How Social Signals Improve Search Placement
Google recently announced that backlinks were less of a factor in search engine placement and then other search engines such as Bing followed suit, which apparently is common place in the industry. It’s pretty commonly understood that both are now using social signals to help determine the placement of a site, to what degree though is still somewhat not understood.
Social signals measure your brand’s social engagement and they are an output of branding. You get what you put into it and right now it is very beneficial to put the time into it. For a website to become well-known, it helps to gain popularity in social networks. “Likes” on Facebook, Tweets and shares on Twitter as well as Google+ comments, shares and engagement all factor into your social signals with the search engines. SEOMoz did a study to show if Google uses Facebook shares to influence search rankings. Another study by Search Metrics also showed a correlation between Facebook and Twitter shares and high search ranking.
Let’s take a look at why social signals are so important to placement today:
Social Signals Ensure Quality Content
It’s frustrating to wade through pages of irrelevant content trying to find what you were looking for in the first place. Social signals help guarantee quality content on the search results you get. When search placement uses social interaction and engagement to help rank pages, it ensures the pages are relevant to the keywords being used. User recommendations, shares, and likes on social media networks all factor into the search placement and show that the content is relevant.
Ideally the content you are creating is well written enough and engaging enough that people are just going to want to share it with their friends. I think this is one fo the premises of why the algorithms are looking at these factors more and more everyday. Presumably, it’s a good bit harder to fake than say link building, albeit you can go and buy for instance facebook likes to your hearts content. Probably not a good idea though because just like calling out people buying links, eventually it’s going to come and bite you with pretty bad consequences. So, why not just create stuff that people really want to consume and then they’ll naturally share it with their friends.
Social Signals Reflect the Trust People Have in Your Brand
First, increased social signals show that people trust your brand. People with more likes and shares are considered to be more trustworthy than those without. When you see that multiple users have found the page useful, it increases the chances you will find it useful, too. When consumers trust the brand enough to share via their social networks, it is like putting their own personal endorsement on it.
Social Signals Allow SERP Personalization
Some online searches perform better when the results are recommended. If there are certain services, for example, that you are looking for online, you can learn more from the opinions and social shares of others when choosing a provider. The number of shares and recommendations a site has will help you determine if a site or service provider is right for you. This increases the SERP personalization and helps users get more of what they are looking for.
Social Signals Encourage Participation
Yet another benefit from social signals is that it encourages visitors to interact with your site. This participation means more time spent on your site and more engagement with your content. This will help your search placement but it also increases the user experience on your site. Information is shared more quickly when users participate on your site.
Social Signals Help Boost Your Brand
Finally, social signals work to boost brand development. Brand development through social media is great for customers because you meet them where they already like to hang out. When done correctly, it comes off as personalized and friendly instead of spammy or commercial.
Now that you see it is important to your search ranking, how can you improve your social signals? There is no overnight quick-fix for this but there are some tips and techniques you can start implementing from day one:
- Create engaging, shareable content. When your content is exciting, interesting and unique, your visitors will want to share it. Make sure you give them an easy way to share it (via social share buttons on your site, check out the Digg Digg plugin like on Mouse & Man).
- Allow commenting on your site and be sure to reply to comments and interact with your visitors. Encourage discussion on your blog posts and keep the conversation flowing.
- Don’t fully automate your social media accounts. Having a Twitter and a Facebook are great for business but not if you fully automate every action on the accounts with spam. It should not only look like a real person is there commenting, liking and sharing content but more importantly be an actual person. No one wants to engage with a bot, unless you are a bot (if you are, why not just buzz off anywho).
- Learn from positive case studies. What are some good examples of people/businesses in your industry doing social media right? Use these examples to help you see how you need to improve.
- Be real. This is one of the most important things you can do. Social media is about the people; it’s about transparency. Users will see right through your fake purchased followers and they will lose respect and trust in your brand. If you’re going to engage, then be real about it. Consumers will remember your brand and even recommend you to their own networks.
There is more to high search ranking than using the right keywords or following a specific formula. Social media has changed the way consumers use the Internet and how we all connect with one another. We have to change with it to continue to grow.
What are some ways that you think social signals are improving search placement?
Do you have any tips for improving your social signals?
Thanks in advance for your comments and feedback.