Every time you Like a post on Facebook, tweet a link on Twitter, or follow someone on Google+, you are giving out a social signal. These social signals are your recommendations for worthwhile content that search engines use to enhance their search results. The more a website or article is recommended, shared or Liked, the more that website or article’s ranking will increase.
This is because people are more open to each other’s recommendations or reviews in contrast to an algorithm or brand’s. In particular, people trust material endorsed by family, friends and people they know. The more trustworthy the source of the recommendation, the more heft they hold on pagerankings.
For example, in the case of Twitter, an authoritative user would lend their authority to pages they tweet. As Google explains, “[Twitter] is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.”
For Bing: “We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.”
Keep in mind that social signals are not perfect. Search engines have yet to find a method to factor in every Like, tweet or +1’s. Even Google is unsure of their own metrics (+1). They’ve said that they "do compute and use author quality and that Author authority is independent of PageRank, but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search."
Despite this, experts foresee organic search as relying on social signals in the future. Jaysen DeMers, founder and CEO of SEO-marketing agency AudienceBloom LCC, predicts, “In two years, companies playing in competitive niches that don’t have a robust social strategy will be left in the dust by those that do; Social signals are becoming the new ‘link’ in terms of overall importance in the ranking algorithm.”
Google’s +1’s are a good sign that social signals will have a larger impact on search results than they do now. Not to mention the mystery surrounding AuthorRank. As such, brands and bloggers should create content that is shareable, if they have yet to already, and have open and helpful social media accounts to answer questions, aid target audiences and recommend great resources.
What do you think?
How important are social signals to your brand or blog? What are your predictions for the future of search engines? Do you actively participate in encouraging social signals? Comment below; we’d love to hear from you!