Remember back when blog comments became prime fodder for search engine optimization inbound link spam? When blogs began to emerge as a relatively popular medium, link spammers recognized a new opportunity to spam blog comments with predefined anchor text for SEO benefits. And now, as social media further congeals with SEO, are social media platforms the next area ripe for link spam? You better believe it.
Why Facebook Status Updates?
One feature of Facebook "fan" pages, unlike personal pages, is that they are public, and that setting cannot be changed. Do a search for nearly any major brand and you'll find their Facebook page show up in the top 20 results, if not the top 10results, for the brand name. And because these pages are public and open to being indexed (and ranked) by search engines, it stands to reason that the links within those pages might be valuable for SEO too. But are the links valuable for SEO?
What About Anchor Text?
One reason that some folks may not believe that links from Facebook status updates on fan pages aren't valuable for SEO is that you can't change the anchor text on links shared on Facebook status updates. But you can! On my own company's Facebook page, I tried a simple test to change the anchor text on a link to my company's website home page. To ensure that I used a term that was not at all competitive in search, I chose one of my favorite words -- the name my oldest daughter began using for her fictional play kitchen specialty dish when she was only two: "Toki Mo Kio" (I have no idea if it's really spelled that way... I just had to guess).
There were no real pages using that term, so I tried sharing a link to my company's home page of our website, changing the anchor text from the default page title tag instead to read "Toki Mo Kio." You can make this change in Facebook shared links by clicking on the default title entry and editing it.
The result? Within minutes, Bing listed my company's website on a search for "Toki Mo Kio," indicating that I "liked" the page. So in essence, Bing considered my link sharing as a "like," even though we do not have the Facebook "like" button on our website. Sharing a link on Facebook appears to mean a "like" to Bing. Additionally, this result appeared as a social result, meaning that if I am logged out, the result does not show. And Google? No result at all. The only result was from a similar tweet I made, which didn't appear for several hours.
Check Out our Website! Like Our Page!
Now that we know that Facebook page links may be read by search engines and that anchor text can also be changed on those links, why not try to spam links for SEO benefit? My company's Facebook page is open for comment sharing, and several times per month I see random, unsolicited comments accompanied by links. Unless the shared link seems relevant, we'll remove it. But the goal of some of the posters seems clear -- share links on Facebook fan pages -- be it to gain awareness via social media or to build links for SEO.
So, What's the Answer to Fight Facebook Link Spam?
Right now, to fight against linking spam via Facebook, there are two main avenues a page owner can take: either disallow all commenting OR remove unwarranted comments as they appear. While you can disallow all comments, much as you can turn off commenting on your blog, many (including me) would argue that the mistakes of a few should not disable the conversation for all. So if you leave comments on, you'll have to monitor them (easily done via email) and remove unrelated posts to your wall. As with blog comment spam applications, you can also block the poster from posting to your wall again. But before you ban a commenter, be sure that the person is truly trying to spam you. You might just delete comments first, and if you see a regular offender, then consider blocking that poster.
Whichever option you choose, know that Facebook link spam is likely to increase as Facebook status information becomes more integrated with search results -- and others become more knowledgeable on how to spam the Facebook wall.