Why Social Signals Matter for SEO Visibility

As businesses sector-wide look to enhance their digital presence and set themselves up for success in 2024, social media and search engine optimization (SEO) remain imperative.

Both channels serve a crucial purpose in helping businesses get the most out of their marketing strategies and help them achieve their goals, whether brand awareness and engagement, boosting conversions, or finding new target audience niches. Recent developments in both the SEO and social media spaces have mandated that organizations should take a more methodical approach to promoting their business online.

Long gone are the days when threading as many keywords and search terms into content as possible, and spamming social media pages with posts and notifications were considered ‘good practices’. Today, with billions of daily active users on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, businesses have to maximize their potential on the channels that are going to make them as visible to as many prospective customers as possible.

One of the simplest ways to achieve that all-important alignment in marketing messaging and goals is to take advantage of social signals. These can give businesses a huge boost and edge in a highly competitive space. It’s important to understand how social signals play a vital part in an SEO strategy, and how audience engagement on social channels can – directly and indirectly – lead to greater SEO performance.

First and foremost, we should clarify a common misconception among marketers and social media managers.

Social Signals Are Not Ranking Factors, but they Help

Social signals essentially refer to any interaction with a social media profile or its content. From a marketing perspective, signals can simply refer to any activity that qualifies as engagement (such as shares, comments, likes, etc.), but from an SEO standpoint, they are small indicators that help search engines like Google understand the profile, post, and user(s) in question.

Google has hundreds of ranking factors when determining how to place web pages in SERPs. The most important ranking factors include relevant, informative quality content, while others include backlinks obtained from ethical digital PR and link building, keyword optimization, technical SEO, user experience, and scheme markup. SEO experts, however, agree and disagree about social signals’ role in Google’s ranking of pages.

The crux of the matter is that Google – the largest search engine in the world – doesn’t take social signals into account in its ranking algorithms and core updates. There are several reasons why that might be, given how social media is home to millions of spam and fake accounts, and how users can lawfully buy unlimited followers, likes, and subscribers.

Much like how Domain Authority is an indicator of a trustworthy and credible website, the reputation of social media profiles serves a similar purpose in helping Google understand authorship. Authentic authorship is highly regarded in Google’s E-E-A-T methodology when assessing the validity and quality of content, which it deems to be the most important SEO ranking factor. Though not direct ranking factors, strong social signals – from a combination of marketing, tailored content, and visuals – can still help a business stand out from the crowd in organic search rankings.

Google is undoubtedly paying attention to the social media pages of brands, and therefore, any organization that is trying to rank higher in organic search should not ignore social media completely.

How Social Signals Benefit SEO

Here’s how social signals can benefit the better visibility of your SEO:

Social Media Pages Can Still Rank Organically

It’s important to note that Google can still index social media pages, so an optimized business page on any social media platform can rank well in Google’s SERPs when searching for a branded keyword.

However, its ranking position is unaffected whether the page has a few hundred social media followers or tens of thousands, or whether content generates comments and shares in abundance whenever posted on social media feeds.

Google simply wants to connect websites with their respective social media pages, and so is looking for signals that connect them. Branded search terms are important for SEO nonetheless, and thus, if your business social media pages show up in a SERP when searching for your business or product name, it’s safe to assume Google recognizes it as strong and relevant.

As such, a strong social media presence in the SERPs can help build audience trust and drive clicks.

Building Awareness and Relevant Links

Sharing quality content on your Pillar Pages, a website domain, and social media channels allows that content to reach a wider audience organically and bilaterally, building more awareness of your brand and website.

When this content reaches more users across a spectrum of channels and platforms, there are more opportunities for them to engage with and link back to your content. If many links that point to a web page or site domain suggest that there is content that is piquing people’s interest, Google will take notice. If the content is relevant, inclusive, and trustworthy and exhibits good authorship, Google will deem backlinks to be of higher quality and reward a site’s Domain Authority.

Google is, however, unable to pass any link equity to a website if, for example, a link to an article was shared via social media. This doesn’t work in the same way that a website backlink does, which is domain-to-domain. However, amplifying and sharing content on social media draws more eyes to that content organically, thus increasing the chances of earning backlinks and references from users who find that content valuable. In turn, this helps pages perform better in organic search over time through greater awareness.

How to Align and Improve Social Signals for SEO Success

While social signals do not directly factor into Google’s ranking algorithm, that is not to suggest that they don’t have value. Taking the time to improve social signals and utilizing AI tools to generate helpful content can indirectly have a positive effect on your business’s SEO and digital marketing efforts.

If you want to align and improve the social signals to your site and boost your SEO success (and, in turn, your site’s rankings), then here are some easy tips to help you start:

  • Link your website and social media profile pages together to help Google identify the reciprocal connection.
  • Optimize your social profile pages, ensuring the business indicators (brand name, address, phone number, location, assets, logos, etc.) are all consistent. Consider adding target keywords to evergreen areas of your social media profiles, like your bio, services, and product sections.
  • Promote compelling, high-quality content aimed at genuinely helping users (such as blogs, articles, videos, infographics, and so on) organically across social platforms to earn links and engagement.
  • Add social plugins and HTML Open Graph meta tags to make your content more instantly shareable on social media without impacting its organic performance.

Social signals provide SEO value in a multifaceted way when leveraged as part of a broader omnichannel marketing strategy. Awareness, backlinks, engagement rates, authority, and user intent insights derived from externally promoted content all work together to provide on-page and off-page ranking boosts over time.

Marketers must, however, take great care to monitor and review social signals regularly and adjust SEO and content strategies accordingly. As the social media and SEO landscapes continue to evolve, staying abreast of all content indicators, like relevance, trustworthiness, and expertise, will collectively shape strategies going forward.

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Why Social Signals Matter for SEO Visibility
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