The way that Google ranks a site on the first page of its search results (for any given search term) are the ones which they consider to be most useful and relevant to a user. There are hundreds of factors which rank one website above another. Google doesn’t let people know what those factors are, but through a combination of research, testing and experience, we have an idea. Marketers will be aware that those factors include keyword usage and the number of inbound and outbound links to a site. But does social media marketing really benefit SEO?

Social Marketing can make your page more relevant because when Google searches, it doesn’t just look at your site, it also looks offsite. If you write blogs on other sites which link to your own, then your rank will rise. If you have social media, Google will search through that in the same way. The more followers you have, and the more they genuinely engage, the better an effect it will have on your ranking.

Google is also clever enough that it can tell when bots are being used on social media. The searches that it can do will respond to the number of your followers as well as activities like sharing. An organically grown social media base will help your SEO, and as it grows, it will continue to help your SEO. It means that your social base needs to be nurtured and paid attention to.

Social Media: The Big Three (for Google)

The three main places that Google focuses on (but not all) are Twitter, Facebook and Google+. In Twitter, it particularly looks for content that get re-tweets and favourites; in Facebook, it looks at how many shares and likes your content gets, and in Google + it looks at how many +1s are added to the piece of content which you have written. These are collectively known as social signals, and search engines view them as “trusted recommendations”

Social signals can reduce a website’s bounce rate and can help to create more repeat site visits. This seems like a lofty claim until you think about the nature of social media. Imagine that you’re looking for a new T-Shirt. You search online and then go to a website (the website that has SEO behind it). You can have a look around, and then you might look at the next website.

If you have been on social media, and seen that one of your friends likes it, you are more likely to stay on the website because of that recommendation. If you have liked, or re-tweeted or +1’d the site yourself, then you are already invested and are likely to want to stay on the page for longer. Not only does that personal recommendation rank the page higher, conversion rates are also increased because of the better brand awareness and brand loyalty social signals provide.

Social Signals: The Unseen Benefits

As social signals focus on the brand and the message that your business is putting out, social signals from one page can actually impact other pages within a domain to improve ranking criteria. Social signals are not just word focused, they are message focused. SEO tries to replicate word-of-mouth by placing the most relevant and ‘talked about’ sites higher in SERPs. Social signals actually are word of mouth.

In the future, because of the human element and the extra level of recommendation, social signals may start to replace backlinks as a way to move a site higher in SERPs. Social signals done right improve brand visibility and generate new inbound links. That’s not to say that the time of backlinking (or even other SEO methods like PPC) is over. Social signals don’t replace what is there, they enhance other methods used.

How Social Signals Support SEO

Take backlinking for example. If you write a blog on an external website, it can help to raise your SERPs by creating a backlink and making your site seem more credible by search engines. If you also promote that blog on social media, it can be liked, shared, re-tweeted etc. and can even be seen by more people. The more people who see and read the blog, the more social signals are generated, and the more valuable that backlink becomes.

The important thing is that the content has to be good. There has been a consistent shift in the Google Algorithm to prioritise content over keywords. You can still fulfil the SEO keyword requirement in your text, but making it entertaining and shareable is more important than it has ever been.

If you properly engage with social networks, then you will find that creating content that your customer wants to consume will be easy – because they will demand it. They will want to know about your latest products, or ten ways that they can use it. They will want to know the secrets of using your service to better their life. The more interesting, entertaining and useful the content on and off your website is, the better the social signals will be.

Why Social Signals are a Win-Win

Done right, it’s a win-win situation. Customers actually get the products they want because smart marketers have found them where their attention is and managed to get them invested. From a marketing standpoint it’s a win, because customers are more engaged and more likely to convert.

Another reason that social signals are so important is based on the way Google conducts its search. Google views individual posts on Facebook and Tweets the same way it views an individual website – which gives social a huge weighting in terms of the impact it has. Now, because there are 1.94 billion active Facebook users a month, Google doesn’t search every post. It takes a representative sample. It’s the same system it uses for its websites.

The Link Between Social Signals and SERPs

There have been numerous studies that show sites that have good social signals also have better SERPs ranks. Some argue that this isn’t a causal link: just because you have good social signals doesn’t guarantee that you will have a good SERPs ranking. Several studies seem to suggest that sites with good social signals do improve their SEO, though.

This can be because of other factors. Strong social signals do increase the online footprint of a website. There’s the expansion on social media itself, but also the fact that people are more likely to link to a site they trust through the brand awareness and recommendation on social media.

Websites that have strong social signals also have to make sure that their copy is entertaining and their message is clear to understand. The quality of sites who use social media is often better, which also has an impact on ranking. Added to this is the fact that customers can interact with the company through things like Tweets and direct messaging on Facebook, LinkedIn and even through comments. As such, customer service levels increase which also helps the reputation of the website.

Why You Need Social Signals – Today!

Whether you are one of the people who believes that social media has a direct or indirect impact on SEO – you can agree that it is more important than ever for businesses to have a responsive, robust and rewarding social media presence. Embracing social media can mean rethinking your strategy so that you become more accessible, known, entertaining and focused on providing customer solutions than you were before you opened direct channels of communication (and criticism) with the general public.

To generate good social signals, you have to be a good business. You have to engage with people directly and capture their attention and loyalty in a crowded and ever-changing marketplace. It’s not hard to do, it just means that you have to pay attention and put the work in. People respond to that. To be a good business on social media means that you have to be a good business, period.

Photo via Unsplash

Author Bio:

Zachary Jarvis is a Digital Marketer with one thing on his mind: Results.

Uninspired by the never ending talk of ‘vanity metrics’ in the world of digital marketing, Magnate was founded – the ‘Social-First’ marketing agency.

On the very rare occasion he isn’t watching Step Brothers in his spare time – you’ll find Zachary in the thick of social platforms, learning what makes us tick.

This is driven by a fascination (perhaps a slight obsession…) with market trends and consumer behaviours.

Zachary Jarvis is a Digital Marketer with one thing on his mind: Results. Uninspired by the never ending talk of ‘vanity metrics’ in the world of digital marketing, Magnate was founded - the ‘Social-First’ marketing agency. On the very rare occasion he isn’t watching Step Brothers in his spare time - you’ll find Zachary in the thick of social platforms, learning what makes us tick. This is driven by a fascination (perhaps a slight obsession...) with market trends and consumer behaviours.

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