What Is a Social Signal?
Social signals are social media engagement metrics, such as likes, replies, comments, or shares. Any number that depicts the reach of your content is considered a social signal. In theory, the more social signals your content gets, the better – right?
Let’s clear up the big question before we dive into why social signals for SEO are important.
Social signals are not an SEO-ranking factor. However, they do help with improving SEO.
So, what is true about social signals? In this article, you’ll learn why they aren’t a ranking factor, how they can enhance your SEO and social strategy, and some social signals SEO tips to get you started with improving your efforts.
Is Social Media an SEO Ranking Factor?
No, social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor. There are multiple reasons for this.
1. Search Engines & Social Media Have Different Quality Thresholds
Most importantly, Google, and other search engines, aim to offer users the most useful, up-to-date, and accurate content relating to their search queries. Social media is quite the opposite.
Anyone from anywhere in the world can post baseless content that attracts loads of interactions. Alternatively, highly informative content from a lesser-known account will go under the radar completely. If search engine algorithms began using social signals for SEO, the quality and accuracy of content would reduce drastically.
2. Social Media Signals Can Be Bought
If social signals for SEO were a thing, anyone could buy their way to the top of search rankings. Social media platforms are full of bots, fake accounts, and spam. There are even websites selling packages of social signals.
Much like search engine algorithms punish people for using link farms—they would have to do the same for social signals. However, because social media platforms run on their own algorithms and code, it would be much harder for search engine developers to overcome this.
3. Quality Social Content & Quality SEO Content Are Different
Another reason SEO social signals aren’t a thing is that each platform measures quality content differently. People don’t head to social channels for lengthy, in-depth articles like this one. If we posted it, we wouldn’t get much engagement.
Alternatively, search engines aren’t pushing short-form content because that’s not considered valuable to search algorithms. If social signals were to become SEO ranking factors, this would blur the lines of what is deemed quality content, making search results less valuable and not as relevant.
How Can Social Media Help SEO?
Ok, so at the beginning of this article, we said social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor. However, it can indirectly have a positive impact on your rankings.
Have you ever created what you and your team think is an epic piece of content, only for it to flop? Don’t worry. Most marketing teams have.
1. Content Distribution
Too often, marketers create content, promote it once, then expect its numbers to blow up. Or, they’ll move on to the next thing, forgetting that content distribution is crucial to driving traffic.
After publishing content, some marketers might share their work via a newsletter, email, press release, and one social media post.
Instead, you could create a content distribution strategy for social media alone, ensuring you’re doing everything possible to put your content in front of the right people.
Social media is an ever-moving platform, with platforms and timelines quickly forgetting about your content. If you’re a frequent poster, uploading new content daily, nothing is stopping you from plugging articles once per week—if not more.
2. Drive Referral Traffic
Attracting referral traffic to your website via social media is just one way to boost SEO with social signals.
While this won’t directly impact your rankings, it’ll attract new people to your site, which—if your landing page is good and user journey optimized—could increase time on site, reduce bounce rate, and improve other important metrics.
3. Help Spread Shareable Content
If you produce engaging, informative, and educational content that your audience finds useful, they will share it—and usually, their friends, followers, and subscribers will be interested in similar things. In turn, it means your content is seen by people who may never have engaged with your brand before but with whom it will likely resonate.
This increase in traffic and engagement will likely improve your website’s metrics and subscriber rate, and the number of people searching for your content. This should increase your SEO authority and boost your ranking.
Essentially, social media signals can be the catalyst of a snowball effect for your SEO content.
Three Tips to Integrate Your SEO
1. Repurpose Content
Sometimes marketers struggle with what to post and who to target with their content.
Your website content is the perfect place to start. Usually, blogs and articles will be long-form informative and educational copy – take that and condense it into a post for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or whichever your preferred and best-performing social media platforms are.
For example, you might have a blog titled ‘20 household items you must buy in Summer 2023.’ Your text, likely to be written in a listicle form, will include lots of descriptions of products and links to websites where you can buy them.
On social, you could simply include a list of the top 5 with some images and a link to your full blog.
Alternatively, you may decide against linking to your blog post. Why? Because although we’ve spoken about social signal SEO being driven by backlinks, including them can also be detrimental —one reason is that social media developers are keen to keep users on their platform, so tend not to push out posts with links as readily.
To counteract not including links, it’s suggested to use Same as schema markup to interlink your social media accounts and website. This tells Google the social handle and website are the same people, allowing Google to easily factor your social signals into SEO. Therefore, you don’t always have to link to your website.
2. Guest Posts to Improve Your E-E-A-T
Back in 2018, Google introduced the concept of E-A-T as a measurement for quality in SEO content. Instantly, marketers all over were obsessed with hitting these three points:
I mean, it sounds logical that people would want the content they’re reading to tick all those boxes, so why wouldn’t Google?
Jump 4 years to December 2022, and Google introduced another E—Experience.
As we know, Google is pulling performance data about your business from many channels—social media included. So, you need to ensure you’re ticking the E-E-A-T boxes across the board.
How Can Guest Posts Help SEO Social Signals?
Guest posts are one of the most popular link-building strategies. Guest posting means you author a blog or article for someone else’s website, or vice versa.
This presents a fantastic opportunity to build a backlink, since you can link to your own site within the piece. However, rather than authoring an article to feature elsewhere, you could use social media to your advantage instead.
If you’ve written an article that includes a lot of data collected by another source—or perhaps you’ve included positive reviews of a product or service—you should reach out to the people concerned and let them know you’re talking about them. With a bit of luck, they’ll share your work with their audience,
For example, if you’ve written a piece titled the top ‘10 vegan restaurants in Manhattan’, these restaurants might be keen to share that rating with their audience. Their doing so will boost your E-E-A-T and give Google some serious social signals about your content.
3. Earn Backlinks From Other Users
Backlinks are one of the most important SEO ranking factors, and social media has the power (and audience numbers) to help with earning plenty more.
Link-bait content is content produced with the sole purpose of generating backlinks. However, a high number of social signals and backlinks doesn’t necessarily mean your content is well-executed SEO—so it’s best to make sure everything you produce ticks all the E-E-A-T boxes too.
Usually, this type of content is what gains traction on social media and becomes instantly shareable.
- Offer free products that are useful for your audience
- Be bold and opinionated
- Tap into emotion through an angry rant or an uplifting positive story
- Make it newsworthy and topical – never outdated
So, do social signals help your SEO? Yes, they do!
Google tells us that social signals don’t directly impact ranking scores, but we’ve uncovered that they can help improve scores by generating backlinks, driving referral traffic, and sharing your content with a wider audience.
Indirectly, social media signals enable you to boost referral traffic, increase the potential of gaining backlinks, and improve your content’s shareability.
Our top tips:
- Interlink your social media accounts and website through schema markup
- Repurpose existing content for social media posts
- Create a content distribution strategy
- Reach out to and build relationships with potential guest posters and influential people who will share your content