Social Signals and Their Impact on Google Rankings

Michael KeatingSearch Engine Optimization4 Comments

Social Signals Impact on Rankings

How do social signals impact your Google rankings? In December of 2010, Matt Cutts, previously the head of the web spam team at Google, published the following video on Youtube:

Video: Google Uses Social Signals In Rankings

In the above video, Matt Cutts confirms that social signals indeed play a role in organic search and are a part of Google’s ranking signals

Since then, many case studies have been done to try to determine the exact relationship between social signals and search engine rankings. It is clear from the results of these studies that the impact of social signals is increasing.

Social signals have both a direct and indirect impact on your search engine rankings and you should definitely leverage social media if you want to obtain higher rankings for your site. Here is an explanation of the correlation between social signals and Google rankings.

What Are Social Signals?

Social signals are the signals that social media sites send to the various search engines that indicate that your content is being discussed or shared on social media sites. Examples of social signals include:

  • Likes
  • +1′s
  • Retweets (RT)
  • Votes
  • Pins
  • Views
  • Shares
  • Comments

All of these signals indicate that real people are recommending your content. Their “votes” prove that your content is valuable, relevant and helpful. While backlinks used to be the definitive way to ensure high rankings for a website, after many algorithm updates, Google began to focus more on the value that a site provides.

Since social signals are less prone to manipulation, the importance of social media has increased and social signals have gained relevance as a reliable method to improve your SEO strategy.

Why Social Signals Matter for SEO

Social signals matter to Google and are important for your brand simply because they improve your online visibility and mimic the same sort of relationship building and recommendations of products and services that we do in real life. As a result, social signals:

  • Indicate trust and authority
  • Help content to get indexed faster
  • Justify the presence of backlinks
  • Increase inbound links
  • Increase brand awareness

As you can see, the effects of social signals closely align with the goals for any SEO campaign. As a result, social media can have a significant impact on your SEO, which is one of the main reasons why you should focus on improving your social media strategy.

Proof That Social Signals Impact Rankings

However, all of the benefits of social signals are not merely speculation. There have been several case studies done by top SEO websites that have determined that social signals are important to Google rankings. The findings from these case studies include:

A case study done by found that their team was able to improve the rankings for a keyword phrase simply by using social signals. In this study, the page containing the keyword phrase received only social signals and no backlinks. In just a few days, the page as a keyword search result increased from the 400th spot in to the first page.

When published a guide, Smashing Magazine tweeted it out to their numerous followers. This resulted in the guide being shown as a result on first page of Google for a keyword phrase found in the title of the guide. The search engine traffic for that keyword phrase increased, as well.

A case study done by Jason Acidre of found that receiving tweets from industry authorities helped his content skyrocket to the #2 post for a keyword search in just 12 hours.

Although, the findings of these studies may also argue that the effects are short-lived, they do demonstrate that it is possible to dominate organic search rankings by actively increasing the number of social signals that mention your brand or content.

How to Increase Your Social Signals

Social signals are extremely important to the success of your content strategy and your SEO strategy. By using social signals, you can improve brand awareness and online visibility.

If your content is able to be found, you can increase the number of repeat visitors to your site, the number of inbound links and citations, all of which are important for SEO. Here are a few tips that you can use to increase your social signals:

  • Develop your content strategy with a focus on outreach marketing.
  • Build relationships with influencers on social media.
  • Participate in your industry via social media.
  • Show that you are willing to promote others content by regularly sharing what they post and you’ll be rewarded in return.
  • Track your efforts to see what types of actions lead to high numbers of social signals.

As Jay Baer points out, the key to using social media to drive your SEO strategy is to use social media as a PR channel for your brand. If you want to improve your Google rankings, make a commitment to building your brand on social media.

About the Author

Michael Keating

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Mike is a prolific digital marketing strategist, entrepreneur and SEO specialist who understands how to drive results using integrated digital strategies. He is one of the founders of Octatools and is excited about the opportunity to help DIY SEOs and business owners get results online.

4 Comments on “Social Signals and Their Impact on Google Rankings”

  1. I agree social media is a great way to implement off page SEO. Most my backlinks are coming from anchor text on my blog articles posted on major social media sites.

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