Bing and Google Confirm Importance of Links in Twitter and Facebook
An interview with some of the head honchos at search engine operators Bing and Google, conducted by SEO expert Danny Sullivan, has revealed that both search engines are beginning to place more and more importance on links shared through social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook. While the news has long been suspected, this is the first time that any company has offered solid confirmation one way or the other.
However it is not as simple as just creating a ton of backlinks from your own Twitter page. Variety seems to be the key and both Google and Bing will place much more importance on independently placed links than they will on links that have been placed on Twitter accounts that are already associated with the website that is being linked to.
Other factors that the search engines consider arose out of the interview. A transcript of the interview, in part, follows;
Danny Sullivan: 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.
Danny Sullivan: Do you try to calculate the authority of someone who tweets that might be assigned to their Twitter page. Do you try to “know,” if you will, who they are?
Bing: Yes. We do calculate the authority of someone who tweets. For known public figures or publishers, we do associate them with who they are. (For example, query for Danny Sullivan)
Google: Yes we do compute and use author quality. We don’t know who anyone is in real life
Danny Sullivan: Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?
Google: Yes we do use this as a signal, especially in the “Top links” section [of Google Realtime Search]. Author authority is independent of PageRank, but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search.
The general gist is that the link sharing effect works in a similar way to how it does with websites. Whereas currently the quality of a link to the site is judged by the quality of the website making the link, it seems that the importance of the owner of the Twitter or Facebook account making a link will also be considered when judging the importance of these links. Links made from more popular and relevant accounts while thus likely be granted more importance than those from small accounts.
In short, it is likely that the weight placed on a link from a social media website will be judged based on similar criteria as links obtained from regular sites. While neither company were willing to go into details, we can assume some things are likely to have an effect on search engine judgement, such as;
- Content – If just a link is posted, search engines may not believe it to be as important. Some relevant content surrounding the link could go a long way towards ensuring Google and the like pick up on the link’s relevance.
- Diversity – Similarly to traditional linking relevance, if all of the backlinks from Twitter are coming from the same account, there will be little value placed on them. 100 links from 100 different accounts shows that the content is both relevant and interesting.
- When the Link Was Posted – Anybody can tweet new news and content, however search engines will likely place high value on links to older content as it demonstrates that content continues to be relevant even after its original posting date.
There are also likely to be a number of factors to the weight given to a certain social media account, in the same way that there are various factors which affect a website’s influence. This will likely include;
- Number of Followers/Friends – A simple one but also a good gauge. The more followers a person has, the more valuable their opinion must be. This counts even more so if the person being followed does not follow many people. This indicates that person is somebody of interest and hasn’t just garnered their large friends or followers list through reciprocal following.
- Association – Search engine algorithms are becoming increasingly complex, so it is entirely possible for them to associate a twitter account with a particular website. This means that is an account which is linked to a particular website posts links to that website, those links will be seen as less valuable than if they had come from another account. If all that account does is post these links, the account itself will devalue, further devaluing the quality of the links posted in the process.
- Quality of Followers – Quality begets quality so if an account is followed by a large amount of people that the search engines already consider valuable, that account will also be considered valuable just because there must be a reason so many top quality people are following it.
- Trends and Relevance – An account set up by a fashion website will achieve more importance in the eyes of search engines by focusing on linking to fashion related news. Going outside of your topic area can have a negative effect simply due to the fact that it will come off as unfocused.
It appears that search engines are now truly beginning to adjust to the social media revolution. With similar criteria being placed on social media content as it placed on regular webpages, it should hopefully only be a matter of time before manipulation of these media is reduced.
Of course the changes do mean that SEO practitioners may have to adjust their strategies to incorporate new techniques in the near future, but that has always been the case anyway.