Understanding Social Signals and SEO: A Simple Guide

by in Social Media

Social Media IconsMove over SEO. Social media is fast becoming the optimal way for businesses to rank at the top of search engine results through customer feedback known as social signals. This new process has become a major factor in the success (or failure) of a company in ways that can’t compare to traditional ranking methods.

Social Signals Defined

Social signals are the likes, shares, votes, pins, or views people place on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media sites that filter out to the various search engines.

Social signals indicate that your brand is being talked about by consumers, and this improves your SERP ranking because search engines view social signals as trusted “recommendations”.

“Traditional” SEO Vs. Social Signals

For years, traditional SEO strategies were the definitive way to ensure a high search engine ranking for a site. The right anchor text links, backlinks and keywords were a vital part of a mathematical formula that determined SERP rankings. However, after Google’s many Panda and Penguin updates, the focus began to shift more toward the value of a site’s content, and today it has shifted again to add people’s feedback into the mix with social signals.

What Can Social Signals Do?

  • The right social signals reduce bounce rates and create more repeat site visits.
  • Social signals from one page can actually impact other pages within a domain to improve ranking criteria.
  • Voting for or liking web pages may potentially begin to replace backlinks, and the improved brand visibility that social signals creates can generate new inbound links and produce a “tag team” effect to move a site higher in the SERPs.
  • Social signals show Google your company/website has a pulse and taking part in normal online behavior.

Why Have Social Signals Taken Hold?

The increasing use of social media sites to share information or just keep in touch has changed how we communicate, and social signals are the natural outcome of this communication shift.

Research shows that people now choose to visit particular websites not because of a high search engine rank, but because friends have recommended the site either directly or through social signals. In addition, socially linked websites have improved conversion rates along with better brand loyalty and brand awareness, leading to more positive reviews through social signals.

As social media continues to grow, consumers will look to social signals to help them make the best product and service choices.

What You Should Be Doing

If your company has not yet created a social media presence, it’s time to act. Set up accounts and publish content about your business on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. If you’re confused or unsure on how to proceed, there are professional social media management companies that can help get you started.

Once you’ve created your sites, don’t let them stagnate. Regularly update your social sites with diverse content like posts, bookmarks, votes, re-shares and comments — these are just a few actions that Google uses to help determine a site’s ranking.

Remember that although social media now plays a significant role in SERP rankings, your focus should still be on your customer first and foremost. Don’t just publish content for the sake of publishing content; share content that your customers will find truly valuable. Engage with your customers through lively discussions and commenting, videos, images, contests, polls, and anything else that elicits positive feedback. The more value a customer perceives from your brand’s social sites, the more likely they are to like, share and recommend your brand to others.

Social media is now the strategy of choice to keep your brand in front of your customers, and to keep your customers engaged in your brand in ways that traditional SEO only can not accomplish.

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Discussion (9)

  • Scott Spencer-White

    I’m a total newbie to social signals – thanks for providing this concise explanation!


  • Emenike Emmanuel

    Hi Brittany,

    You have an amazing post here. The impact social media is beginning to have on how well our blog posts rank on search is on the increase.

    Hoping to catch up on this reality, I have committed to building by fan base and encouraging more engagements on my post.

    Thanks for sharing.



  • Nova Dames

    Definitely adding social buttons to my page. Thanks Brittany!


  • Leverne

    This post answered some of the questions I had about Social Signals. I’ve been hearing so much about it and now I have a better understanding. Thank you for the information.


  • Leo

    Thanks for sharing. Will begin to work on this and see how it goes.


  • Michel

    Hi Brittany,

    Maybe you can do an upgrade of this post since Google plus is no longer available in 2019 ?
    I will subscribe so i know when this post has got an upgrade 🙂



  • Beverly

    Hey, thanks so much for this great article! We got a new domain this last month and started advertising/promoting on Facebook and got a bunch of related social signals as a result. And, our domain rating (as seen on the ahref tool) went from 2 to 6). And, I was wondering if maybe social signals is related to that. I’ve been researching a little today to find out more about these social signals and what effect (good or bad) they can have for a website. For our old site we used the Google+ to post, etc and that worked really well for us. Starting from scratch, it’s just been a real pain as that site went out of business. What best social sites for signals now? At least something you would recommend. I know all the big ones like Pinterest (we’re there too) and Facebook/Twitter but what about lesser known like WeHeartIt? Does Google recognize signals coming from that? Also, do you have links to any content you have written about how to encourage users to like the social content? I would prefer natural or organic rather than buying facebook ads.


  • دستبند

    This post answered some of the questions I had about Social Signals. I’ve been hearing so much about it and now I have a better understanding. Thank you


  • Adeyemi Adetilewa

    Social signals are great for any website when it comes to getting repeat traffic and visitors. You just need to be able to identify and recognize the social media that will work best for your website since all websites are not the same.