Google social signals: Artificially skewed results

Google is using ‘social signals’ to help rank websites in the search results pages. But is it really a good idea? 

Are Google social signals getting it wrong?

It makes sense for Google algorithms to take the majority’s likes and dislikes into account.

There are about 70 million people in Britain. And 26 million-ish Twitter accounts. Many of us have two accounts, one for work and one for personal use. Spammers often have thousands of accounts each. So the number of British individuals using Twitter is probably a great deal lower than 26 million. And because 60% of Twitter users are aged 25-44, the social signals it generates aren’t representative from an age perspective either.

Facebook claims around 30 million unique UK users. That’s less than half the population. Apparently Facebook mostly attracts 25-34 year olds, making it even more age-restricted than Twitter.

Google+ apparently accounts for less than a million of us. If you’re talking statistical relevance, 1/70th of the population isn’t a representative sample either. Far from it.

Is the social signals focus skewed?

Plenty of internet-savvy people have multiple social media accounts. I have four: one Facebook, two Twitter and one LinkedIn. Which must skew social signals even more.

Despite significant inroads by marketers, most of us use social media to communicate and interact with friends and colleagues. Social media marketers and SEOs, on the other hand, do their best to manipulate social media because they know Google is starting to take social signals into account.

When the majority of social signals are generated by Social Media Marketers, the end result isn’t representative of what most of us want. It just means we see what the biggest SMM spenders want us to see. If Google’s not careful they’ll end up delivering artificially skewed search results based on the preferences of the few, not the many.