The QUESTION: Google has been open about using social data as a metric in the search ranking, but the company has only partnered effectively with a few social networks (and most notably Twitter). Facebook and Google have yet to partner up. But does Google still use Facebook likes and shares as a search ranking metric?
The ANSWER: No, although there may be some indirect influence.
A lot of initial data showed that sites being shared on Facebook were more likely to rank well on Google. As those studies have been examined, though, it seems that there’s just a correlation in content pupularity; if people like it on Facebook, they’re also likely to spread it elsewhere, thus making it rank higher.
Google’s Matt Cutts said very clearly and specifically that the company doesn’t crawl Facebook wall pages, where the massivemajority of the linking happens. To confirm this, several groups, including SEOMoz, did testing to see if content shared only on Facebook would get indexed. Cutts’s words held true, with Google remaining peacefully oblivious of the shared link.
It’s possible that certain services that do crawl the Facebook pages, aggregating links or compiling the most popular pages, areindexed in Google – meaning that Google indirectly gets insights into Facebook. But it’s a “friend of a friend” situation, with Facebook never interacting – as a metric or data provider – for Google.
While it’s possible that things will change, especially if Google secures a partnership with Facebook, there is no current indication that Facebook likes have a direct impact in Google search engine ranking.