Both Google and Bing have claimed that social signals do not affect their algorithms. Is this true?
Thanks to the recent SMX London conference we learned that the number of Facebook Likes, Google +1’s, Tweets, and Pinterest Pins still do not cause your page to rank higher than anyone else. That being said, we did learn that these social signals do play an indirect role in SEO.
Social Signals Impact: Index Faster
Google and Bing are pretty good at judging if they should add content to their indexes. One of the metrics they use is social activity. Heavy social activity means that this content is fairly popular. Popular content gets indexed faster than content left out in the wild.
The type of social network activity matters. Microsoft’s working relationship with Facebook means they look to Facebook Likes as one of their main indicators. Google obviously favors +1’s on Google+. Google probably can’t do anything more with that else they may find themselves in trouble with abusing their monopoly position to gain them ground in social media. After those networks Google and Bing look to things like Tweets and Pins for more social signals.
Social Signals Impact: Link Quality
Search engines try to keep spam out of their indexes. One way to keep spam out of your index is to check how the page likely earned their traffic. New content is usually shared on social media shortly after publication. Some of these shares lead to people like yours truly writing blogs that link to that content as well. Normally there are a lot more social signals then new links to a page. A page with thousands of Likes, Tweets, etc. getting hundreds of links makes sense. If another page only has dozens of social signals and still gets hundreds of links then something fishy is going on. If this happens often then search engines will look closer at these new links to see if they are legit or spam. If they can’t find a reason your content became popular then you risk facing a penalty or possibly having your site de-listed.
So to answer the question posed in the headline: Yes, they do seek social signals. They just do not seek them for the reason one may would assume. So please continue social media marketing as a mean to grow your brand. Not as a means to improve your SEO.
Thank you and keep building your brand.