In previous posts, I’ve touted the importance of social media for strong SEO marketing. After long-held industry speculation, one area of suspicion surrounding social media for SEO was formally affirmed in a recent case study performed by Stone Temple Consulting, finding that Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ don’t directly affect search rankings. It’s another example that Google isn’t dictated by popular thought of what a search engine should do. And when it comes to their ever-changing algorithm, nothing is set in stone.
Stone Temple Consulting put this notion to the test by sending hundreds of ‘likes’ to a series of test pages on Facebook. They found that, despite the 800+ likes going to each of the pages, not a single one had been crawled or indexed by Google¹. This shows that, despite having a great deal of attention drawn to these pages over a relatively short period of time, Google did not interpret these pages as being more relevant than others, and therefore did not index them.
But why wouldn’t Google count signals from Facebook? Facebook ‘likes’ are not considered trustworthy sources of information by major search engines because there is no way to test their authenticity. For example, when a search engine crawls an apartment community’s Facebook page, it is able to see the total number of likes that page has received and the company it is associated with, along with a few other bits of basic information like their location and industry category. The search engine cannot, however, determine anything about the credibility of the source, and cannot tell the difference between an honestly earned ‘like’, and one that was paid for. For this reason, Facebook isn’t directly factored into rankings.
With that in mind, this doesn’t prove that Facebook, or other social media outlets for that matter, don’t stand to benefit your SEO. Quite the contrary. Site traffic is still a major factor in rankings, and many in the multifamily housing industry (student housing in particular) can attest to the power of Facebook as a traffic source. And that’s just one way that social media can indirectly benefit your SEO campaign.
Another thing to consider is that 70% of American adults use Facebook². To ignore this is to ignore an big opportunity for reaching your target audience. Facebook is the perfect place to build rapport with current, as well as prospective renters. Building rapport allows you to connect with your customers on a different level; one that, if nurtured, often builds brand loyalty and resident referrals. Who doesn’t want that?!
We often get so caught up in optimizing every last piece of our websites that we lose sight of what is really important; creating a site with content that is relevant to our renters. This could mean anything from adding a weather conditions plug-in to your apartment community website, to boasting a solid selection of high-res photography, or even posting local updates directly to Facebook or Twitter. At the end of the day, it matters little whether Google counts ‘likes’ from Facebook toward search rankings. Your customers are using Facebook. So discover how you can capitalize on that online arena to add value to your customer experience.