Like any age old battle in history, the war is waged by two dominating factors. Not that one necessarily has to be evil and the other good for that is usually most subjective but who is stronger or in this case, has more believers. We can only be talking about the debate that has been going on for a few months now and only understandably so. The issue at hand can radically change the way the internet has been for a comfortable period of time, Google as the number one search engine and Facebook as the number one Social Networking site. And it is usually when things are comfortable that one kingdom begins to get restless and starts thinking about creeping up to the enemy lines.
So what we have is the classic situation of two powerful rulers who remain civil to each other yet are quietly working out methods to silently annihilate the competition completely. It’s the way the world has always been and there is no reason for the blogosphere not to follow suit. So what is going on in here exactly? To put it quite simply, Facebook has been making Google a little nervous lately. What, with the ongoing popularity of this social network platform with real people with real friends using the “Like” button as a meter to gauge the popularity or quality of website, where does this put the age old metric system of link building to rank a website high on the SERPs?
Could it really be that liking a page is a more effective means to evaluate a website relevance to certain topic or keyword? What if you like a page simply because you have a crush on the author? Does that still make you credible as opposed to other webmasters who regularly haunt the blogosphere for good and well-researched articles to link into their own sites? Just when did the power transfer from the link techie whiz to the 14 year old that constantly re-tweets and shares facts and other pages relating to his favorite video game.
Google has built an entire empire and won many hearts on the power of links as an effective way of evaluating the relevancy of a website. What earlier search engines did was employ a fleet of human experts who ranked web pages on their own standards and determined its ranking on said search engine site. Soon, robots were helping out by systematically scanning an article and zoning in on relevant key words or phrases it contained. Neither method proved too credible or did much to help the searcher. Enter Google and introduced the power of links. Likes in a website can be compared to citation on an academic paper. It serves to give credit to well written, high quality web pages by linking back to them. If they are credible enough to use as a source then they must be good.
Just the same as a well-respected author cites another book relevant to his or her research, a well-reputed website that provides links other pages that it trusts means very good for those linked webpage. It works in a democratic way with well appointed body approving bills and posting them to the constitution. And the public saw that it was good. As any good observer knows, any good technology model can only last for so long before innovations either from the same party improves on it and gives birth to something better or if coming from a different party topples it and completely takes over. This looks like what is all set to happen with the ever increasing popularity of Facebook and the “Like” button.
Just how relevant really is liking a certain page to make it a strong contender to make it to the top of the search engine food chain? A lot of gurus are contesting that Facebook is a real community made up of real people with real friends. They are easily quantifiable and manageable therefore easier to target. Well this may be good for a business point of view. An easy to target market is always good news for marketers whose jobs are made a whole lot simpler. But from the angle of a Googler, does a webpage with more likes warrant better content than one with more links to it?
Some independent groups have taken it upon themselves to conduct studies to extract the facts. As the debate can only go around in circles especially with so many factors involved, science seems to be the only logical way. Taking one rare trending key phase and making three almost similar spun version websites out of it, three variables were presented. Website #1 had a controlled number of paid likes in it, website #2 had a controlled number of likes and links in it and website #3 had a controlled number of paid links in it. These three domains were released live into the World Wide Web and results were herded in two months after.
The results showed that the website with links on it turned up with the highest ranking on Google. This does not mean entirely that likes do not have any impact whatsoever on a webpage’s chances to factor a higher ranking on Google. This does not mean that links will remain the model of rank credibility either. All the study goes to show is while Google is the number one search engine at the moment; it will remain to dictate how the search ranking will figure. Unless Facebook comes up with their own search engine that factors in likes, they will have to remain in their own kingdom until such plan is hatched.
The author of this article is Mariana Fang Lin. She is a blogger, hosting enthusiast, and marketer who likes to involve herself with and write about social media. Visit her Twitter page to follow her here.