Why Social Signals Matter for SEO
Yes, a traffic bump is nice, but without a clear plan in place to engage with this new audience, the bump is only temporary.
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Do social signals matter for SEO rank? Like most SEO questions, the answer is not black and white. While social signals like Facebook page likes or Instagram follower counts may not (yet) have a direct effect on the search results, these signals have an indirect impact on your site rank.
Like quality content, social signals drive engagement, which translates into more outbound links, better citation visibility, lower bounce rate, and more repeat site visitors – all of which matters for a higher organic search ranking.
The real power comes from synergy: your social media sites should be your own PR channel, aligning content with your target audience for maximum impact. That’s why social sharing is one of the fundamentals of a successful SEO strategy.
Does Google Use Social Signals to Directly Drive Page Rank?
In early 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts clarified some of the confusion around social signals and search rank.
According to Cutts, as of January 2014, Google’s algorithm does NOT look at how many followers or likes someone has on Twitter or Facebook. At first glance, Cutts’ comments confused some search marketers since they conflicted with his previous statements that social signals do play a role in organic SEO.
But upon closer inspection, it’s clear both Cutts’ comments are correct and not in conflict with one another. Google may not be tracking the number of people who like your Facebook page or re-tweet you on Twitter, but the ripple effect of these actions does impact your rank. Here’s what I mean: social signals let Google know your site is being talked about and that engagement is high.
But the real value comes into play when those social signals turn into social shares. If your content is great, folks will share it, driving more traffic back to your site. This indirect impact translates into more outbound links and citation visibility improvement, lower bounce rate, and more repeat site visitors. The more social shares your brand has the more site traffic, referrals and quality backlinks you’ll build, which may ultimately translate into a higher SERP rank.
How Can I Use Social Signals to Improve Page Rank?
Adding to your follower count won’t boost your page rank, but external validation from backlinks and increased referral traffic will. Effective social media campaigns can indirectly improve your SEO. Here’s how:
Amplify content sharing
Social media sites are a powerful amplification platform for your content distribution. Great content boosts engagement with like-minded people on social platforms– the same people who you want visiting your site to learn about your products or services. Depending on your business and target audience, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are three effective options for amplifying your message and expanding your content distribution.
Bring visitors back to evergreen content
While any social sharing is good, you’ll get the biggest impacted from targeted sharing that’s part of an overarching marketing plan. Just ask Arun Ramamurthy at Free Score India, which offers free credit scores to consumers and uses social media to repeatedly share the company’s best evergreen content.
“Social media drives steady referral traffic to our credit counseling sites,” says Arun Ramamurthy. “Every time we post content on our blog, we cross post on Facebook and Twitter, and then re-link to the same content a few months later to continue driving traffic to our best evergreen material on credit counseling.”
Be ready to capitalize on temporary spikes
As Eric Enge points out in his excellent case study on social signals and SEO, social media sharing will increase referral traffic, but the bump won’t last forever.
“Direct social media traffic is usually not a strong driver of direct sales, but SEO certainly is,” writes Enge. If your goal is to boost sales, then you need to be ready to capture this additional spike in traffic and start moving these visitors through your sales funnel.
Google “social media traffic increase” and you’ll find tons of case studies floating around the web with impressive headlines promising epic site traffic increases. There’s “How I Used Twitter to Generate 35,967 Extra Hits to my Site in Just 14 Days” and “How Facebook Sent 4,000 Extra Visits In!”
Yes, a traffic bump is nice, but without a clear plan in place to engage with this new audience, the bump is only temporary. If you really want social signals to boost your brand’s visibility in search results, your business needs a clear plan for steady, sustained traffic amplification and ongoing lead engagement.
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