Why Your Business Needs Awesome Social Signals
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Social signals have the potential to improve brand awareness, boost SEO rankings and make or break a business’s reputation. Here we explore the growing importance of social media and, crucially, how to get social signals.
Social media has become an indomitable force in not just the digital marketing industry, but society as we know it. While SEO (search engine optimization) has been at the forefront of business development and success for years now, there is growing evidence that social signals are changing the game in terms of how a business defines success and can directly impact performance in search engine results.
First things first…what are social signals?
The term ‘social signals’ refers to the likes, shares, votes, views, and comments that your content attracts on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Essentially, social signals represent how much an audience is engaging with your brand via social media.
In addition to traditional SEO metrics like content quality, backlinks and page speed, search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly taking social signals into account when assessing your SERP (search engine results page) ranking. The stronger your social signals, the more likely a search engine is to view you as a visible, trusted and relevant brand and to boost your organic search ranking.
There is some debate in the digital marketing world as to whether or not social signals hold the same value as other SEO elements, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is not the case. Social media is more than a platform for communication and generating sales leads; it can directly affect a brand’s SEO performance, which is why it’s essential that businesses establish a comprehensive social media strategy.
How do social signals affect SEO ranking?
It’s important to remember that most of the information on SEO that is published is based on conjecture, assumption, and research. The reason for this is that very few people are privy to the exact algorithms used by search engines to assess websites and content. However, there is also plenty of research and analysis out there which confirms that social signals do indeed have an impact on SEO performance.
The main objective of a search engine is to find the most useful, high-quality and relevant content for its users. Over time it has become evident that social media platforms are vital sources of information when it comes to assessing the quality of content and how engaged people are with your brand. To ensure that this key information is captured, search engines are now including social signals as an SEO ranking signal.
Strong social signals have come to be associated with high domain authority as a high level of engagement indicates that a page is entertaining, informative, and genuine. Social media moves at a lightning fast pace, so it’s essential that search engines are able to take the pulse of what’s happening in the world to ensure its results are relevant and up to date.
From Facebook shares to Mentions on sites like Reddit and Tumblr, studies have shown that social signals are having an impact on SERP results. It’s clear, for example, that social signals such as likes and shares directly influence search rankings. Some businesses overlook Bing and target their SEO strategy towards Google as the more widely used search engine. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that around 25% of all internet searches are carried out using Bing and this number is increasing steadily. Can you afford to miss out on 25% of search engine queries? If not, prioritize social signals and boost your rankings in Bing.
But what about Google?
The Google algorithm is a mathematical formula used to determine a website’s relevance and value for search queries. The more valuable and relevant a site is, the higher Google will rank it in SERPs. It’s widely known that the Google algorithm treats content quality, backlink profile, anchor text links and keyword relevance in its calculation, but what about social signals?
A few years back, Google (via Matt Cutts) said that social signals were not a direct ranking factor. However, that statement did not rule out the concept that social signals could impact SEO performance in an indirect way, and in any event, that statement is now several years old; any SEO knows that the Google algorithm is updated on a weekly basis, not to mention to significant Panda and Penguin updates. They also rarely make it clear what has changed, so Matt Cutts’ words are likely to be outdated.
While Google has not confirmed that social signals will have a direct impact on ranking, it’s clear that strong social signals have an indirect impact on your SEO strategy. The more people who view, like and comment on your social media content, the more likely it is it will be seen by a higher number of people. Assuming that your content links to your website, this increases the likelihood that people will visit your website to view the content. This boosts traffic and maximizes your chances of getting organic links to your content. Obviously this is great for both building brand awareness and for improving your SEO ranking. Google has also partnered with Twitter and includes tweets and retweets in search results.
Why are social signals important for your business?
- Consumers are turning to social signals to help them make informed choices about products and brands.
- Studies have shown that many consumers will visit a website because it has been recommended to them by their friends or family on social media, not because it has a higher search ranking than other websites.
- Websites with a strong social presence also benefit from improved conversion rates, positive reviews, more loyal customers and higher brand awareness.
- Strong social signals can increase the number of repeat visitors to your site and reduce bounce rates.
- Good social signals for just one page on your site can have a knock-on positive effect for other pages.
- It looks likely that the amount likes, votes or shares a page receives may eventually rival or even replace backlinks as a quality measure as they represent a brand’s visibility.
- Social signals show search engines that your business is very much alive and participating in the online community.
- Social media platforms have become a vital part of modern day communication, and the importance of social signals is a direct result of this shift.
How to get social signals
- Create a social media presence
If you haven’t already done so, the first step to take is to set up a social media presence. This means opening an account for your business on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and/or Pinterest. It’s rare that a business will need a presence on every platform as some will be more relevant for your sector and target audience than others.
- Only post engaging content
Once you have your profile(s) set up, you should be publishing content about your business regularly. The content you post should be engaging and diverse, i.e. interesting, funny, informative, inspirational and interactive. Whether you’re posting images, videos, competitions, polls or live streaming, try to include a relevant call-to-action that encourages people to like, share, comment, vote or click on the post, so they are taken through to your website.
Posting content that is obviously advertorial or spammy is less likely to attract positive responses, but consider using ‘clickbait’ style titles which entice people to click through to the full content. However, it’s important not to be disingenuous about the content they will see once they do as many social media platforms have started penalizing brands that publish deceptive content.
- Find your target audience
Publishing content on social media is free, but this kind of content gives you no control over who will see it. When you pay to promote content and ads on social media, you can choose which people will see it based on their previous buying habits, age, sex, interests and location. A paid social media agency can help you to identify your social media goals and your target demographic and create content which is more likely to attract engagement and conversion.
- Use social share plugins
Using social share plugins on your content means that users only have to click an icon to share it (rather than copying and pasting a link, for example), which increases the likelihood that they will do so.
- Post regularly
Your content should be focused on your audience, and it’s important to post regularly, i.e. at least every couple of days, if not more. This does not mean, however, posting for the sake of posting as this is likely to turn customers off to your brand.
- Interact with your audience
When you do receive comments, likes or shares, engage with your audience through comments and discussions. You might also want to engage positively with other brands that are connected to your industry by promoting their content as partnerships can be mutually beneficial.
- Monitor engagement activity
Keep a close eye on the engagement around your social posts including comments, likes, shares or retweets, and the keywords people are using when talking about your brand. This can be a time-consuming job which is why there are plenty of apps and software which will track and collate this information for you.
- Respond to negativity
Social media is a place for free expression, and the natural consequence of this is that sometimes people will use it to voice negativity towards brands. If this happens to you, make sure you respond in a timely and positive way. Try to resolve their issues and ease their concerns.