Many clients have been asking us, “does Facebook help our websites to have better positions in search results?” But there is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer to that, as this matter has been discussed, debated, and analyzed throughout many years, and yet, there is no evidence social media signals are used in search algorithms. But if you ask us, “should I use Facebook to boost my SEO?” We will say a definite “Yes” to it. In 2020, the global number of Facebook users is expected to reach 1.69 billion, up from 1.34 million in 2014. That’s quite an audience, so why not? And studies show there is a correlation between social media shares and higher rankings in search engines, according to the article by Like Mind Media.
As you might already know, search engines like Google use search algorithms to organize search results. Pages in the search are sorted from the most relevant to the least relevant content, and this is called ranking. The primary purpose of search engines is to understand searchers’ intentions as well as the relevance of the content so that it can offer the best results to users. The goal of Search Engine Optimization is to help the engine understand the content better to improve the ranking in related queries so that a website gets more relevant traffic. SEO is one of the most critical aspects of digital marketing, as it gets your potential clients to your website where you can demonstrate your services, experience, knowledge, and expertise in the field.
Facebook and Search Algorithms
Although there are tons of articles about the way algorithms work, and thousands of SEO experts out there working to understand Google better, search algorithms remain mysterious and unknown. Search engines do not reveal the way algorithms work, and it is estimated that there are more than 200 ranking factors for Google. Many of the factors have been argued, questioned, and some of them keep unproven. But this doesn’t mean we should all give up and leave our website rankings to luck. This means we need to keep improving the website and utilize all the tools available to boost our rankings.
But to answer our clients’ question, “does Facebook help ranking?”, we want to go back to a very compelling article by Danny Sullivan published in 2010 on Search Engine Land. In this article, Sullivan tried to figure out how social signals could affect the web search. At the end of the article, Sullivan asked two search engines – Google and Bing – how their results could be affected by social signals:
If an article is retweeted or referenced much in Twitter, do you count that as a signal outside of finding any non-nofollowed links that may naturally result from it?
Bing: We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.
Google: Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article
Do you track links shared within Facebook, either through personal walls or fan pages?
Bing: Yes. We look at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages.
Google: We treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as we treat tweeted links. We have no personal wall data from Facebook.
What we can conclude from this is that “yes,” social signals can positively affect your ranking, and it might help search engines understand the relevance of your content by seeing the shares on social media.
Soon after this article was published, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s WebSpam team, confirmed that Google used links from Facebook and Twitter as a ranking signal.
“We do use Twitter and Facebook links in ranking as we always have in our web search rankings, but in addition, we are also trying to figure out a little bit about the reputation of an author or a creator on Twitter on Facebook.”
Four years later, in 2014, he produced another video where he explained that Google treats Facebook pages and Twitter pages the same way it treats other webpages. However, Google doesn’t take into account how many followers, tweets, or likes you have on Twitter or Facebook.
“To the best of my knowledge, we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.”
Although it has been 10 years since Sullivan wrote the article, and six years after Matt Cutts stated followers, tweets, or likes weren’t part of the signals used in the algorithms, the subject is still discussed; this topic never gets old. Many SEO experts believe Social signals do have a significant impact on the website rankings.
Although there is no exact formula for how Google sorts the websites, and there is no proof social signals affect the ranking, we do believe it can help in your SEO. We might even say there is no doubt it can help your website ranking. Why? Well, if you write a great article and share it on Facebook, and then hundreds of users share it publicly, then Google (as it has confirmed it sees public Facebook posts when searching for content) will understand the relevance of the article; therefore it will perform better in the search. Besides, we know that Google puts a great emphasis on backlinks – other sites linking to yours. If you share content on Facebook, then more website owners are going to see it, meaning you get a more chance to get backlinks from them. And backlinks boost your rankings. Even though social signals might not be direct ranking factors, it can have a positive effect on the way your site ranks.
“The correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high, and the number of social signals per landing page has remained constant when compared to the values from last year’s whitepaper. … The top-ranked websites in Google’s rankings display vastly more social signals than all other pages.” – writes 2016 Rebooting Ranking Factors, White Paper:
How to Use Facebook for a Better Ranking
Create compelling content
To start boosting your rankings using Facebook, create compelling content that you can share on your page. The content you create must be relevant to your services, and it should be up to date. Think of what’s the most important thing happening in the industry that you can address. Think of what is crucial to your clients, or write regarding new laws that can affect your audience. Check out our previous blog article on 101 social media post ideas to boost engagement for law firms.
Share content to your Facebook page
When you have such content on your site, you can share it to your Facebook page. If your post gets many shares, it might end up indexed (the process of adding web pages into Google search) at a faster pace, according to Lyfe Marketing
Get shares and backlinks
When you have high-quality content, others have a reason to share it. As a result, your content appears in more than one place, and it builds trustworthiness and authority, which is very important to Google and the way it arranges pages. People might share your posts to your social pages, and they might also share with their webpages. If you get more backlinks, then you will have a better ranking in relevant search queries.
Promote your content
For the best results, we recommend you make a social promotion for your content. Promotions will help to reach more relevant users. On Facebook, you can use a feature called “custom audiences” to define who you want to see the promotion. This is important, as there is no point in appearing on the screens of users who are not your potential clients. To read more about using Facebook for Targeted Content promotion from MOZ, click here.
Get to know your audience to create relevant content
Even if we forget about backlinks and other actors, we should remember that social media presence is crucial to reach more clients and build an audience. Many users from Facebook might end up visiting your website and using your services. But also, social media presence will help you understand who your audience is. This will have an impact on the content you create, and the content is the foundation of SEO. Again, if Facebook signals are not included in the algorithm, it can still significantly impact your ranking.
Your Facebook page will appear in search results
Moreover, when users search for your firm, your Facebook profile will show up in search results. Although you might want to take your clients directly to your website, many people will want to see your social media before visiting any web pages. For some users, it’s easier to navigate, as all the pages on Facebook have the same layout and they will feel more comfortable scrolling through your social media page than through the pages designed by you. Others might still visit the website, but having a Facebook page in the search results will give credibility to your firm.