Having an active social media presence and a strong following is a great way to build brand awareness and engagement, but did you know it can also help improve your rankings? That’s right; getting more likes, retweets, pins etc. can give your SEO a boost, making new users more likely to find you in their search results. So how exactly do social signals affect SEO, and what can you do with social media to increase your traffic and, ultimately, revenue?
What’s the link between social signals and rankings?Although Google keeps its exact formula under wraps, plenty of experts have speculated as to how social signals impact search rankings – both directly and indirectly. Examples of direct impact include the number of:
- likes on your Facebook page
- Facebook shares
- Twitter followers
- tweets that mention your brand name or link to your website
- people that have you in their circles on Google+
- Increased inbound links & citations from greater online visibility/brand awareness
- More positive reviews (in Google Local, Yelp, etc.)
- Lower bounce rate, longer time on site, and more repeat visitors to your website
Increased inbound links & citations from greater online visibility/brand awarenessAlthough social signals are starting to overtake inbound links in terms of influence on rankings, organic links are still an important part of building your brand reputation. As people gain awareness of you on social media they are more likely to link to your site or include citations from their own websites or blogs.
More positive reviewsSocial media – especially Twitter – is increasingly becoming a mainstream customer service channel. If a user tweets to a company, they expect to be answered and to have any problems addressed. Facebook is also a popular way for consumers to bypass endless automated phone menus, infuriating hold queues and unhelpful outsourced customer service. Offering customers a way to connect with a brand on a platform they’re comfortable with helps them feel closer to the company. This increases loyalty and trust which in turn results in more positive reviews. We know that the number and positivity of reviews has a big impact on local search rankings, so why would Google completely disregard reviews in national rankings?
Lower bounce rate, longer time on site, and more repeat visitors to your websiteWhen a customer gets to know a brand through social media interaction they will be more inclined to regularly visit the site and spend more time browsing, improving the ‘average time on site’ metric. Although SEO experts are split on whether bounce rate impacts rankings, it’s universally agreed that a low bounce rate is better as it’s a sign of higher-quality content and good usability. On the other hand, the average time on site metric, is a direct indicator of the quality of a site and its relevance to the user’s particular search query. A longer time on site is an indication that the site provided the information the user was looking for and kept them engaged – and those are the kinds of sites Google wants to be promoting. It’s no secret that Google tracks these metrics, and although there is no definitive evidence to show they impact rankings, many experts are in agreement that they all contribute in some way.
Where is this likely to go in the future?The future is social media; social signals may not yet have overtaken links when it comes to ranking influence, but they are certainly heading in that direction. Companies that don’t have a solid social strategy WILL get left behind. There are several reasons why links are likely to fade into the background (but not lose importance completely):
- Kids today are being raised on Facebook and other social networks, and these will continue to be an integral part of their lives as they grow up and become the consumers of the future. The number of social signals will increase due to there being more users, and people will spend more time searching and consuming content on social networks than via search engines.
- Users take more notice of websites their friends recommend than those listed on search engines. Give your site a strong social presence so people can easily access, share and recommend your content. Search engines will view each share as a tick in your ‘credibility’ box, thus boosting your rankings.
- A strong social media presence equates to stronger brand loyalty and better conversion rates, and therefore more sales. With greater brand awareness and more word-of-mouth referrals, you’ll build up more positive reviews and inbound links, too.
What can I do to improve my website’s social signals?The two basic elements of SEO – onsite and offsite – can be applied in the same way to social media. Brands must give attention to both elements in order to establish and develop a robust social media campaign. The following elements can all help towards your social media efforts.
- Share buttons (share, like, pin, tweet, bookmark, etc.)
- Follow buttons (Like a Facebook page, Follow on Twitter, Follow on LinkedIn, etc.)
- A blog
- Facebook page
- Twitter account
- LinkedIn company page
- Pinterest account
- Instagram account
- YouTube account
- Guest blog posting
- Other social media platforms