Matt Cutts is Google’s head of web spam. When he speaks, the SEO community loses its mind. Bloggers roll out their jump to conclusions mats and Twitter bursts into flames.
In the video below, Cutts answers the question:
Are Facebook and Twitter signals part of the ranking algorithm? How much do they matter?
This video is sparking discussion as it seems to contradict something Cutts said in 2010 (that social signals do matter).
The confusion seems to stem from this.
In the first (most recent) video, Cutts talks about how Google ranks pages and how Facebook and Twitter pages (in the form of social profiles) are dealt with the same way any other page would be.
He seems to confuse the question with the answer. I don’t believe the question was “Does Google count the number of likes and follows my social profiles have to determine if they’re relevant to user queries” but that is EXACTLY the answer Cutts has provided.
Cutts also talks about the “causation vs. correlation” argument that seems to be so en vogue these days. He says that (paraphrasing) just because your (web) page has a lot of social sharing activity doesn’t mean it will rank well. It’s probably a good page and therefore is getting links.
Then the Cutts disinformation machine kicks in. Cutts says:
…I think over 10 years, we’re more likely to understand identity and to understand the social connections between people, but at least for the time being, we have to deal with the web as it is and what we are allowed to crawl and what we can easily extract from that and count on being able to access that in the future
I don’t think for a minute that Google will take 10 years to figure out the relationships between social shares, even if Facebook never lets them in.
So, if you want to be relevant now, get links. If you want to stay relevant, get shares.