How Social Signals Improve Search Engine Rankings
Social media signals play a fundamental role in SEO, even though they are still not on Google’s list of ranking factors.
The perception of social signals as ranking factors has changed over time.
In 2010, Google claimed that social media links impacted rankings. Even though Google’s former Head of Search Quality Matt Cutts agreed with that statement back then, he published another video on social media signals four years later, claiming the opposite. In 2016, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes put an end to this endless debate, confirming that social links are definitely not a ranking signal.
Simply put, social networks don’t impact your rankings directly. Still, they can have an indirect influence on your performance in the SERPs, amplifying the signals Google considers when ranking your site.
In this article, you will learn how social networks can improve your search rankings.
Social Networks Increase Your Reach
Social networks are designed for mass sharing, giving your brand more exposure.
Producing amazing content is purposeless if no one hears about it. Your goal is to reach people where they are – on social media. According to the 2018 global social media research from Smart Insights, there are more than 3 billion social media users, a number that keeps growing every year.
Moreover, The Manifest recently found that 86% of people use social networks daily, and a great majority of social media users are present on multiple social platforms.
Precisely because of that, social networks have become a perfect place to establish your online presence and address wider audiences. Almost 90% of digital marketers claim that social networks helped them increase their brand exposure, while 75% say it boosted their traffic.
Social Networks Extend the Lifespan of Your Content
Social networks help you expand the reach of your top-performing blog posts and prevent them from being forgotten.
Creating link-worthy content is key to growing your online authority and earning backlinks from reputable online resources.
However, remember that the online ecosystem is highly dynamic. No matter how valuable and optimized your blog posts are, their position both in the SERPs and on your blog will start fading over time as new content appears.
This is why you should actively collect content marketing tips from industry experts and use the power of great copywriting.
One of the most effective ways to prevent your old posts from collecting digital dust is to promote them on social networks. For example, HubSpot claims that 76% of Facebook users use Facebook to discover new content to read.
There are numerous ways to use social media marketing to extend the lifespan of your blog posts:
- Repost blogs on your profiles to attract new users to them and increase organic traffic.
- Use social listening tools such as Mention or Hootsuite to track relevant customer conversations and leave meaningful comments, along with your blog post as a relevant resource.
- Build a solid online community to nurture strong relationships with your followers, communicate with them in real time, and help them solve problems. Even though you should not use your Facebook or LinkedIn group to promote your brand, this is the ideal opportunity to share a link to your valuable and relevant guide, whitepaper, or e-book that delivers value to the group members.
- Repurpose your content. Change the format of your popular blog posts. For example, convert them to infographics, audio books, case studies, podcast episodes, or guides. You can use your existing content as a basis for creating social media content, such as beautiful charts, motivational quotes, or SlideShare presentations (all with a link to your post).
Social media helps you extend the lifespan of the content on your website.
Social Media Pages Are Indexable
Social media links help Google understand how credible your website is and how high it should be ranked.
Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan spoke with Google and Bing and found that their perceptions of social media links vary. Discussing Twitter links, Bing said that it looks at how often a certain link has been tweeted/retweeted, as well as what the authority of the account sharing the link is.
Back then, Google claimed it didn’t use these metrics but changed its mind later. In the above-mentioned video, Cutts claims that Google crawls social platforms just like it would any other website.
So, your goal is to build relationships with highly influential people in your industry, bring value to them, and inspire them to share your content. For example, if you get a link from a Twitter account that has an above-average Google PageRank score, you may potentially gain more credit than by getting a link from a page with a lower PageRank.
This is why we can observe social networks as an amazing link-building opportunity. Just like backlinks you gain from reputable sites in your niche, social media links also demonstrate the value of your pages and maximize SERP rankings.
Your Social Media Profiles Rank High in Organic Search
Social networks feel more personal than corporate websites and, as such, they rank high in the SERPs.
Today’s customers don’t trust branded content anymore. Instead, they rely on online reviews from their peers. And one of the most comprehensive sources of honest customer feedback is social networks. Modern customers use these channels to voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with certain brands, review products, share user-generated content, and interact with brands in real time.
And, as it strives to provide its users with highly relevant and helpful resources, Google ranks social networks high in organic search. This simply means that when a user Googles a brand’s name, its Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account tend to show up right below its website.
In these screenshots, you can clearly see that Starbucks’ major social media accounts rank high on the first page in the SERPs.
Starbucks’ Twitter account even ranks higher on Google than its Wikipedia page, right after its website and Google’s top stories.
Moreover, Google even started displaying relevant tweets in the SERPs, as seen in the photo above, which is yet another way to boost your brand awareness and grow brand trustworthiness.
Given that branded queries have the highest click-through rate on the first half of the first page in the SERPs, it’s logical that appearing high in the SERPs is immensely important for your SEO efforts. With well-optimized social media profiles, you will have more opportunities to rank high, attract more clicks, and drive relevant traffic to your website.
Social Platforms Have Search Functionalities
Social networks can be observed as functional search engines.
For years, Google was the primary source of brand information. However, with the rise of voice technologies, Q&A sites, and social networks, that changed. Even though Google will remain a prominent source of your traffic in 2019, it’s far from being the only one. Ahrefs’ Tim Soulo emphasized that recently on Smart Insights, saying that today, almost every platform with a search functionality can serve as a search engine.
Today, online searchers use social networks for a plenitude of reasons. They use them to find new brands relevant to them, find unbiased reviews of these brands, keep track of discounts, and communicate with brands in real time.
Social networks play an immensely important role in local search, as well. Here is how Facebook can increase your local brand’s exposure:
Once you search for a local business, Facebook will provide you with the results based on your Home page and About page. The same goes for searches including a business location, like in my example of “coffee shops New York.”
You will see the address of the place, the phone number, business hours, customer ratings, and the ability to get the maps and directions.
Facebook Places has become more prominent today. When it makes sense (e.g. our local searches), the search engine will display relevant places first.
Facebook’s search results are far more detailed. For example, if people search for a lawyer in their city, they will see lawyers’ profile pictures, maps, directions, as well as client rankings right in the results.
So, not using social platforms means you will fail to maximize your brand reach, drive qualified traffic to your site, and acquire new customers.
Optimize Your Social Media Presence to Win SEO
Given these facts, it’s obvious that social networks are on their way to entering Google’s list of prominent ranking factors.
Their personal nature lets you increase your brand exposure and awareness, humanize your marketing efforts, and build strong relationships with your customers. Most importantly, social networks are highly transparent and honest, helping you gain people’s trust. This is exactly why the number of people turning to these channels when making purchasing decisions will continue to grow.
By aligning your social media marketing strategy with your SEO efforts, you will increase your engagement metrics, boost your organic traffic, and get more people to share and link to your content.
These are all important factors Google considers when assessing your page’s relevance and determining where it ranks.