A search engine's primary aim is to provide high-quality, relevant content to searchers. Search engines, such as Google, judge quality in large part by how frequently a URL is seen throughout the internet, and as more web communication has moved to social media, Google and other search providers have integrated social signals as a ranking signal.
Social signals are the likes, shares, votes, pins, or views people place on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites that filter out to the various search engines.
Social signals have come a long way in terms of their impact on SEO over the course of the last few years, with recent studies showing that webpages that get shared on social media from brands with a solid social presence perform better in the search engines than those that don’t. Social media activity correlates with rankings.
A search engine's primary aim is to provide high-quality, relevant content to searchers.
While we still don’t know the true impact of social signals (which, admittedly, is probably a moving target depending on many factors), we do know that social signals are increasing in importance with regard to the ranking algorithm, and will continue to do so.
“Traditional” SEO Vs. Social Signals
For years, traditional SEO strategies were the definitive way to ensure a high search engine ranking for a site. The right anchor text links, backlinks and keywords were a vital part of a mathematical formula that determined SERP rankings. However, after Google’s many Panda and Penguin updates, the focus began to shift more toward the value of a site’s content, and today it has shifted again to add people’s feedback into the mix with social signals.
What steps should be taken right now to improve my website’s social signals?
First and foremost, strong content is key. Valuable, entertaining or informative content always engenders more positive interaction than blatant or spammy advertising. Some tried and true strategies for turning up the volume on your social signals are:
- Post frequently: Keep your brand at the top of social media news feeds.
- Use images: Images greatly increase interaction rates for all social media types.
- Listen: Hear what people are saying about your brand and respond to critique in a constructive and positive way.
- Monitor: There are several free social media marketing apps which track shares, re-tweets, likes and keywords associated with your brand.
- Contests: contests and giveaways are a great way to increase interest in your brand.
- Partnerships: Share links and produce original content with other popular brands.
- Cover all the social media bases: Produce content for all of the top social media sites.
Social signals are yet another metric in the already complex and mysterious field of SEO. White the major search engines are black boxes, it's inevitable that social media chatter has an effect on a website's popularity. Increase social media engagement and your site may rise to the top of the ranks.