Social Signals and Why they Matter for SEO

Social signals refer to the amount of engagement you, your brand and your content generate on the various social media platforms. This engagement can be measured in lots of ways including the following:

  • The number of @mention tweets you receive
  • Links to your website and content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media Platforms
  • The number of people who have circled you on Google+
  • The number of likers who like your business page
  • The quantity of Facebook shares and re-tweets you receive etc.

Now you might be wondering why I’m talking about social media marketing on a blog that’s focused on SEO. The reason is simple. Whilst it’s tempting to see the two as separate and unrelated, that’s no longer the case. That’s because there’s an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that search engines such as Google are actively using social signals to help them rank websites.

The noise started as far back as 2010, and in December of the same year, Matt Cutt’s admitted that Google do take social search into account. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive guide to explain exactly how they do this (although there’s a lot of speculation and discussion), BUT it’s clear to see the reasons why social search is becoming so significant to how your website scores in the organic stakes.

Let me tell you why…

The search landscape is changing

One of the main reasons for this shift is because social search is changing the way that people find information via the internet. No longer are we solely reliant on search engines to help us find content, we’re also increasingly influenced by what’s being discussed and shared on social media. After all, how often do you discover a new blog, article or business after seeing what someone you follow has tweeted or posted on Facebook or LinkedIn?

So because we’re taking more note of the information that’s socially shared, it’s logical that Google and the other search engines would start to take this into account – especially because of the wealth of information they can glean from social behaviour.

Social signals, authority and relevancy

Social media can give powerful clues as to someone’s authority and relevancy. And when you consider that Google’s primary aim is to return useful, relevant websites in its organic listings, it’s easy to see why they’d be interested in social.

Social signals such as engagement and sharing are often a good indicator of someone’s relevance and authority. For example, if content (or a website) generates a lot of engagement, or a website owner gets a lot of mentions, this is a clear indicator that other people think they’re worth listening to. In turn, it makes logical sense that the content produced by these people is looked upon more favourably in the organic listings.

In addition, rel=”author” represents a HUGE sift in Google’s acknowledgement of the importance of authority. rel=”author” allows Google to track what authors have published across domains. So if you’re guest posting on high quality sites, Google knows it’s you and this in turn can help boost the visibility of your own website (and it’s not just because of the link back).

Content is king

Another key factor in social signals is the role of quality content. The old reasons for keeping your website fresh and constantly updated remain. Google still loves fresh content and a regularly updated blog for example can be a powerful way to attract new visitors to your website. In addition, it’s great for tapping into those long tail keywords. BUT blogging also provides material which you can share via your social media platforms and encourage people to talk about and engage with your brand. What’s more, if people like what they read, it’s possible they will link back to you – and these sort of natural links are good news for your page rank and domain authority.

Finally, when it comes down to whether your competitor scores higher than you, the amount of social engagement could be the differentiator.

SEO is changing

In the past it was relatively easy to get found on Google. Create keyword rich content and nurture links and your organic rankings would soar. However, as I’m sure a lot of you have experienced first-hand, Google moves swiftly and the recent Panda and Penguin algorithm changes stung a lot of business owners who were reliant on Google for their traffic.

In short, so called “black-hat” tactics no longer work and business owners (and SEO professionals) need to explore new ways to prove to the search engines that their website is useful and relevant.

So whilst there are still fundamental on-site SEO tactics that you need to get right and securing high quality, natural links are still relevant, it’s important that you embrace the power of social to support your SEO strategies.

Here’s how…

  1. Get Google Authorship

Embrace the growing power of rel=”author” and ensure all your content is linked up and attributed to you. Then wield the power of guest blogging and content marketing to increase your profile and reach out to a new audience.

  1. Explore Google+

Whilst many people say it’s a graveyard, there’s no denying that Google+ is a force to be reckoned with – not least because it’s from Google! And with the recent launch of vanity urls, it looks as though steps are being made to make it even more attractive to non-converts.

I wrote a series of post about the benefits of Google+, so if you want to learn more about how this platform could benefit your business, you can take a read here.

  1. Build your authority

Google loves authority and relevancy. It means you need to get out there and embrace the power of social to spread your word and build your reputation. For example:

  • Consider who you’re connected to
  • Identify prime opportunities to guest post and extend your reach
  • Take a stand for something and aim to make an impact in a niche

The more people who see and engage with your content via social, the better this will be for your rankings.

  1. Embed social share buttons on your site

Make it super easy for people to share your stuff by embedding social share buttons onto your website. And actively encourage your readers to hit the tweet or like button if they’ve enjoyed your stuff – in fact, get into the habit of asking people to share as one of your call to actions.

  1. Get social

There are lots of reasons why social media is good for business. But be aware that you can’t just rush up a profile and expect to see a big impact on your organic rankings. Instead you need to work on your strategy and ensure it’s designed to encourage engagement, boost the amount of shares and raise your profile.

But what do you think? Have you been seeing an impact on your organic listings as a result of your social media activity? Please let me know in the comments below.

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share. You know what to do!

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