Easy guide: What are Social Signals? Do Social Signals impact SEO?

Guide: SOCIAL SIGNALS EXPLAINED - does social media affect SEO

Introduction – Social signals explained

Search engine optimisation, social media marketing and other digital marketing activities are getting more and merged together, and you as a business owner/ marketer has to adapt to this in order to be competitive nowadays. However when it come to SEO, many people and businesses have discussed whether social signals are a ranking factor for Google and Bing, or not.

A few years back, social signals had pretty much zero value, in terms of organic rankings, and social media was definitely separated from SEO. Today, digital marketing have changed, social media channels have changed and Google’s algorithms have updated/ changed as well (they’re pretty much updating this every month with minor tweaks).

In this post, I’ll try and cover everything you need to know about social signals and whether or not you should care about this, in your SEO strategy. It’s always important to engage with your audience on social media (at least for every B2C business), to boost your sales, do re-targeting getting social proof etc.

However this post isn’t about strategies on social media, but just the correlation between social signals and SEO. We always recommend that you also utilise social media platforms, even if you don’t spend time and resources on SEO.


Digital Marketing Trinity Content SEO Social Media Marketing - Pryma Marketing
Digital Marketing Trinity Content SEO Social Media Marketing – Created by www.coolerinsights.com

Digital marketing is getting more and more merged together and is mentioned as the “trinity of digital marketing” by coolerinsights. This is a great illustration of what online marketing is evolved into where SEO, content marketing and social media marketing aren’t 3 separated things anymore. In most cases your business won’t be able to maximise their online exposure without having all 3 incorporated in their digital marketing strategy.

It’s okay to focus more on 1 over another if it suits you and your business better, but this is just a general comparison. In this post I will try to explain exactly how this will impact your business, be ready to take notes!

What are social signals?

Definition: Social signals refer to a webpage’s collective shares, comments, retweets, likes and overall social media visibility (made by human) as perceived by search engines. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Medium etc. These activities likes, dislikes, shares, votes, pins, views, etc. are commonly used to showcase popularity and affinity for a specific piece of content.

Basically, every public interaction made on social media platforms, can be calculated as a social signal. The more upvotes, likes, shares, comments etc. the more positive social signals, the better. Most of these platforms doesn’t feature a “dislike /downvote” option, so social signals are based on general assumption of, the more engagement, the better. Even though this could potentially be bad mentions, but it doesn’t work that way, for now at least.

Examples of social signals:

  • Number of tweets, retweets, followers
  • Facebook fanpage likes, post likes, shares and comments
  • Google+ followers and engagement
  • Reddit upvotes

Just like SEO you have 2 different elements to optimise, On-page and Off-page.

On-page elements are elements that you could implement on your website. This is the things you can change on your own, to optimise your website to gain social signals.

On-page elements would be:

  • Connect buttons (Follow on Twitter, Like Facebook fan-page, Follow in Instagram, Follow in LinkedIn etc.)
  • Share buttons (Like, comments, tweets, bookmark etc.)
  • A blog (where people can engage)

Off-page elements are elements that you aren’t able to affect directly with your website, because it’s based of other sites. The off-page elements is the same as social signals and you should therefore try to grow your following here, as well as generate traffic and engagement. If you do so, this are social signals.

Off-page elements would be (social signals):

  • Facebook fan-page
  • Instagram page
  • Twitter page
  • LinkedIn page
  • Google + page
  • Youtube page
  • Pinterest page
  • Guest posting blogs

In addition to a few recent case studies created both by Marketingland, Searchmetrics and Danny Sillivan as well as Google also did a partnership with Twitter back in 2015, showing additional proof that Google started to care about social signals, and the metrics used on social media platforms.

Google starter guide - website and social signals

As a matter of fact, Google have also included social media in their beginners starter guide to SEO, where they “encourage” people and business to also promote their content on social media platforms. However Google or Bing haven’t (yet) officially stated that social signals are a ranking factor.

Well then, does social signals affect SEO?

Well in a short answer, probably yes but no one knows for sure. The long answer is different. Even though we’re getting more and more hints related to social signals as a ranking factor of SEO, Google haven’t approved this.

But if you ask me and my team, our answer will be based on multiple studies that have been conducted to determine the exact correlation between the organic SEO rankings and social signals. The results vary, but we would say that social signals (generally) have an impact of your organic search rankings.

This is a tough questions, by the time we write this article but our goal is to explore and study whether or not this is true. We think social signals affect SEO, but what will be the future of social signals? How much or how little impact will it have? Should you include this in your SEO campaign or not? These are some of the more difficult questions to answer, and nobody knows for sure. Only time will tell.


Focus on social media, as a part of your online marketing campaign and treat it like social media platforms. Make your posts and ads no matter if you will have a SEO gain or not. Remember you didn’t do social media because of SEO in the first place, so if you will have a SEO increase it would just be a bonus.

Searchmetrics have created a graph where they prioritise (from their own case study) the weight of the ranking factors of social signals.

SEO organic ranking factors - social signals for SEO

How to boost and increase your social signals

Having a lot of engagement and traffic coming from social media platforms, would potentially also create some inbound links for your website as well. Which means, over time you’ll actually gain some backlinks as a part of your off-page SEO.

The links could be created because people start talking about your business in a forum, comments on other websites, links from their social media or even write a post/ article where they mention your website/business.

Boosting your social signals

So first and foremost, quality content is key. Without any great content, you won’t be able to maximise your exposure on social media. People’s attention span online are getting worse everyday, and therefore you have to provide them with the best and most unique content and experience, every time.

You have to give them something valuable, shareable, entertaining or informative and don’t be too “pushy”. If you spam your audience with “buy here”, “click here to get discount” and you’re not providing any real value, you won’t be able to get their attention and interest.

6 quick tips to boost your social signals:

  1. Post daily – Keep your brand at the top of your customers news feed
  2. Use video – Video are one of the most popular formats, utilise it when possible and create something awesome for your customers (behind the scenes video maybe?)
  3. Listen – Listen to your customers and clients about what they have to say and respond and adapt to it in a positive and constructive way.
  4. Partnerships – Do collaborations with other popular brands or influencers in your industry and niche
  5. Monitor – There are a lot of different tools (both paid and free) available to help you analyse and track your likes, shares, retweets etc. and to help you optimise when to post, what to post etc.
  6. Contests – Using contests and giveaways are a great way to get some viral exposure online and can help increase the awareness and interest of your brand.

Indirect impacts for you website with good synergies of SEO and SoMe:

  • Increase in positive reviews (Local Google, Yelp etc.) from more happy customers
  • Increase in inbound links and citations due to improved visibility
  • Decrease in bounce rate, higher time on site as well as repeat visitors/customers
  • Increase social proof for your business
  • Increase traffic/leads/customer from SMM campaign
    • + Potentially boost of SEO because of social signals
    • + Potentially boost of SEO because of new inbound backlinks

Increase in positive reviews (Local Google, Yelp etc.) from more happy customers

Social media nowadays has also become an extension of a company’s support and customer service. Facebook pages has a review’s tab, Google+ and Google local has reviews and a lot of people comment and tweets etc. about their latest experience with their purchases, both local and online. Because of this, your company has to be proactive and help you customers whenever it’s possible.

Even if you get some bad reviews, make sure to let the public know that you’re trying to help/ fix the issue, so when other potentially customers see your Facebook reviews, Google or horrible tweets, they know you’re trying to help them out. This can take some up time and ressources for your team, depending on your product/service and which social media your audience uses.

Having a good and solid online presence, will also help you staying ahead of your competition. Because of this your audience will feel a closer connection to the brand and people behind, as well as increasing loyalty, which can have a huge impact of customer life time value.

On top of this, because Google shows these reviews in the organic search results (SERP) it could therefore increase your click-through-rate (CTR) to your website and give you more organic traffic.

Increase in inbound links and citations due to improved visibility

Inbound links are still the most powerful indirect impact. In short, if you nobody can’t find you, nobody can link to you. Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors as a part of an epic off-page SEO strategy. With good social media visibility this will boost your online awareness and therefore people will see your company and website.

Because of this people and businesses will be able to link to you, you’ll get more traffic (both referral and organic) and the ball gets rolling. If you generate a lot of engagement and traffic and manage to build a big following on social media, this will often lead to new good inbound links, both from social media platforms as well as “normal” websites, who have found your page.

This is an indirect impact and I don’t think you can use your social media to build backlinks in that manner, but this will be a bonus for you, if you’re doing a good job.

Try to create nice/cool/engaging content that will be linkable/shareable, so people are more likely to share your link/post to their friends. This is a great way to approach both you SEO and Social media strategy.

Decrease in bounce rate, higher time on site + repeat customers

If your targeted audience and visitors have seen your online presence through social media, they’re more likely to visit your page if they see it on Google and Bing as well as increasing their time on site. This will also increase your dwell time. This is the amount of time that passes between the moment a user clicks a search result and subsequently returns back to the SERPs (if they go back the SERPs).

If your visitors have seen your ads or just your brand in general, somewhere online, they’re more likely to engage with your content next time they find you. Because of this, this would decrease your bounce rate, which would then improve your organic rankings. This signals to Google that visitors who clicked on your page, liked what they found.

Time on site, dwell time, pages per session as well as bounce rate has become important ranking factors for Google, because this shows the user experience of the website they found. The more they click on your page on the SERPs, the more time they spend on your site and the more pages they visit, the better signals you send to Google. This often means that you like the content you have found, and this user experience is recognised by Google, and is getting more and more important.

Social proof for your business

Consumers trust their family and friends over anything else. It make sense right? In order to be competitive with other business in your industry, you’ll need to gain credibility and trust, before anyone will buy anything from you. It doesn’t matter how good or how cheap your product or service is, if I don’t like or trust you. This is sometimes a very overlooked part for small and newly started businesses, but it can make a huge difference.

So how do you get social proof? Well with social signals but also positive reviews as mentioned above. With social signals, engagement, likes, shares you’ll gain social proof or “social votes”. It’s like the more “votes” your business get, the more people trust you and the more likely other people are to trust you as well.

This will also increase the likehood of influencers sharing your content and posts or linking to it, within their own content. This is a great way of getting new exposure and credibility.

Increase in traffic/leads/customer from SMM campaign

This the the cumulative effect of the 4 initiatives mentioned above. If you do this right, there is a big chance that your business will have good synergies between your social media channels as well as SEO. Because of the increase in CTR, time on site etc. as well as traffic and engagement and brand awareness in general, you’ll greatly improve your overall conversion rate.

You’ll gain more trust and credibility and pretty much without improving anything else on-site, you could expect to convert more of your visitors both from SMM and SEO into leads and customers. This is the ultimative goal of your digital marketing campaign and the great reward your get if you’re doing it right.

Final thoughts

To wrap everything up. Google doesn’t say social signals have an impact on organic search rankings. However our own studies as well as several others show that they do have an impact, which is why we also think so at Pryma Digital Marketing. Social signals are important and can come from many different sources (FB, IG, LinkedIn, Reddit etc) and is the collective amount of engangement.

Search engine optimisation are important and so are social media marketing and content marketing. These 3 things are combined and you can’t get the best possible results without having all 3 in your online marketing strategy (for most businesses).


2 thoughts on “Easy guide: What are Social Signals? Do Social Signals impact SEO?

  1. I Follow different SEO expert time to time but I believe SEO is more than reading. Its actually doing and getting good quality and relevant backlinks. Its really amazed me when i start getting relevant links. Results are awesome once you start getting quality links fast. Thanks for your Quality Blog.

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