Best Ways to Boost SEO with Social Media: Facebook

Today I’m going to look at using Facebook to improve your search engine results. I’m talking mostly about Google here, but the ideas I’ll share will also help you on Bing and global search engines if that’s a part of your SEO strategy.

We’ll also take a look at optimizing for Facebook’s own internal Graph Search function. It’s a fascinating trend that’s worth paying attention to.

How Does Google Use Facebook (or Does It)?

First things first. If you want to use any social network for Google SEO, you need to know what Google’s algorithm currently does with data on that network—what it indexes, about what “signals” it cares, etc. By “signals,” I mean basically counting popularity of social content as a ranking factor on Google—for example, up-ranking Facebook posts that have lots of likes.

It seems obvious that you’d learn what Google does in relation to Facebook, but I’ve observed a lot of bad advice recently about Google and social signals. Be careful. Especially watch out for guidance telling you:

  1. We know Google uses social signals because there’s a high correlation between ranking and social content that gets shared or liked a lot. This line of thinking often refers to search ranking correlation studies by Moz or Searchmetrics. People misrepresent the findings in repeated tellings though and it takes on a causation influence where it probably doesn’t exist.
  2. We know Google uses social signals because Google said so … in 2010. There’s a lot of recent content referring to this old video in which Matt Cutts said Google was using social signals from Facebook. But … that was four years old and nothing lasts forever—especially advice about the internal workings of the Google algo.

So where does that leave us? Does Google use social signals from Facebook to rank or not? At the moment, the smart money says no. I’m betting on two pieces of intel that most reputable SEOs trust:

  1. Matt Cutts’ most recent guidance—this much-circulated video from January 2014 in which he said Google indexes Facebook (and Twitter) pages just like other pages, but doesn’t have a special way to count up likes, shares, or other “signals.” This is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.
  2. Stone Temple Consulting’s investigation from December 2013 on whether Facebook activity impacts SEO. In this well-documented study, Eric Enge found that likes on Facebook posts don’t affect Google results at all. Also worth a look.

So what Is Facebook Good for in SEO?

Even if Facebook social signals don’t directly impact rank, the network still has a lot of potential for SEO value. Like Twitter, you can use it to build traffic/links back to your website, and most SEOs agree that you should do this. Some best practices for doing that are presented below.

But what really sets Facebook apart in today’s SEO world is Graph Search—the internal search engine Facebook launched in 2013 and which is gradually building steam. Graph Search has the potential to be a viable threat to the supremacy of Google, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on record earlier this year saying, basically, that’s where the company wants to take it.

Graph search is a semantic search technology that responds to complex user queries and parses natural language rather than just looking for keyword matches. It also brings in data from Bing when Facebook’s own content is too thin to return rich results on a given query.

By harnessing the power of the interconnectedness of friends, their friends, and all their Facebook data, Graph Search returns something that no other search engine today can. It goes beyond the potential of the standalone search engines to add social signals to their algorithmic functions. Whether people will actually start using it enough to challenge Google remains to be seen. But it’s certainly worth your attention.

There are at least two ways Graph Search can help you. First, for Google SEO**,** it’s a powerful tool for studying your fans and their interests at a pretty granular level. By the same token, you can use it for competitor analysis to learn what their fans like and dislike.

Second, it’s worth strategizing about being findable in Graph Search itself. Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged it’s going to be probably a 5-10 year project to get where he wants to go—but it looks like it could happen, and it makes sense to think ahead. Read on for what you can do now.

Key Takeaways: Facebook Tactics for Google, Graph Search and Bing

Optimizing for Graph Search involves a lot of the same tactics you’ll want for Google SEO as well as Bing. The following practices will help you with all of them.

The most important practice is to engage. Create sharable content and encourage liking and sharing. Graph Search and Bing both incorporate social signals directly into their SERs. But actively cultivating relationships and inviting participation with your content also helps you indirectly with Google by potentially building links to your website.

Other things to do:

To wrap up, Facebook doesn’t currently offer direct benefits for Google SEO in the form of social signals impacting search results. But, you can use it to build traffic and links to your website and other online properties. You can use Graph Search to learn what your fans and competitors are doing and talking about. And we should all be watching to see if Graph Search delivers on its bid as a serious contender to Google.