Todd Mallicoat aka Stuntdubl recently fielded a series of SEO questions on Twitter. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz picked them up and answered them on his blog.
One of the questions, and the one I thought was the most interesting, is
Next year, what will effect (sic) SERP’s (sic) more, Twitter or Facebook?
Good question, and the intricacies are really important. As Rand points out, Google and Facebook aren’t exactly friends. In fact, Google has decided not to use popular Facebook indicators in its search algorithms, which means that Facebook does not really affect Google’s SERPs.
However, Bing and Facebook have a much more friendly relationship. Bing’s SERPs are social to an extent that you can Like them and Share them easily on Facebook. And Bing does use Facebook indicators for ranking purposes. But Bing still is way behind Google in search market share. I mean waaaaay behind.
Take a look at Twitter, on the other hand. Twitter messages are often returned, both at Google and at Bing, in realtime search. The realtime search at both search engines often filter into true organic search. But Twitter doesn’t have anywhere near the influence that Facebook has.
So which has more influence or, as the question is stated, which will have more next year?
Rand says it depends on whether you mean directly or indirectly. Directly, he says, it will be Twitter. Facebook will be influential in terms of second order effects like tweets, links, the social graph, etc.
Those are good points, and I’ll have to agree. With Facebook taking on a direct competitive stance with Google, it will likely never have as much of a direct impact on search results as Twitter. Until Bing becomes more competitive with Google, which may never happen, Facebook’s influence upon the SERPs directly is going to be small. Twitter, on the other hand, has not proven itself to be the popular communications medium that Facebook has. So it’s possible that Twitter will never be a threat to Google. Since it won’t be a threat, or be perceived as a threat, the search engine will have nothing to lose in allowing Twitter to influence the search results.