In January, we announced our Like vs Links Case Study to see if the wildly popular “Likes are the new links” rumors were true. Apparently we weren’t the only ones that wanted to know — over 40 people subscribed to the blog to find out. Finally, the results are in.
And the Winner is…
Disclaimer: By posting these findings, including URLs of the sites tested, we hereby end the case study. Anyone can now link to these domains and contaminate the findings. In case the rankings are different by the time you go and check, keep in mind they’ve been steady for >3 weeks now and we’re over a month out from the time when all the links and likes were created.
To our surprise, the site that just received links outranked both other sites, even the one that got both, Likes and Links.
The site that received 190 Likes and no links at all remained nowhere to be found in the search rankings confirming our hypothesis that Facebook Likes have no impact on search rankings.
To conduct this case study, we went on Google trends, like many an internet marketer before, and found the trending term “Deer Antler Spray.” After figuring out that Deer Antler Spray was a health supplement and not a cleaning agent for the prized antlers above your fireplace (yeehaw!), we quickly threw up 3 pages to run our experiment on. All 3 were semi-exact match domains and were only monitored for the term “Deer Antler Spray.”
|DeerAntlerSpray1.com||Received Likes and links||>200|
|DeerAntlerSpray2.com||Only received links||14|
|DeerAntlerSpray3.com||Only received Likes||>200|
Since we were skeptical of the effectiveness of Likes, we wanted to give them maximum lead time to show their value. Sites 1 and 3 got their Likes right away. Sites 1 and 2 got their links 2 weeks later.
To read the whole methodology, go here.
Did the Farmer Update Hurt the Case Study,
Or Did the Case Study Hurt the Farmer Update?
Around the time that we promised that we’d publish this case study, Google announced its now infamous “Farmer Update.”
We immediately thought, “Crap. This is totally going to mess up the results,” so we decided to let the experiment run a bit longer before publishing any findings.
Again, to our surprise, 2–3 weeks later, nothing had changed!
What’s more is that the links we built were from article directories. So if you’re freaking out that “Google killed article marketing,” chill. Maybe article directories don’t rank as well as they used to, and perhaps links from them aren’t worth as much as they were before, but article directories still pass link juice and can help you rank.
The proof is in the pudding.
Again, I’m not saying that the update had no impact. It obviously did and I know people who have been affected. With that said, if you’re still running around clenching your ass cheeks with both hands, now may be a good time to stop and get back to work.
Flaws of this Case Study and How You Can Help
To be clear, this case study is not the end all be all.
With a sample of only 3 sites, its purely anecdotal and nowhere close to statistically significant. In order to achieve that level of evidence, we would need to test many more sites across different verticals with varying levels of competition.
One thing I am personally skeptical about is that Site 1, which received both Likes and links, didn’t rank as high as Site 2, which only got links. I do not believe that Likes actually penalized this page. This discrepancy can probably be accounted for by poor indexing of links for Site 1.
If any of you simply aren’t convinced with our findings, we encourage you to replicate/improve our experiment and post your own findings. Science gets better when more people do it. We want to grow a more scientific, data-focussed SEO community so we can put the gurus out of business. In all honesty, if you replicate our case study and find the exact opposite of what we did, we’ll post your findings so that the community can evaluate both. Our only agenda is The Truth.
Nonetheless, we think that this case study is sufficient to justify a working belief that Likes are not important for search rankings and not a worthwhile use of time or resources for a search campaign (social is a whole different animal).
Give Us Your Feedback!
We have a ton more case studies in the pipeline and we’re excited to become your go-to source for data-backed SEO research.
Your opinions mean a ton to us so tell us what you think!
Will these finding change the way you do SEO?
Are there other more pressing issues you want to see us testing?
Tell us what you want to test and we’ll do the testing for you!
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