It’s widely assumed that search engines are incorporating signals from popular social networking hubs into their algorithms. After all, millions upon millions of links are shared every day on sites like Facebook and Twitter. It would be somewhat surprising if search engines like Google and Bing were ignoring these links, particularly given the fact that the largest search engines all have data deals in place with Twitter and/or Facebook.

But which signals are being used, and what sort of weight are they being given? Thanks to interviews Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan conducted with both Google and Bing representatives, we now have a better idea.

Twitter: Retweets

Are retweets used as a ranking signal?

Google uses retweets as a signal for both organic and news search.

Bing uses retweets as a signal, although more so in Bing Social Search. Bing also looks at the “social authority” of the users involved,
which is determined by some analysis of the number of followers a user
has, and how many other users he or she follows. See below.

Twitter: User Authority

Is user authority something that is calculated and tracked on Twitter?

Google does “compute and use author quality” but apparently does not do so on the basis of personally identifying the user.

Bing does the same, but also associates well-known individuals with their accounts for this purpose.

Twitter: User Authority and Link Weight

Is more weight given to links from users with more authority?

Google does not use user authority in relation to organic search link weight, although it is used in “limited situations“, such as Google Realtime Search.

Bing says ‘yes‘ without providing more detail.

Facebook: Links

Are links shared in Facebook tracked?

Google treats links from Facebook the same as links from Twitter.

Bing looks at links shared publicly with ‘Everyone‘, including those shared via Facebook Pages.

Facebook: User Authority

Is user authority something that is calculated and tracked on Facebook?

Google does have a calculation for user authority, but it does not rely on personally identifying the user.

Bing does not, citing the difficulty in doing so based on only on what’s shared publicly.

Facebook: User Authority and Link Weight

Is more weight given to links from users with more authority?

Google applies user authority to link weight as it does with Twitter (eg. limited fashion).

Bing cross-references Twitter to ascertain link quality and assumes that if a link is shared a lot in both places, “it’s more likely to be legitimate.

Implications

There are several key take-aways from this information:

  • Social signals are being used.
  • In many cases, these signals are used in a relatively limited fashion.
  • Volume appears to be somewhat more important than authority, at least at this point.
  • Google treats Twitter and Facebook more like equals, while Bing seems to do a little bit more with Twitter.

Photo credit: mrJasonWeaver via Flickr.