April 12, 2013
The question of whether Google prefers social signals or traditional links is something of a moot point. The most effective search optimization campaigns are those that are loaded with high quality and fresh website content, and those that include a wide variety of natural links and social signals. Therefore, creating a website profile that includes links and social signals will give you the best results.
While links have been discussed at great length in many high quality posts on the Internet, social signals enjoy less exposure and coverage. So, what exactly are social signals and how can you go about developing them for the benefit of your website and your business? It’s worth noting that the exact weight of these signals is not known but they should all be considered important to the performance of your website within search engine rankings.
When we talk about social media and social networking, Facebook is the first site that most people mention. It has the largest user base and is the best known. While it may not prove fruitful as a means of directly driving traffic to a site it is certainly worth consideration for the possible social signals that it offers.
Facebook Shares and Likes are important because they indicate that users are not only viewing your content but are passing it to those in their network and are bookmarking it for future reference. Comments indicate that your readers are getting involved in the discussions that you start. As with virtually all ranking factors, the authority of the Likes, Shares, and Comments that you receive will help improve their weight.
Twitter has proven a beneficial marketing tool for many businesses and websites. A well-constructed Tweet can be seen by millions of people and a viral campaign can begin from a particularly appealing message. The brief nature of Twitter has helped make it popular.
In terms of social ranking factors, the number of Tweets you post is unlikely to yield any kind of benefit. Similarly, the number of followers you have will bear less importance than the authority of your followers. Mentions, retweets, and links within these disseminated Tweets are likely to have a big impact on your social media signals so look to create Tweets that are popular with a large number of high profile users.
Google+ is the newest of the three social networks but its affiliation to the Google brand gives it obvious relevance and importance. Ignoring Google’s own social network is folly and the rate at which the site has ballooned in user numbers is testament to the fact that others hold similar beliefs.
A +1 is deemed a digital vote of confidence for a page or post but it is the authority of the person that clicks the +1 button that will bear an influence on your rankings. Similarly, adds and shares will be considered and greater weight will be afforded to those signals that come from highly authoritative members. The rate at which your message spreads is also believed to be of importance and, bearing in mind how much control Google has over this particular network, the amount of influence that your Google+ account has is only likely to increase.
Other Social Media Websites
There are, of course, many other social media websites and while the three mentioned above are the biggest and most popular, it can pay handsome dividends to concentrate at least some of your efforts on more niche networks. The likes of LinkedIn have proven very beneficial for business users and professionals while YouTube and Flickr are excellent examples of social media sharing websites. Pinterest is one of the newest social media entities and it has already gained incredible value in marketing and specifically in SEO campaigns.
The Importance of Authority
When Google considers any social media websites and ranks social media signals, they are likely to consider authority as much as they consider total volume. They consider relevance, value, and authority to be more important than sheer weight of numbers. While it is relatively easy to buy thousands of likes it is much more difficult to acquire a few likes from high profile and highly authoritative accounts. This gives Google the opportunity to promote higher quality pages and sites within their own rankings.
Other Social Factors
It is possible that the search engines also consider other, perhaps less obvious factors. If they can measure the Click Through Rate of links and likes from social media websites then this would prove a valuable indicator of quality and legitimacy. The age of your account and how naturally your network has been built will also be considered where possible.
Social Signals And SEO
Remember that Google looks for quality above all else and in all of their ranking factors. They will give greater weight to social signals from the networks that they believe to be of a higher quality and they will give greater weight to the signals that they believe are a more accurate indication of quality. Don’t simply opt for a volume campaign when developing your social media and, instead, consider the quality. Of course, if you can develop a large volume of authoritative signals then this will give you the greatest results possible.
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