If you are looking to have your website stand out among the rest in the huge space that is the Internet, one good method is to incorporate social signals. The traffic that hits the popular social media sites is massive, and if you can get just a tiny piece of those visitors learning about and visiting your website, you could see a huge increase in your website visitors.
For those that are not sure what social signals are and how they might affect search, lets break it down really quick. On a lot of sites, you may notice little icons that have images of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. These buttons are meant for people who visit your website and want to share it with other people who might also enjoy your site. Typically if someone were to click on the Facebook button, it would prompt the user to share the specific website or page on that persons Facebook wall. When someone shares, your website or just a page from your website, that counts as a social signal. The same holds true for when people share your content on other social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Reddit, Pinterest, and Google+. Other social signals include Facebook likes, Google +1’s, and Twitter re-tweets, should you have an active Twitter account.
Now that you have more of an understanding about what social signals are, I am pretty sure you can see how they can drive tons of traffic to your website. When people like and share your content, all of their friends and followers are potentially informed about your website via social media. If they then visit your page and like or share it, your website is then shared with all of their friends and followers. I am sure you have seen some stuff on Facebook which has over a million shares, or a million likes. Imagine the amount of traffic that those websites that created the viral content received just from social media traffic!
Now for the question, does social signals impact your search engine optimization results? Will getting likes, shares, re-tweets, and pins really effect the way your site ranks in the search results? We spoke to James Green, a Sacramento SEO consultant regarding his testing with social signals. Mr. Green stated “Social signals is definitely a ranking factor for websites in the search results. It is not the only ranking factor, but it does play a role in the way the algorithms are ranking sites today.” When it comes to which social signals appear to be the strongest right now, it seems that Facebook shares, as well as certain Twitter re-tweets are making a strong impact on website rankings. Google no doubt utilizes social signals from their own social network, Google+ when it comes to analyzing websites. Are the Google+ social signals the end all be all though? Our testing has shown that Google +1’s and Google+ Shares are not huge ranking factors as of yet though. As Google+ is not as large and popular as Facebook and Twitter, it would appear that those social signals hold a bit more weight currently. The thing to be conscious of though, Google crawls Facebook and Twitter constantly, however they can only index content that people make publicly available. If a user has privacy enabled on their profiles and are sharing your content, the crawlers will not find it as only those who are friends or followers will be able to see the likes or shares.
If you listen to what Google and other search engines are saying, they really don’t make a reference to social signals as being a ranking factor. In 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts stated “Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index…to the best of my knowledge we don’t currently have any signals in our search ranking algorithms.” Whether or not you believe what Google spokesmen says or not, you can only verify the results by doing your own testing.
In the end, it is really only the geniuses who control the search engine algorithms that really know what is and what is not a ranking factor. The search engines keep that information as confidential as possible, and you can be sure that if a spokesman for a search company comes out and says one thing, the other might actually be true. The ranking factors are a search engines bread and butter for displaying relevant and non-manipulated results. If the algorithms were made public, everyone would be ranking their poor websites at the top of the search engine and nobody would really find the content they were looking for. It is in the search engines best interest to keep all of the metrics in their algorithm out of the public’s reach, even if that includes spreading misinformation.
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