Social media pervades every aspect of our existence these days. After all, if you don’t have a Facebook page, do you really exist? We’re kidding (mostly), but the fact is that having a social media presence is a huge part of staying in touch with loved ones, colleagues, and, if you’re running an online business, your existing customer base and potential clients. Sending a strong “social signal” may also help your site to perform well in search engine rankings.
What Exactly is a “Social Signal,” Anyway?
Today, it’s common practice to refer to social signals when discussing SEO. In layman’s terms, lots of quality likes, pins, tweets, Google +1s and other shares are strong social signals that suggest that people find a page interesting enough to tell others about it. As far back as 2010, Matt Cutts said that these were definitely a factor in ranking webpages:
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It’s possible that this has changed: you may have read that Matt Cutts, Google head of search spam, recently refuted a study that showed a correlation between +1s and improved rankings. He emphasizes that correlation does not imply causation, and that your goal as a user should be to create and share excellent content with the people in your circles, not to score more +1s.
It’s certainly true that when it comes to the recipe for successful search engine optimization, a strong social media presence isn’t the only necessary ingredient—or even the most important one. You most likely won’t find your site listed on the first page of Google results just by tweeting regularly or getting lots of Facebook likes or Google+ shares. Great content and relevant links are key components. But what we do know this: people who share your content are likely to know other people who would be interested in your content. And, some of those people may see a friend’s tweet and decide to write an article about the subject and link to your page. So, the more people share your content, the more chances you have to get your content seen by someone who will then put an article on their blog and link to it. In other words, the greater the number of legitimate social shares of your content, particularly by influencers, the more likely it will be that someone decides to link to your content, and the more likely you will rank.
Google+, in particular, personalizes results for people in your circles. As Matt McGee of Search Engine Land explains, it’s becoming a must for you to regularly post updates to your profile in order to maintain an edge. AJ Kohn of Blind Five-Year-Old offers a good explanation of how Google interprets your Google+ profile and content for search rankings, along with a helpful list of Google+ SEO best practices. They’re what you’d expect: optimizing your profile, getting verified and confirming authorship of your content; and regularly posting and sharing great new material. Additionally, he makes the very valid point that you should really use Google+ as its creators intended, rather than just to increase your search performance.
What’s the primary takeaway from all of this? Simply put, it’s that the time you invest in really making your social media profile(s) appealing, informative, relevant, and fun is absolutely time well spent. Over the years, we’ve come to think of Facebook and its relatives as procrastination tools—and, let’s face it, it’s not as though that’s completely untrue. But, when it comes to developing your personal brand or your company’s message, social media platforms are great tools that can help you strengthen your good name, attract new customers and fans, and bolster your search engine rankings. So, when you’re posting something you think is worth sharing—information about a new product release, a rave review of your online store on a customer feedback site, an infographic that you think your users will find informative or amusing—you’re doing something productive for your bottom line. Keep that great content going for a social signal that works as hard as you do.