Gaming Facebook and the Social Web

The emergence of social media and its manipulation for SEO is certainly not new concept. An article detailing “What Social Signals Do Google and Bing Really Count?” from Danny Sullivan on December 1st, 2010 helped to clarify the specific signals that affected ones rankings.

At this point in the game, Facebook rules the social web. Many SEOs are so driven to get “Likes” from Facebook that they are dismissing common sense by employing black hat practices in order to acquire better rankings from Google; particularly post-Panda.

Michael Gray stated in a June 2 blog post that: “Getting Facebook fans and Facebook likes may have even eclipsed link-buying as the new black hat way of gaming the system.”

Though Facebook does have specific rules and guidelines regarding linking schemes, Gray goes on to compare the ability to game the Facebook system to the old west and suggests that you: “…take advantage of the lawless wild west atmosphere while it exists, but realize it’s a short term loophole, so fake it till you make it.”

I certainly can appreciate the loophole that Gray is showing us and that fact that he did add the caveat, but I suggest using extreme caution. I am sure that everyone is tired of hearing about the Panda update from Google, but I can’t help but see a dangerous correlation here.

Before Panda, the Google SERPs were gamed due to lack of policing and quality control standards. This led to a complete inundation of the SERPS with webspam and completely wreaked havoc on the search results. Google rolled out an aggressive counter measure in order to combat this problem in the form of several major algorithm updates this year.

The Panda update did more than just target those (aside from some collateral damage) who were gaming the system with scraped content and black hat techniques; it forced a fundamental paradigm shift to a more organic web.

While Google does not own Facebook, they do set the standards by which we all have to play. The fact of the matter is that they are actively engaged in attacking black hat practices…more now than ever before. There is no reason to believe that this will not continue and carry over in to the “social web.”

As an SEOs, it is common (and sometimes a necessity) to look for the easy way to garner rankings and to use them to benefit our clients, but it seems an inevitability that Google (or Facebook, etc) will catch up and aggressively penalize those employing these black hat techniques to game Facebook (and it turn the SERPs).

Before participating in anything that Facebook or Google may deem to be unsavory, you should recall what happened to companies like Overstock, Forbes and JC Penny when it was found they were using such techniques to game rankings earlier this year.

Remember that anything black hat is short-term gain, but very high-risk. You may get a quick boost in rankings, but it will be short lived and you WILL be penalized at some point. The safer approach is to only engage in white hat organic practices. This will ultimately result in a better web experience for all by creating a more web-friendly, user friendly internet.

Dave’s Note:
As I had to back on June 2nd I feel the need to point out and apologize for the gross oversight on the part of my staff for their failure to properly illustrate the most important news (and Kyle – you’re post was about gaming … that should have been your tip).

If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth a million so I’ll leave it to the pros and promise our readers that this oversight will not occur again …

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