Social signals are extremely important for a company because they indicate that it is being talked about. Any company would want the content it creates to go viral so that there is a lot of excitement among the target groups who ultimately matter. Does it have a direct impact on SEO and SERP? Well, a high ranking Google executive had said in 2014 that its algorithm has stopped factoring in the number of followers a company has on Twitter or the number of shares a Facebook post garners. A Pinterest pin may no longer give you a direct boost to your SEO efforts.

But, there are again reports which suggest that Google may again start rewarding companies that produce good quality content. The Panda update made sure that companies who had been getting away by producing insignificant and poor content, which was creating “digital pollution” rather than creating value, were pulled up and penalized. The new report will make sure that those who produce good content get a shot in the arm. It remains undeniable that social signals remain one of the most trustworthy metrics for determining the quality of content.

If you look at other big search engines like Bing, they never stopped giving you a more direct advantage in SERP ranking if you had more followers or received more mentions. Experts also concur that Google and other search engines are also upgrading their search and crawl algorithms to give more weight to brand mentions. During the Panda update, Google did mention that brand mentions are the future of link building.

What is a social signal?

A social signal is the number of shares, votes, pins, views, re-tweets and other such social media activities that help an SEO or an SMO understand how well your created content is being received. The higher the number of social signals, the higher will be the level of interactivity and engagement that your content has managed. It has direct and indirect benefits which will be discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.

A social signal is a barometer of your popularity on social media. Higher engagement on the social media will also help you get more links and traffic to your web pages which can affect your SEO ranking.

Social signals and branding

From the point of branding, its importance can’t be overstated. Social signals can be considered as empirical evidence of brand awareness and more importantly brand retention. The more you interact, the more are the chances that the brand will occupy the top ‘compartments’ of your brain.

Also, social signals can help brand experts understand your perception of a brand or your inclinations towards a rival brand. They help experts understand whether you are a supporter, a detractor or if you are neutral. This can help in market segmentation and different marketing strategies can be drawn up for different groups with the ultimate aim of conversion and building the customer relationship. Social signals can also help experts get an idea of the clout that the rivals of a particular company hold in a particular market segment.

Why should you stop paying for fake followers and shares?

Although social shares are important and go beyond the SEO benefits, it is, however, unwise to spend thousands of dollars on buying fake followers and getting posts or pins shared. This is because the total number of followers may not directly affect your SEO ranking, at least till the time search engines find a way to stop misuse of this ranking factor.

Your whole and sole focus should be on building up a solid social media presence, hiking the level of engagement with the audience who really matter to your business, may be pursuing influencer marketing as a part of your social media marketing strategy and getting more followers and shares, votes, retweets, pins, comments on the social media pages, etc organically.

You should also focus on improving the level of discussion on social media and creating a positive sentiment among various market segments in relation to your brand. You need to address any negative sentiments and remonstrance regarding your brand because who knows search engines may also start to factor the kind of reaction to a post in future.

However, the most important factor remains the kind of content that you create and share. It has to be outstanding and shareable. Without great content, you will never be able to succeed in social media. The content has to be thought provoking, informative, unique and/or entertaining. That is how you can induce more engagement.

You will also have to share more crawl-able content which would allow Google and other search engines to index the pages leading to better domain authority and page authority of the social media page. You will also have to optimize your social media profiles and the link profiles which will include backlinks and referrals that you have received from your social media pages and thus improve the overall SEO score. Thus, it can’t be said that social media has absolutely no impact on SEO.

Importance of social signals

There are a number of advantages of social signals. Their importance from the branding perspective has already been discussed. Now, a few advantages of the SEO and content marketing perspective are analyzed below.

  1. Social media recommendations of links: Google has clarified that it doesn’t take the number of followers your social profile has or the number of favorable social signals that you generate into their search algorithm. However, according to a post published on Kissmetrics, Bing in a 2010 interview with Danny Sullivan did say that the number of times a link is shared or tweeted and also the authority of the person who is sharing a link is directly factored into their search algorithm and it does become an important factor. It is also possible that Google would soon start to look at the quality of backlinks that are achieved through social media signals. After all, good quality content is often shared along with an embedded link multiple times. That may give search engines some idea about the quality of the content, the creator, their website and their domain authority. This can be a possible ranking factor. 
  2. Social referrals will bring more traffic to your site: One reason why web designers and SEO specialists incorporate social share buttons on landing pages of websites is that they understand the importance of organic sharing and word of mouth publicity. So social media shares funnel in more traffic to your websites and increase the chances of more conversion and sale. This definitely impacts your SEO scores and ranking. Whether it is a direct correlation between SEO or indirect effect won’t matter. All you need to know is that you can’t close down your social media profiles and stop posting high-quality content just because Google has said that social signals don’t affect search engine ranking directly.
  3. High-quality content and a strong social profile are important: Although the authority of a social profile may not directly affect SEO ranking, it does help create a strong brand awareness among the public, especially when they are looking for information on a company. So often, the profiles of a company on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and social media sites occupy the top positions on the SERP. It’s not a coincidence. The number of views, links, and shares all matter. Search engine crawlers look for high-quality content for indexing a page and if your social media pages can provide that, they will get high ranks. So, you will need to include key phrases in your social posts as well and embed keywords and links to your website in the images and videos that you share. You will have to optimize the written as well as visual content like you would do for your website or blog because these will affect your ranking. For one, Google has never denied that social signals are a validation of the quality of content after all. If you share a link to your content on social media that resides on your website, it is likely that people will visit your website and stay on it for a while. The time spent on a website is an important ranking factor. Moreover, if the pages are well connected, after reading the article, the visitors may be tempted to visit other pages of the website which can not only improve the amount of time spent but also creates a chance of conversion.
  4. Social media are often used for finding relevant information: Today, a lot of people find out about companies, their products or some hot news related to them using hashtags and pins. So, it is entirely possible that a person finds out about a brand without using a traditional search engine. So, companies will have to broaden their definition of search engines to include social media as well. You can’t ignore their impact on search results. Oftentimes, a social media post appears amongst the top positions of a SERP when you are looking for a particular piece of information. That is why social media executives use relevant hashtags, etc to make the content crawl-able and traceable.

Conclusion

Social signals are seen by search engines as “endorsement” of a piece of content from those that matter the most, namely the target audience. So, they will continue to matter in the context of SEO and content and their impact is likely to increase with time. Social media gives a brand visibility and creates strong brand loyalties. It also helps to create valuable backlinks and thus help in conversion. You will need to optimize your search engine profiles and pages and continuously add good quality content to get direct and indirect SEO benefits.