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Social Media Signals

Do You Believe Google is Stupid?

The vast number of article you read on the web today touting the benefits of social media often address how all the fans, followers, shares, likes and comments will help to boost your websites rankings.  Many top name blogs claim that social media signals are a factor in rankings (read Searchmetrics article ).  Of course there are also those that disagree with this idea and I am one of them.  I came about this feeling by studying some of the social media signals from my own blog and found a surprising fact. 

The Social Media Signals Evidence

In more than one instance I posted a blog article and then posted a snippet with a link to the article on Facebook.  Within one day I saw a total of 48 likes, 6 comments and 12 shares.  Not bad for an article on its first day on Facebook.  I then took a look at my blog stats and found a surprise.  On reviewing the referrals I had a total of 2 from Facebook and when checking the pages viewed, the article in question was only viewed twice.  So how did those 48 people decide they liked the article, 6 found it necessary to comment on something they never read and 12 decided to share it with their friends and fans?  I then decided to see if this was unusual and found the same sort of engagement (I use the term loosely) with a large number of articles published over the last year.  In most cases there appeared to be significant engagement on Facebook with articles that had never even been viewed.

Is Google Really Considering all Those Social Media Signals?

To think that Google is going to take all of those signals seriously assumes that they are pretty stupid and I don’t believe that.  Google may be looking at these things but I believe they are also smart enough and have the ability to see if the engagement is real.  Has the person liking, commenting or sharing actually even viewed the article in question?  Matt Cutts has stated that social signals are not part of the rankings factor ( view video on Search Engine Watch ) but goes on to say that Facebook and Twitter are great ways to drive traffic to your website and I believe that Google knows how much of that traffic is coming to you and I believe this is the signal that they are looking for, not simply clicking share or like but actually visiting the site and reading the article.

The Future

So what is the future?  I am hopeful that at some point Google will be able to correlate likes, shares and comments with whether the person actually viewed the content and begin using true engagement as a rankings factor.  This would help to more accurately determine and assign a value to those actions.  A July 2014 Search Engine Watch article recently addressed an RKG report that indicated that social media driven traffic to websites is anywhere from 1% to 5% of total website visits. Until social media can drive more traffic than that I am afraid that all the clicking the like or share button in the hopes that it will somehow help is simply wasted effort.  It may look good on the surface but if you are going to recommend something to your friends or let the world know that you like it make sure you know what it says.