As social media has grown there has been a consistent debate as to whether Google considered social signals when ranking websites. There have been several studies suggesting a correlation between strong social media presences and high rankings on the search engine, but there are many reasons they could be related. Well, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, may have finally put the question to rest with his recent Webmaster Chat video.

According to Cutts, Google doesn’t give any special treatment to websites based on social information. In fact, sites like Facebook and Twitter are treated the same as any other website. The search engine doesn’t do anything special such as indexing the number of likes or shares a page has.

Cutts explains that Google did at one point attempt to index social information. Barry Schwartz suggests Matt is referring to Google’s real time search deal expiring with Twitter. There was a lot of effort and engineering put into the deal before it was completely blocked and nothing useful came to fruition. Simply put, Google doesn’t want to invest more time and money into it only to be blocked again.

Google is also worried about crawling identity information only to have that information change long before Google is able to update it again. Social media pages can be incredibly active and they may not be able to keep up with the information. Outdated information can be harmful to people and user experience.

But, you shouldn’t count social media out of your SEO plan just because it isn’t directly included in ranking signals. Online marketers have known about the other numerous benefits of social media for a long time, and it is still a powerful you can use to boost your online presence and visibility.

A strong social media presence opens up many channels of engagement with your audience that can make or break your reputation. It can also drive huge amounts of traffic directly to your site and your content. By reaching out and interacting with your audience, you make people trust and value your brand, while also encouraging them to explore your site and the content you offer. Google notices all this traffic and activity on your site and rewards you for it as well.

You can see the video below:

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