There was some recent news about Google starting to use Twitter and Facebook links as a ranking factor as well as the authors reputation. Here is the video:
This started a full blown panic among some SEO professionals that all the old methods of SEO were on their way out in favor of Social Media signals.
Matt Cutts talks a good game here.
Don’t forget, Google is the Largest Advertising Agency on the planet, hands down. They have a vested interest in making you think they are relevant and in tune with the latest trends. They aren’t going to toss BILLIONS of dollars in revenue down the tube here. You might see a move to 98% old school PR SERPS and 2% Social Media signals in the next year.
There are much larger problems with Social Media as a ranking factor than most people think. The biggest ones:
Social media accounts are easy to fake – How many people reading this only have one Facebook account? One Twitter account? Some people hundreds if not thousands of Facebook and Twitter accounts under their control.
Social media traffic is easy to fake – How many people need to Retweet or Share a link to make Google sit up and take notice? in the SERPs? Think that the people that wrote XRumer can’t generate the same thing for Twitter in a week of programming?
Social media traffic is private – Most people on Facebook keep their feeds private. Think Facebook is going to let Google index those pages without billions of dollars changing hands?
Social media “authority” is hard to measure and easy to fake – What makes my Facebook account or Twitter retweet hold more weight than anyone elses. Pages have PageRank. What do social media accounts have? Number of followers? Again, super easy to fake. Some sort of clout ranking based on popularity? How much do I need to pay a B-list celebrity to retweet my link to get a better page rank? $500? $1000? Is this any different than buying a PR 6 or 7 backlink for a year?
Now that all being said, there is certainly truth that Google is trying to measure “viralness” of a result/page outside of it’s normal factors. A sudden influx of social activity should make an item rise in the SERPs, but probably shouldn’t keep it there without sustained activity.
Talk to me again in five years and see how much Google is using social media signals for ranking. I doubt it would be more than 10% of their weight even then.