The digital world is evolving at a rapid rate and change is constant with digital marketing. 20 years ago, no one could have predicted where we are today and that we would have a “Google” that can determine the success of a business online. No one knew back then that a couple of keywords relevant to the services and products of a business could either create major success, or be their downfall. Change is imminent online and if you are in the SEO game I’m sure you have seen an article or five stating that SEO is dead. Rest assured folks, SEO isn’t dead — it’s evolving.
It’s estimated that Google changes its search algorithm approximately 500-600 times a year so that it can provide the best experience to its users and the most relevant, up to date, and accurate information. With this, it makes sense that Google has to constantly update its algorithm. For all the major known algorithm updates on Google, view this page on Moz. All the updates have a massive effect on SEO and business as new strategies and methods have to be implemented to get organic rankings and to maintain them.
Google isn’t the only channel that keeps on changing. Look at how social media has evolved over the last couple of years and how it is now an integral part of business for many. It’s impacting how we communicate online and do business. Social media has also opened up the floodgates where anyone can now be a citizen journalist and publish anything about anyone online. People are also more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend or a family member than by a search engine. This means that if the search engines aren’t embracing social media, they are going to lose out big time.
With this, Google integrated social media into their core search algorithm and in 2010, the famous Matt Cutts announced that Google is using “social signals” in their search algorithm, and they have been doing this for a while. Social signals play an important part in increasing website traffic and to obtain organic rankings and have been doing so for a while, but many are only starting to realize this now. What does this mean? It means that SEO has evolved once again and is now working hand in hand with social media.
What are social signals?
Social signals are votes and recommendations generated on the social web in the form of likes, shares, retweets, mentions, pins, and +1’s that are generated from top social media channels like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest.
Social signals also play an important part in your online reputation (digital footprint) among consumers. Having a good reputation online and on various social media channels can improve your organic rankings because this is directly seen by Google as trusted recommendations that you receive from people online.
Traditional search engine optimization consists of on page optimization tactics, content, keywords, and links to determine your organic rankings, but now that Google is using social signals as a ranking factor, why should you only focus on traditional SEO methods? You shouldn’t. This doesn’t mean that you should stop what you are busy doing with SEO. You should just change your strategy and tactics to include social media to take advantage of social signals.
In 2007 Google registered a patent called “Agent Rank“. Here’s the abstract directly from Google about “Agent Rank”:
The present invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing techniques for searching and ranking linked information sources. The techniques include receiving multiple content items from a corpus of content items; receiving digital signatures each made by one of multiple agents, each digital signature associating one of the agents with one or more of the content items; and assigning a score to a first agent of the multiple agents, wherein the score is based upon the content items associated with the first agent by the digital signatures.
What it basically means is that your Agent Rank or “AuthorRank” will be determined by your reputation online as a content creator and it will influence the results on Google Search. AJ Kohn summed it up quite nicely on a blog post he did in March 2012 where he explains Author Rank: “…verified content by an author will be graded and it is that grade that influences the rank of content in search results.”
Why do you have to verify your content and what does it have to do with social signals? Through Google+, the all-knowing social network, you should verify your content. This means that the Google+ social network directly provides social signals to Google that can affect your organic rankings. This is just one of many social signals, but I believe it’s going to play a bigger role in the future.
Why you should start focusing on social signals with your search engine optimization strategy:
More votes online means more social signals
Having lots of Twitter retweets and Facebook likes won’t get you to the top organic rankings, but it can help.
Focusing on social signals will help you generate repeat visitors.
Google uses social signals to find out what is happening on the social web and what content is valuable.
Social signals can help improve the visibility of your brand online
People are visiting certain websites because more people have recommended that particular site by a friend, family, and colleagues through social media or directly. Websites that are socially active have better conversion rates and at the end of the day better brand loyalty, which contributes highly in getting “social votes” that, provides social signals to Google.
I love reading. Before I buy a new book I search on Google for the book and usually one of the first results that pops up is a listing from Amazon. On Amazon I’ll read the comments of the book and make the final decision based on the recommendations provided by real people who have read the book. This is powerful, as I started looking for the book on Google and ended up on a website that focuses on social signals directly. How can you take advantage of this?
SEO and social media keep on evolving at a rapid rate and social signals can play a huge role in your search engine optimization strategy.
Author | Anton Koekemoer
I'm your friendly neighbourhood digital marketing specialist. I specialise in helping brands connect with targeted customers by enhancing their online presence through emerging web-based communication channels. I translate business objectives into comprehensive initiatives that focus on humanising brand identity while maximising measurable business results. More