Social signals: fact or fiction?

The SEO industry has some notoriety for making mountains out of molehills when new products are launched and best practices are set.

It’s almost conventional SEO “wisdom” that so-called “social signals” are beneficial to your website’s SEO programme. But is this really fact or fiction?

The truth is that there is a grain of good advice here, which has been blown out of all proportion by SEO practitioners seeking to cash in quickly on unsuspecting clients.

Social media, when launched and managed properly, will have a positive impact on your website domain authority (DA). This isn’t a magic recipe, but simply because good social media management will see more people looking at your website, whilst other websites and online influencers will start to cite your brand more readily.

The result of the above is increased web traffic, which acts as a trust marker to Google, given that your inbound traffic will be from genuine, relevant and engaged fans.

What’s more, if you run a successful Facebook page and/or advertising strategy, the engagement rate metrics (likes, shares, comments and replies) have been shown to factor into the Google ranking algorithm for organic search.

It’s here where the need to for quality is emphasised: simply “being” on social won’t cut the mustard: you need to be engaging to your fans and provide them with a great experience.

This is most clearly demonstrated in the example of Google+. The number of SEO and content marketing practitioners who mumble that “Google+ is good for SEO” is astounding—yet there is little explanation to underpin this statement.

Google+ plus 1s are indeed another of Google’s confirmed ranking factors—but it’s not the easiest feat to acquire followers on your Google+ profile. You need to follow communities that are relevant to your brand and then contribute validly to their discussions.

Remember that these sort of closed forums are home to genuine and passionate members of the online community, and they don’t want to see shameless self-promotion from brands. It’s not enough to post an interesting comment or to start an engaging discussion, either: you’ll need to monitor, reply and keep the conversation going, in order to maintain your credibility.

In a nutshell, then, social media can benefit your SEO programme, if tackled with gusto. It’s a no-brainer, really: if you’re going to put your brand out there on social, you need to be present and you need to say something. The SEO benefits attached to this should be considered a nice bonus, whilst your technical SEO and content outreach efforts are underway.

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