In my how a search engine works post I identified that relevance and popularity are the two major over-arching factors that search engines take into consideration when ranking pages. Keywords and all those other fun on-site factors all pertain to relevance but what about popularity?
How does a search engine measure website popularity?
The biggest factor in the popularity contest are back links. Having influential and credible websites linking back to your site’s content will help ensure strong rankings.
This is really important, with back links counting for about 20% of a sites overall ranking, links can’t go ignored. Not only are links important but where these links come from is even more important. As noted, credible and influential sites carry the most weight in a websites back link profile. Links from Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and other social networks back to your site are golden!
Aren’t they? Facebook and Twitter are credible, influential sites, right? So, how do links from these sites influence your rankings?
They don’t. Simply put, using social networks for link building will have little to no effect on your sites ranking. Even though search engines are taking social influence into their considerations, these types of links will have little persuasion in the website popularity area. Social influence counts for about 7% of a sites ranking and where social media is important it’s not the avenue to go down when trying to obtain high quality links back to a website to grow popularity.
Why? Links back to your site from these social networks are considered “no-follow links.” Pretty much any site that allows a user to insert a url will have a “no-follow” attributed to it. No follow links were first created as an effort to stop comment spam on blogs. The no-follow attribute has now evolved way beyond blog comments and can be found everywhere on the web. Search engines are able to detect no-follow links and don’t pay attention to them when considering a websites popularity.
Think of how easy it would be to have #1 rankings if all you had to do is blow up Twitter and Facebook with your site’s url. Unfortunately search engine makes you work a little harder for those #1 results. Back links do need to be incorporated into your SEO strategy as well as your social media strategy. If having strong search engine rankings is a consideration look beyond social media for link building tactics.