Google is Not Currently Considering Social Signals, But Change Could Be On the Horizon

“Are Facebook and Twitter signals part of the ranking algorithm?” According to a Google Webmaster Help video Matt Cutts released yesterday, the answer is a very definitive no (for right now).

Still shot of Matt Cutts From a recent Webmaster Tools Video
Google’s head of Webspam talks about social signals, and how Web identity may change in the not so distant future.

Cutts explains in the video that Google crawls Facebook and Twitter just like it crawls any other Web page, and if something occurs on Facebook or Twitter and Google is able to crawl it, the crawled piece of content will be returned in search results.

As an example, Facebook Apps are one known type of social media content that Google “is able to crawl” and likely to return in SERP results (learn more about how Google sees and ranks Facebook Apps and how to optimize your Facebook page for search).

He then follows up this statement by saying that, at this time, Google doesn’t take into consideration engagement numbers like followers or likes because – as they experienced in 2011 when the Twitter “hose” cut them off – these properties have the power to block them from crawling at any time and that foreseeable instability makes adding metrics like followers to the algorithm a low priority for Google engineers. (So, no – likes and followers are not social signals that are a part of the current Google ranking algorithm.)

If you happen to see a spike in SERP ranking and a correlating spike in Facebook likes, Cutts assures marketers in this video (again) that these related incidents are truly just related incidents, not connected incidents.

Perhaps the most insightful part of the video happens near the end when Cutts segues into discussion of identity, privacy, and the future role a less-anonymous Web will play in all of this. Cutts says right now we are “sampling an imperfect web” and, as such, we “have to worry a lot about identity when identity is already hard” – meaning hard to get right, and hard to react quickly to.

He closes by saying that he thinks in years to come – (we assume because of initiatives like Authorship and advances in technology) – people (and Google) are likely to know more about who is writing what on the Web, and – as such – the way people, Google, and social properties interact with one another just may change.

In a quote that sums up the whole five-minute video well, Cutts closes by saying:

“Over [the next] 10 years we’re more likely to understand identity and to understand the social connections between people, but at least for the time being we have to deal with the Web as it is and what we are allowed to crawl and what we can easily extract from that and count on being able to access in the future.”


Watch the full Google Webmaster Tools video:

Chelsea Adams Brooks is a long-distance cyclist, aspiring cob house builder, schema/analytics/algorithm obsessor, and a former senior content writer at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Chelsea's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (7)
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7 Replies to “Google is Not Currently Considering Social Signals, But Change Could Be On the Horizon”

I think with the fact that Google is bound to make changes again in the near future and then again not long after that it is likely that social media is going to be an important aspect when ranking sites, but no doubt there will be penalties for lower authority of followers, or likes etc…

Chelsea Adams

I can also see social media really becoming a ranking factor, Jayne. Especially with the rising emphasis on identity and Google’s desire to retire the “anonymous Web.” We’ll see what kind of technological solutions, and algorithmic hacks they come up with to make it a reality..!

Nothing is the same two days in a row when it comes to Google. You’re either riding the wave of internet marketing success or you’re playing catch-up. Either way, it’s a tough business for sure and I hope that they eventually slow things down a bit.

Chelsea Adams


A quote I have on my board says “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Expect rough waters and tackle them as learning experiences.” You’re right, it can be hard to “ride the wave” of Internet marketing with the landscape changing at what feels like an ever-increasing rate, but I tend to like a puzzle and I tend to like being employed (after all, if search marketing was easy everyone would do it! Thanks for keeping it complicated, Google. My water bill thanks you.). In all seriousness, though — I really do think Google’s continual changes are more positive than they are inconvenient. I believe Google is truly working to build a bigger and better Web experience that’s ready to proactively (rather than reactively) embrace ever-changing technological advances as well as the ever-changing needs of consumers.

We don’t work in a “set it and forget it” industry; it wouldn’t make any sense for Google to set it and forget it, either. (As much as we’d like them to for just a month or so…. )

Thanks for the comment. I’m a real sucker for community discussion. :)

One thing to always remember with Google is that they are always changing things. Just because they do not consider social signal currently doesn’t mean they won’t forever.

Chelsea Adams

Strongly agree, Jason! Google is always looking for new ways to eliminate “the anonymous Web” as much as possible, and to perceive the authority of websites (with PageRank [theoretically] on its way out; what’s on its way in?). Optimizing for search isn’t a plug and play process anymore; it’s all about creating a holistic Web experience, and genuinely building relationships and communities is a huge part of that whole.

It actually sounds like Google is pretty open about wanting to take into consideration social signals, but, as Matt discusses in this video, there seem to be two big things currently keeping them from putting more emphasis on social right now: One factor being the unstable connection they have with third-party networks. In other words, Google currently relied on Twitter and/or Facebook allowing Google to collect information from their sites, and this is a privileged that a) comes with quite a few strings attached, and b) could be revoked at any time. (Why would Google waste valuable engineering time when their efforts could be null at any moment?) The other factor is how “imperfect the Web is” in 2014, specifically in regards to the algorithm’s inability to parse personal information with sensitivity. As Google continues to make more strides towards building “the Star Trek computer” I think the machine’s ability to better handle these sensitive privacy issues will undoubtedly improve, which will opening the door more and more for social signals to matter more and more.

Its good we are clear of this. At least, social signals are crawled same as other websites. However, there is the issue of change that may occur in the future. We cross our arms and hope that on the horizon, marketers would get the best from Google.

The above comment I have also left in – the content syndicaton and social aggregation website for Internet marketing where this post was shared and bookmarked.

Sunday – contributor


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