Everyone has their opinion on how important social signals are as a component of Google’s algorithm. One of the reasons that it’s so exciting to work at Stickyeyes is that our opinions aren’t just opinions; they’re backed up by some seriously qualified data. It also helps that Matt Cutts said that Google does look at social signals.

Back in April, I presented at iOn Search, a brand new conference in Leeds on this very topic. As part of a discussion panel, featuring other experts in SEO and Social Media, I discussed how social networks can best be used for SEO benefit. The videos of the panel have just been released so I thought I’d set out the key takeaways from the session.

ionSearch 2012 - How Best to Use Twitter, Facebook & Google+ for SEO Panel from ionSearch on Vimeo.

Assessing ranking signals

Our data set and the tools that interrogate it enable us to assess the hundreds of ranking signals that we understand Google to consider. We also absolutely speculate on what “new” ranking signals might be: these include social signals on both a volume (e.g. likes, tweets, brand mentions, re-pins) and an engagement (e.g. repeated brand engagement, retweets, facebook talking-about-this or TAT as we like to call it) level.

To go a step further, we look at these metrics on both a URL and a social network level. This means that we extract, for example, how many likes a URL has but also how many likes they’ve achieved on their Facebook brand page. Ultimately, this means we get an accurate picture of the amount of discussion, endorsement and engagement around brands and we are able to determine whether this correlates with SERPs.

In a number of sectors, we’ve uncovered information that suggests social signals are a part of the algorithm, and that those who rank most positively in organic search, also have an excellent volume of social signals relating to the brand. Of course, we know from recent algorithm updates that Google preferences established brands and established brands are more likely to have endorsement from consumers so perhaps this is effect rather than cause.

Regardless of whether the positive correlation between SERPs and social signals is cause or effect, it demonstrates that those brands that have a better social footprint, do better in organic search. So for me, that’s great news, because it’s further justification for the value of a great social strategy.

In my presentation (which you can see at 20:00 minutes), I briefly covered the key components of a great social strategy that also considers SEO: the right content, the right platform, the right audience and the right goals. I’ll tell you all about this in my next blog post.

Key takeaways

  • Matt Cutts said that Google looks at social signals. We believe him.
  • Analysis of the algorithm suggests a positive correlation between higher SERPs and social signals. This helps to justify the horrible “what’s my ROI” question.
  • Whether social signals are cause or effect in the algorithm, a strong social strategy has to be considered alongside an SEO strategy.

What do you think? Have you seen the same results we have?