SEO’s have been debating the importance of social signals for years. Ever since social media platforms became popular, there has been a wide range of discussions over the importance that social media has on your SEO campaign.
Unfortunately, Google prefers not to talk about these issues. They don’t want to let competitors know too much about their algorithm. Similarly, they don’t want to help spammers figure out how best to game the system.
Social signals are things such as; likes and share on Facebook, retweets on Twitter and shares on Pinterest. Those people that believe social signals affect SEO would argue that Google can scrape this data and see how well your pages perform on social platforms.
The theory is that this would be a good signal to Google that a particular piece of content is of high value. They believe that Google would obviously want to use this data.
Those that disagree would make the argument that social media users are in a different state of mind than when they use search engines. They argue that just because content performs well on social media, it shouldn’t necessarily rank in search results pages.
Social signals might or might not directly influence SEO
Matt Cutts publicly stated that to the best of his knowledge Google wasn’t using social media signals as a ranking factor. However, a lot of the SEO industry believes that Cutt’s is a propaganda spinner.
There is no concrete evidence either way, but this statement does seem to suggest that at the time Google wasn’t using social signals.
This statement doesn’t mean they aren’t using them now. That interview was some time ago, and we know that the algorithm is constantly changing and improving.
Interestingly, we do know that Bing uses social signals as a ranking factor. It’s easy for SEO’s to get carried away with Google, but we must not forget that there are many other search engines that a surprising number of people use.
We don’t know for sure whether Google uses social signals as a ranking factor, but it’s easy to believe that they track the data. If they do track the data, it would be unlikely that they don’t use it to influence rankings.
Social signals can create links
Those that don’t believe in social signals might go on to argue that this makes social media useless for SEO.
We would say that social still plays a vital role in any SEO campaign. Social media is an excellent way to publicize your brand and share your content. Any good content marketing strategy should include a social media component.
It can be used to share your newest content with followers, but to also tag and target influencers. It’s possible that people who see your content on their social profiles will go on to blog about it, creating backlinks to that content directly because of your social efforts.
If you’re looking to get national and even international brand awareness, then social media is the best possible way.
Top newspapers and their writers look to social media for breaking stories and interesting pieces of content. The Dollar Shave Club became successful because of a video they shared on social media.
But more importantly, because of the newspapers that went on to write about and share that content on their websites.
It should be clear that social signals play a crucial part in getting your content in front of the right eyeballs. If you’re able to get traction on platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, you’ll be able to leverage that to secure backlinks from some of the biggest websites in the world.
It’s very rare that you see a large website that performs well in the SERP’s and doesn’t have a strong social following.
That’s not to say that an active social media following will cause you to rank better. But the correlation is high.
SEO is part of your larger marketing campaign, and all of the different strategies that you use should complement and benefit each other.
The people working on your social strategy should be communicating with those doing your SEO to ensure that they are working towards the same goals.
It’s not unrealistic to think that we might never know for sure if social signals have an impact on your SEO. But we do know that your social media performance can go on to create publicity that generates thousands of backlinks.
It seems more likely that Google doesn’t use social signals as a direct ranking factor, at least for now. However, this is no reason to slack. In fact, a strong social presence can make a huge difference to your content marketing strategy.
Creating a diverse but unified marketing strategy is the surest way to ensure SEO success. All of your marketing efforts should work together to generate you local publicity, popularity on social media and improved rankings.