How Social Signals Affect Your Search Engine Rankings
Social signals as we know them have been all the rage in the SEO sphere in the past two years or so. Danny Sullivan first wrote a thought-provoking article on social signals and their impact in SEO way back in December of 2010. That’s seems like an awfully long time ago, but
- Number of Facebook Likes for your brand
- Number of Facebook shares for your content
- Twitter followers
- Tweets that link to or mention your brand
- Number of Google+ ‘Circles’
- Number of people who ‘+1’ your content
According to this press release by Searchmetrics, it appears that Facebook ‘likes’, shares, and Twitter shares have the most impact as social signals on Google search results. For Bing, Facebook and Twitter shares do also impact on search, but in a different way. Of course, there are other social media factors such as Pinterest re-pins and upvotes on Reddit that also count. Foursquare check-ins particularly come in handy in local search results. See this list for a comprehensive look at social signals that matter most to Google.
Why social signals impact on ranking
One thing is clear now – search engines are relying, to a pretty good extent, on social media activity to weigh the significance of brands. For Google, having your post shared, liked, or retweeted by an influencer is a big plus since social signals are being treated in much the same way as links(some carry more weight than others). Bing also checks the authority of Twitter users who tweet or retweet your content, and they also place more emphasis than Google on the number of these actions.
Having said that, here are 4 reasons why social signals have a significant effect on rankings and why they might eventually weigh in more than links:
- Everybody is getting social now – More and more consumers are joining social media and a lot more time is being spent there. So naturally, the growing trend is that brands are engaging consumers more on these social media channels, which raises the significance of social signals in determining the popularity of brands to consumers.
- It’s evident that you’re likelier to trust recommendations by your friends in the search results – For instance, the number of your friends who have +1’d, tweeted, re-pinned or shared a post is an indication of how relevant that content might be to you. This is the whole essence of social signals, and it’s what drove Google and Bing to implement social search.
- Social media sites use the nofollow attribute to their links, but still, the logical assumption is that more social media shares mean your content is linkable since it’s sharable – For practical purposes, a share is an endorsement for your content in the same way that a link is. It’s a positive sign that your content is valuable. So more shares = more positive vibes being sent to search engines about your content.
- Brands with a huge social media presence have greater brand loyalty – so their websites have better conversion rates, referrals, repeat customers, more positive reviews, more natural backlinks and overall, greater brand awareness.
A look at Google Authorship
Google implemented the authorship feature as a way of distinguishing the original authors of content from duplicate content. It’s also a nice way of attributing content to an author – who may publish on multiple sites – rather than to a website. AuthoRank as a measure of an author’s reputation was later introduced, and it’s a ranking signal.
Google continues to gather data on authors by tracking them across domains, analyzing how their content is being received by readers. This means the higher credibility an author enjoys, (regardless of where they publish) the higher the significance attached to their content. So you’d expect them to rank higher for certain keywords and their outbound links to hold more value.
So what’s the secret to success with Google Authorship? Write quality content. You’ll get more followers, more shares, and more backlinks which will obviously translate to more cred.
Tips for a stronger social media presence
With the launch of Google Plus, Google have managed to integrate their own social signals into their algorithm. And though Facebook’s and Twitter’s signals may be stronger than +1s at the moment, there’s no doubt that Google+ and Google Authorship will continue to grow in significance as ranking factors.
Here’s a 4-step guide to improving your social media presence and signals:
# 1. Company blog
Create a company blog if you haven’t already. A company blog is one of the best ways to create your ‘voice’ and build credibility in your industry. For best results, blog regularly – 2-3 times a week may be enough, but the schedule depends on your industry. Write quality content or hire expert writers to blog for you. The last thing you need is cheap, poor-quality content that will only dent your company’s reputation.
# 2. Social media pages
Create your company pages/accounts on all of the major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. They’re important for establishing your brand’s credibility. If you do not have enough time to manage all these accounts, you can hire a Social Media Manager or a college intern who’s equally adept with all things social.
# 3. Integrate your site with your offsite presence
Don’t fail to share your blog posts to all your social media channels whenever you publish them. Ask you readers to also show some love for your content by ‘liking’ and sharing it. Add images in your posts to increase the share appeal for Pinterest users.
# 4. Connect with leaders and influencers on social media
Talk to them, seek their insights and get them to share your content.
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