their place when it comes to developing your personal brand and sharing information, they just simply aren’t given special treatment by Google when it comes to rankings. In short, you shouldn’t worry so much about social media numbers and links if it’s rankings you’re after. Be aggressive with other SEO tactics and let Facebook and Twitter do what they were meant to do—share.

Check out Cutts’ video and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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