October 5, 2018 | By: Tony Mastri

Are Social Signals a Secret Weapon For SEO?

In this competitive market, small businesses are always looking for strategies that can give them an edge with search engines. Many believe that social signals are a secret weapon in this fight for search engine superiority.

What are SEO social signals? And what is the importance of social media in SEO?

Here’s what you need to know about social signals for SEO, what search engines have to say about SEO social signals, and how social media helps SEO.

What Are Social Signals in SEO?

Put simply, social signals are indicators that tell search engines when a piece of content is engaged in a certain way on social media platforms. This engagement generally takes the form of likes, shares, comments, and retweets, thus showing that the corresponding page contains valuable, high-quality information.

How Does Social Media Help SEO?

Determining social media impact on SEO is an equation many marketers are still trying to figure out. Frankly, most marketing experts don’t explicitly know how social media helps SEO rankings.

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Like most SEO factors, major search engines have not revealed exactly how closely social media and SEO are tied together. In 2014, Matt Cutts (a Google representative at the time) explained that Social Signals were not a signal in Google’s ranking algorithm, but their ability to incorporate social signals for SEO may change in the future.

Despite the apparent ambivalence towards social signals, several case studies have been conducted that suggest there may be more to how social signals affect search rankings than Google is telling us. Some of the conclusions drawn from these studies include:

  • Tweets from high-authority Twitter users produce short but powerful ranking boosts.
  • Google disproportionately rewards pages with high numbers of +1s on Google+. This type of social signal tends to produce longer-term ranking benefits.
  • Facebook likes and shares have a positive impact on page rank for relevant keywords.

Taking this research one step further, an experiment conducted using six brand-new websites offered some quantifiable insights into the amount of impact social signals could have. Based on that experiment, 300 Google +1s improved page ranks by 9.4 percent, while 100 Google Plus followers had an impressive 14.6 percent beneficial impact.

Facebook had slightly lower effects, with 70 shares and 50 likes producing a ranking boost of 6.9 percent. Twitter placed last, with 50 retweets yielding only a 2.9 percent ranking improvement.

Finally, one of the most in-depth experiments done to date (by Cognitive SEO) looked at 300,000 pieces of content, coming from 34,000 randomly chosen keywords that ranked on Google in positions 1 to 10 between May and June of 2016.

The following two findings resulted from the research.

Strong Presence on Social Networks Is Correlated with Better Rankings

what are social signals in SEO?

The cognitive SEO report indicates that “on average, presence on social networking sites (which includes likes, shares, and comments on Facebook, plus shares on Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest) is negatively associated with site rank, and the relationship is close to linear (and perfectly linear for the first 5 ranks). This means that, in general, the smaller the rank number is (so, the higher up the website), the higher the chances are that the average presence on a social network is larger.”

Higher Rankings are Correlated with Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn High Shares Altogether

In addition to social media presence, the report states that “Facebook (overall activity, including likes, shares, and comments) and Google+ are the closest to a perfectly linear relationship, each with 2 “deviations” from the expected values. LinkedIn’s relation to site rank is decidedly less linear, although the overall trend still holds true.”

Social Signals Are an Indirect Factor for SEO

It’s important to note that these studies, experiments, and reports indicate a correlation, not a cause and effect relationship. Regardless of whether Google explicitly tells us that social signals are a direct factor in SEO rankings, we know that they can be an indirect factor.

We know that references and citations, usually in the form of links, play into Google’s algorithm. We can be fairly certain that while social media links may not count the same as links from authoritative sources, they are counted, and a high number of social signal links should have a positive impact on your rankings.

Also, creating engagement with your website through the savvy use of social media can increase traffic, lower your bounce rate, lead to longer dwell-time on your website, and more repeat visits. All these factors are important in how Google and other search engines view your website and ultimately where it should be returned in search results.

Using Social Media for SEO

how social media helps SEO

Unlike some aspects of SEO, it is relatively easy for businesses to begin using social signals to get traffic to their sites. The first step is to create pages for your business on every major social media platform, being sure to use your focus keywords in your page name and description. Next, you need to begin posting.

Depending on the size of your following, you should post anywhere from several times per month to twice per day. The volume of posts should increase with the size of your following.

Finally, you should equip pages on your website with “share” buttons for the major social media platforms to make it easier for visitors to share your site with their friends.

All this posting will also give you the opportunity to drive traffic directly to blog posts, offer pages and email sign-ups on your site from social media platforms. The better the content that you share and the more active you are on social media, the more traffic that you can drive to your website.

In addition, a larger social media following can also help you build a targeted audience for your remarketing efforts. Ultimately, knowing how to use social media for SEO begins with mastering the basics.

Your Take-Away About Social Media and SEO

Knowing how to use social media for SEO will allow you to generate visitors, leads, and ultimately revenue from your website. And in theory it’s simple; you post engaging posts on your business social media profiles, people share it, and you generate more traffic and higher rankings for your website. Social signals SEO isn’t hard to execute, it just takes dedication and focus.

The difficulty for many small to mid-sized businesses comes from planning and executing the social media SEO strategy that will be necessary to generate content that is truly shareable.

In addition to creating the content, managing multiple social media profiles can be a very time-consuming endeavor and can often lead to a failure to launch for your content marketing and social media marketing plans.

If you’re interested in launching an effective social media SEO strategy for your business, but don’t have the internal resources or time to manage it in-house, we highly recommend that you consider working with MARION. We’re a full-service marketing agency that offers highly rated SEO services for your websites, ensuring that customers find you organically. Based in Houston, we have decades of experience creating beautiful experiences.

Contact us today so we can focus on optimizing your social media and SEO to generate relevant leads.


About Tony Mastri

Tony Mastri, Digital Marketing Manager at MARION, is an experienced agency and in-house digital marketer. With a proven background in content strategy, relationship-based link building, and technical SEO, he makes data-informed decisions that drive client growth.

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