Likes vs. Links: Google, Facebook and the Future of SEO

by Frank on May 3, 2010

Last week, Facebook reported that more than 50,000 sites had implemented its “like” functionality.  Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore rightly pointed out that if “likes” surpass links as a way for one site to recommend content on another, then Facebook will effectively “own” the web (or at least the link graph that Google’s algorithm is based on).  This is precisely Facebook’s goal, and in Cashmore’s words, this is Google’s worst nightmare.  Given graphs like the one below that show Facebook’s traffic passing Google’s, does that mean Google is pretty much yesterday’s news?  Should you ditch your normal SEO, cut your web staff and outsource your site to Facebook?

Facebook Traffic vs Google Traffic

What This Means for SEO

Facebook’s move and the sheer amount of traffic they generate make it clear that any marketer ignores Facebook at their own peril.  But this is (hopefully) not news to you.  Whether it’s your personal brand or a corporate page, you need to be on Facebook.  There are clearly eyeballs on Facebook, and as any decent marketer knows, money follows eyeballs.

But let’s not get carried away.

Take a deep breath and step away from the Facebook hype for a minute.  Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz does a great video in which he attempts to pull SEO ‘s collectively back from the ledge, pointing out several good things, not the least of which is that “Google just isn’t that broken.”  The bottom line for SEO ‘s and Search Marketers is that – at least in the short term – this doesn’t change much.  Here are three observations to help you avoid Facebook’s pied piper from running off with your internet strategy:

#1 – Is traffic really all you’re after? (The answer is no.)  If the answer is no, then the goal is not just traffic but the right kind of traffic.  As Rand points out, it’s unlikely that your Facebook friends will be the best source of information on the best sound masking system (how many of your friends even know what it is?), or the best cell phone equipment for your specific model of phone (how many of your friends have the exact same model cell phone?), or the best Mexican restaurant in a small town you’ve never been to before?  Your friends will be excellent sources of information on a lot of different things – but generally, searches on Google tend to be information-based while searches on Facebook tend to be people and relationship-based.  Good marketing rules dictate that you approach each medium differently because each your potential customers are looking for very different things from each medium.

#2 – Fear the Man. Be wary of turning all your online marketing to a sole provider.  While Facebook is putting up some pretty awesome traffic stats, ditching traditional SEO (and Google), deactivating your website and just pointing your domain to your Facebook page may seem like a great financial move.  But consider how in-line your business priorities are with Facebook’s before dumping traditional SEO.  Michael Gray has an excellent post pointing out many reasons NOT to dump your existing SEO strategy.

#3 – Remember that SEO is still just marketing.  Internet marketing is still just marketing, and it’s just not that complicated.  You create something valuable, you make people aware of its value.  Repeat.  You create a magazine ad so that it grabs attention and converts readers into buyers.  You create a Facebook page to build relationships and convert lurkers into buyers and brand evangelists.  And you create (and optimize) a site so that it answers people’s questions and describes your value so that you can convert site traffic into buyers.  Marketing is still AIDAS.  Facebook is just a channel – an important one, but just one internet marketing channel.  They recognize this (both are buying Google PPC ads on “How to Advertize on Twitter”, for example).  Do you?

One of the things that makes internet marketing fun is that it’s always changing.  Facebook’s introduction of “likes” is definitely something to watch and participate in.  But does it represent the end for Google?  Not likely.

  • Anyone who wants to know about sound masking should befriend me on FB.

    In all seriousness, tho, well said, Frank. The right kind of traffic versus just traffic in general is a good point.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Emily/Miss Mommy

  • Anyone who wants to know about sound masking should befriend me on FB.

    In all seriousness, tho, well said, Frank. The right kind of traffic versus just traffic in general is a good point.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Emily/Miss Mommy

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