So we have been experimenting with Google + to see if Google favors Google + when it comes to determining search results. The results do not yet prove that it favors Google plus over other social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but thus far it has definitely proven that it helps to get a page to rank on the first page of the Google Search results fast.

So what about Facebook Signals?

Does Google use these Facebook signals to help determine relevancy of a page and does Google use Facebook data as part of the search ranking algorithm?

Before I break down the different aspects of Facebook and share my findings with you, I want to refer back to a comment made by Luke McKend of Google South Africa who, at the New Generation Social Media conference in Johannesburg this week, said the following:

“It’s not that we favor Google+, it’s just that we are unable to get data out of other social media sites such as Facebook. It is a commercial issue between Google and those social sites. If we can’t see the data, we can’t use it as part of the search rankings.”

Let’s have a look at the different aspects of Facebook and how it affects rankings:

Does Google Index Facebook Backlinks?
If you look into your Google Webmaster Tools backlink reports you might notice that it shows links from Facebook pages as well as Facebook subdomains. But what does the Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam (algorithm) team say on this topic:

Cutts said (in December 2010 I must add):

“I confirm that Google does use Facebook Links as ranking signals. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We use Social Signals to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.”

Watch his video to hear what he said:

Can Google Crawl & Index Facebook Profiles?

Google can crawl Facebook Profile Pages if a user‘ setting is set to allow public search. Private profiles are not crawlable.

Can Google Crawl & Index Facebook Business (Fan) Pages?

Facebook Business Pages are automatically public and therefore visible even if someone is not a fan of your Facebook page. That means that the search engine robots can crawl your page.

What about the new Business Page Timelines. Can Google index them?

In the past Google has had trouble indexing JavaScript & Ajax. However Google says that the Googlebot is now smarter and is able to index some dynamic content.

Matt Cutts on Indexing Facebook timelines

Can Google Crawl & Index Facebook Comments?

Googlebots (spiders that crawl web pages) are now reading Facebook comments on websites just like any other text content. You can also search the text of these comments using regular Google search. (We will be testing this on our own comments section and will feedback our findings to this page in due course).

The Facebook comments gadget is a great thing to have in your website because its easy to just log in to your Facebook account and post a comment on a web page.

Facebook comments on a web page

Does Google use Facebook Shares to influence Ranking Signals?

At the SMX 2011 Conference Matt Cutts said that Google does not crawl Facebook “wall” pages and implied that they don’t use Facebook shares for ranking. However many experiments by SEO’s have shown Facebook Shares on the first page of Search Results. (Read more on an interview with Bing and Google to see what Social signals really count’.

So then why is there such a strong correlation between Facebook Shares and increased Rankings?

What SEO Authority Danny Sullivan has say:

Links: Pages that are heavily shared on Facebook tend to also be heavily linked to.
Other social signals: Pages that are shared on Facebook also tend to be tweeted about and shared through Google.
Quality content: People share pages that they find interesting and have high quality content.
Brand Signals: There is likely more interaction with well known brands than lesser known brands, and this might drive deeper engagement with them on Facebook.

You can see Danny Sullivan’s research and findings here on Search Engine Land.

Final Thoughts on Facebook and Google Rankings:

Gathering for the information available, it appears that as far as business fan pages are concerned there would be merit in creating quality, engaging content on your Facebook Fan Pages that will entice people to want to share the content. Since Google can index fan pages it would make sense to include your keywords (naturally) on your Facebook content.

To further assist in rankings for your company, I would recommend you include a Facebook Comments gadget on your website which people can then share on their page or on your company’s Facebook Page. And as long as you continue to create good quality content on your website that people may link to from their own Facebook Pages, it seems that these can only do you more good than harm (provided of course that these links are natural).

If you continue to create quality content you will be sending off more Brand Signals for your company which will help your brand to become top of mind. So as a marketing tactic is concerned, I would certainly place value on creating a quality engaging Facebook experience for your target audience.