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Social Signals are Getting Louder (You Should Pay Attention)

Social media is a large part of digital marketing efforts, with the power to drive a ton of web traffic, both organically and through paid channels.

Not to mention that social media usage is only growing globally:

70% of the U.S. population now has at least one social networking profile; more than half use two or more social networks. The number of worldwide social media users is projected to grow from 2.1 billion last year to 2.5 billion by 2018.

— Business 2 Community

The sheer number of people using social media networks is the reason that businesses use social media to help promote their brands, products, and services.

Marketers know that social signals play a key role in driving traffic to content, and therefore more customers to your business.

A social signal is a measure of social media activity, such as a voteshare, Like, or other engagement type that a search engine might take into consideration as part of its ranking algorithms. 

But how effective are social signals? Experiences from two of the most powerfully indexed social media sites — Google Plus and Twitter — indicate that the rankings of your indexed social posts can affect your overall web presence and health.

The Social Marketer’s Guide to Social Media ROI

Google Plus Gives Strong Social Signals

There is no better place to impress Google than on its own social media platform: Google Plus.

According to Quick Sprout’s social signal experiment, Google Plus was the platform with the largest effect on SEO, increasing rankings by over 14 percent.

Social Signal Experiment

Because of this, Google Plus is understood to be the best social media platform to use when your goal is to trigger social signals:

If you wanted to increase your rankings, but you don’t have time to leverage all of the social sites, spend your time on Google Plus as the data shows it impacts rankings more than Twitter and Facebook.

Quick Sprout

If you’re going to leverage the power of Google Plus for social signals, go after the big guys. Aim for increasing your domain authority and driving more links to your content.

Increased Domain Authority

There is no direct evidence showing that social signals increase your domain authority, but Backlinko’s Ranking Factors suggest they may.

Google is recognizing these social signals as brand signals — and what better platform to signal the importance of your brand to Google than its very own Google Plus?

Google Plus is your strongest bet for leveraging social signals to increase your domain authority.

Social Link Building

When your posts — especially those easily seen by search engines, such as Google Plus posts — are shared on social media platforms, it greatly increases the chance that your content will be linked to elsewhere on the web.

This is the most valuable aspect of social signals for a digital marketer. 

Link-building has built a bad reputation for itself over the past year, but your social links have inherent authority. Take full advantage of these links; they’re important for SEO.

Indexed Tweets Mean More Web Traffic

Big news hit the social media world in 2015: Google has access to Twitter’s fire-hose of a data stream, meaning they can index tweets on their search engine.

If you had any doubt that your Twitter presence had an impact on your SEO, the fact that Google can index your tweets should have changed that.

The problem is that there are a lot of tweets to sift through, so the quality of your content will be key when aiming to boost your SEO by tweeting:

The reported agreement marks a rekindling of a relationship that ended in 2011, when Google killed Real Time Search and Twitter cut off access to the firehose. Since then, Google has had to crawl Twitter to index tweets and finding specific Twitter updates via the search engine has been spotty at best.

Twitter, aiming to monetize its logged-off audience, has been working to improve its position in search results. It made a change last year that produced a 10-fold increase of traffic to Twitter by logged-out users.

— Search Engine Land

While Twitter works to send its biggest and best content to Google for indexing, the rest of us marketers are paying attention to exactly what those indexed tweets mean for us (and our brands).

10 Social Media Trends You’ve Been Ignoring

For Twitter in particular, the most influential trends marketers have seen from social signals are their ability to increase your social traffic and boost the number of people talking about your content.

Increased Web Traffic

Social media platforms responded hard to Google Penguin. Many social sites changed all of their outbound links to nofollow, or made them instruct some search engines that the hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link’s target in the index.

Those nofollow links still drive traffic, and have actually become more valuable than regular links. They let Google know that your site is being talked about, and that’s what’s most important.

When that content is shared, it increases the chance that people will link to your content, and that’s where the real value lies.

Bottom line: You need to focus on creating share-worthy content, because that is what really boosts your rankings.

Google Has Been Vague, but the Value of Social Signals are Clear

As of 2014, Google has stated that social signals are not an active part of their search algorithms, but this is the complete opposite of what they said in 2010. Why the sudden change?

As John Mueller of Google explains, social signals don’t directly effect your SEO, but they go a long way in driving more quality traffic to your site, which does.

His direct quote from a 2015 Google Hangout answers the question, “Do Social Signals have an impact on organic rankings in Google?”:

Not directly, no…But what you do sometimes see is that social posts do show up in the search results. They can be content like any other piece of content, and they can rank for keywords, and for your product names, which in turn gives you a little more presence, maybe provides some context for users, as well, in the search results.

“Another aspect specifically around Twitter and Google+ at the moment is that when we recognize that there is content on these social networks relevant to the user, we will try to show that in the search results as well. I believe we show Twitter content in the US on mobile (now desktop also), so that is something that might be visible, as well. It is not that your content will rank higher because of that, but there is just more content with your company name or your brand or your product name out there and we might choose to show that in the search.”

While Mueller’s answer is a bit vague, the general message is this: social signals won’t directly help your content climb to the top, but high social media performance will (and this is boosted through social signals).

Social Signals Aren’t Stagnant

As the amount of activity across social media channels grows, social signals are only getting louder. While Google might not be telling us the true value that social signals have on SEO, it’s clear that they have a very large impact.

Looking to drive more impact from social in your own business? Download Simply Measured’s Social Marketer’s Guide to Social Media ROI by clicking below.

Get everything you need to analyze the metrics that matter

The Social Marketer’s Guide to Social Media ROI


Adam Binder

Adam Binder is founder of Creative Click Media, helping businesses and organizations to realize their fullest potential through innovative digital marketing efforts.

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