One of the questions that has been plaguing search engine optimization (SEO) gurus for some time is whether Likes, Shares and other activity on Facebook has an effect on search engine rankings. As it turns out, a new study from Stone Temple Consulting shows that they done because Google can’t see them.

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Google can’t see your Likes on Facebook

The firm found that when users of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s social network Like a page, it doesn’t appear on their Facebook profile. As a result, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) can’t even see what people have Liked on Facebook. The search engine also can’t see if some sort of “respected authority” has endorsed anything by Liking it.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) can run the Javascript for Like buttons on a specific Facebook page. However, the company cannot tell who, specifically, as Liked the page. This is why Google is able to load the number of Facebook Likes each page has when you look at it. However, the search giant has no way to evaluate the quality of those Likes. This means that when a company buys Likes through Fiverr or another online freelance website, those Likes look the same as Likes from real people who actually clicked “Like” on the Facebook page.

Unsure about Facebook shares

Stone Temple ran a separate study looking at Shares on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s website. The firm calls the data from this study “less conclusive” than its findings on the Like study. They ran tests on Google indexing based on Shares over Facebook. They requested that more than 50 Facebook users share certain pages. Each page was shared approximately 10 times apiece, with some of those shares coming from people with somewhat higher profiles who otherwise might be able to influence search rankings.

However, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) didn’t crawl Shared pages either. This was a fairly small sample, however, although Stone Temple doesn’t think Google uses Facebook Shares for “discovery, indexing or ranking.”

Similar study also found no effect from Google+ activity

The findings of this study are interesting as Stone Temple found a few months ago that Google rankings aren’t even affected by activities like Shares on the search giant’s own social networking platform, Google+. The findings from this other study showed “no clear evidence that the shares in isolation impacted non-personalized search results” (emphasis theirs).