Social media is an essential element of marketing and website promotion for businesses large and small. The Panda update that Google rolled out last year means that website developers, marketers and business owners can’t rely on old fashioned SEO and link building techniques to help keep their sites near the top of the rankings in organic search. Facebook might be thought of as online Marmite by some (I know more people who would rather repeatedly hit themselves in the face with a bouquet of thistles than use Facebook), but a significant company presence on Facebook, combined with a decent number of “likes” and links does aid website marketing and boost site traffic.
However, I think we need to question the true value social media has with regards website marketing and SEO. Facebook recently announced that 83 million of its accounts are fake. A quick search online will allow you to find websites that offer to sell “likes” and “followers” by the tens of thousands for Facebook and Twitter – these fake users appear to make a company or product considerably more popular than it actually is (all for $10 or under, thanks to assistance from outsourcing services in India and China).
In an article last July a BBC reporter set up a fake account, purchased “like adverts” and discovered “Within minutes people were starting to “like” my meaningless site, and within 24 hours I had 1,600 likes – and had spent my $10. Where were they from?”. 1,600 likes for a completely fake account and $10 profit for Facebook; not a bad business model. With fake users, fake likes and fake followers what’s next? Well just today, the BBC reported that a fake Facebook advert for £75 worth of free Tesco vouchers has fooled many users, and is nothing but a scam.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Facebook, it is a very effective social media marketing tool, however I do still need to be convinced of Google’s consideration of social media when it comes to gauging site popularity and ranking of results in organic search. With companies profiting from creating fake Facebook accounts, and Facebook users and Facebook itself unable to accurately gauge which accounts, “likes” and followers are fake, should social media currently have a strong bearing on SEO and search engine results?