How Social Signals Impact Your SEO Efforts (And Which Sites Work Best For Your Business)

Without them you’re just falling further and further behind your competition. This will be true no matter how many high domain authority backlinks you build to your site. Backlinks alone are no longer the only key driving force behind search engine rankings (although they’re still essential).

It’s been a slow but inevitable shift in how the major search engines determine a sites ranking value. Up until fairly recently SEO rankings were driven solely by quality and quantity of backlinks (mostly). Marketer’s began asking the question “do social signals influence search engine rankings?” in late 2009 / early 2010.

Not long after the chatter began Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of the web spam team confirmed that Google uses data from major social networks. See this video for his talk.

SEO’s began to truly understand the value of social and it’s correlation with good search rankings back in 2012. published a study evaluating various ranking factors. The image below shows how strong of a relationship each factor had with high search engine ranking websites.

SEO Rank FactorsThanks to SearchMetrics for this image

So that begs the question…

What Is A Social Signal?

A social signal is an instance of “engagement” by a web visitor. It’s so common today we may take it for granted without truly understanding what that means. Basically a signal can be represented by any of the following

  • Likes on your company’s Facebook page – This seemingly tiniest of actions sends an small indication to the social network as well as Google that your brand is gaining interest.
  • Shares, Likes, & Comments On Any Content You Publish On That Page – It’s not enough to just have a page anymore. Publishing content on that page and engaging your followers helps develop relationships with customers / leads while sending signals to Google that your content is valuable.
  • Authority Of The Person Tweeting Your URL – Tweets and mentions from accounts that have no likes or engagement are considered “dead” accounts. They hold no authority. For a tweeted link to have an impact it must be done by an established, active account.
  • Likes, shares, retweets, +1’s, repins, on any page or post you make on a social network are all examples of a social signal.

How Do Social Signals Work For SEO?

Signals from major social networks work a lot like a backlink. Quantity and quality are both considered by the search engines when evaluating where your site should rank. Not only do you need a social presence with actual engagement (likes, shares, etc) you should aim to receive social mentions from quality sources (authoritative people/accounts).

All of this adds up much in the same way your backlink profile does. It accumulates over time signifying your site’s worth. published a great gifographic (animated infographic) sharing data from a study done testing how social signals impacted search position. Here’s what they found.

6 websites were made in 6 similarly-sized U.S. Cities. All the websites were in the same niche. Here’s the results to their rise in Google position from an increase in social shares:

  • Once site received 100 Google+ followers = 14.63% rise
  • Once site received 300 Google+ 1 votes = 9.44% rise
  • Once site received 70 Facebook Shares and 50 Facebook likes = 6.9% rise
  • Once site received 50 Tweets = 2.88%

As you can see Google+ and Facebook are absolute must-use platforms according to this 2014 study. But your success with social and by extension SEO will largely depend on the type of networks you use as well as your effort. Let’s take a look at how to get you started with social media marketing to help improve your SEO efforts.

Which Social Media Platforms Should My Business Use To Influence SEO?

If we haven’t made this abundantly clear already – you absolutely must have a social presence in today’s SEO landscape. If you don’t you’re just leaving the door wide open for your competitors.

So does that mean you should go out and sign up for every social media platform available? Absolutely not. How well people respond to your social efforts will depend on the type of business you run. Not all sites are right for every business. Below you’ll find a comparison chart showing you what type businesses work best with which social sites.

Social Site Local Business Content Site or Blog Physical Products
 Google + Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up
 Google My Business Thumbs-Up Fire Thumbs-Up
 Facebook Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up
 Twitter Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up
 Instagram Thumbs-Up  (Depends on Topic) Thumbs-Up
 Pinterest Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up
 Four Square Thumbs-Up Fire Fire
 Tumblr Fire Thumbs-Up Thumbs-Up

Each site has it’s own unique set of properties. Some sites are image / video only like Instagram, while others allow you to publish any kind of content like Facebook and Google+. The key to know which to use is all about the type of content you have to publish and the end goal you want to reach.

Do you want to drive foot traffic to your shop? You definitely want to be active on locally oriented sites like Foursquare and Google My Business. Want to drive more traffic to your viral content? Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are your best bet. Selling products from your eCommerce site? Image based networks like Instagram and Pinterest will suit you well.


Any SEO will be able to tell you that quality and quantity of backlinks will have a tremendous impact on where your site lands in the SERPs. Without them you’re dead in the water. While social signals don’t have as big of an impact as links on their own; the case has been made that they are nearly as important.

Social signals have the power to rank web pages. Used in the right way that power will drive Return on Investment. And that is music to any business owner’s ears.


Q:  When Do You Use Social Media For Marketing?
A:  Social media can be used for marketing businesses, artists, musicians at any time.  The key to using it well relies on the process of building up a relationship with the followers you acquire.  These followers can be on any type of platform like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.  The point is that you must engage them through the media of the particular platform you’re choosing to use.  If you simply promote products without the relationship in place, your marketing efforts will fail.

Q:  Which Social Media Platform Is Best For My Business?
A:  There is no single platform that is best for your business.  The best social media platform for your business is the one where your desired customers (aka avatars) are using the most.  For example, photographers will be much more likely to be using Instagram as it’s a photo based social media platform.  You’ll need to do some research before deciding on what combination of social media spots will work best for your business.

Q:  What Does a  Social Media Marketer Do?
A:  In general a social media marketer distributes content across social media platforms, engages with their audiences, and measures the results.  The duties of this job can vary widely from provider to provider.  Some social media marketer’s (SMM for short) produce the content they distribute, other’s do not.  Some SMM simple interact with their various followers comments and questions.  And yet other SMM’s focus solely on the paid advertising opportunities across the different platforms.

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