Let’s face it. The main goal of every online marketer doesn’t extend much further than high school mentality—become popular, and get the cool kids to like you. While it may seem superficial, becoming popular is the perfect goal when it comes to online marketing, and the best way to help your business eventually make more money.
In the online marketing world, becoming popular can be equated with building website authority and acquiring social signals. Getting the cool kids to like you can be equated with capturing the attention of the coolest kid of all—Google! After all, Google has nearly 5 billion visitors a day, so the more Google likes your website, the better your chances are of ranking well in their search results, and thus succeeding in the realm of Internet advertising.
While Google is definitely the friend to have in the world of Internet marketing, Google can be a bit tricky. Here’s why. We all know that Google assigns value to websites by evaluating over 200 variables. These variables help Google determine your rank in their search engine. While some of these variables that contribute to your rank are clear like PageRank, age of domain, keyword strategy, links, and robust content, others are less clear, and it becomes the game of every search engine marketer to figure it out. In fact, one of the most pressing questions as of late the world of Internet marketing is whether or not social signals play a role in determining rank, and if so, how much?
Recently, Matt Cutts confirmed that social signals do in fact play a role in determining rank, and other Internet marketing authorities have offered insightful speculation on how and why social signals play into Google rankings.
Some of these reasons include the following.
1. Social signals indicate a solid reputation – It’s no secret that Google rewards websites that have built a solid reputation for being a strong industry leader. The more you do to position your website as a credible industry source, the more Google likes you. What better way to build your reputation than receiving validation from your followers that they not only follow you and read your content, but they literally “like” your content? With social signals, Google crawlers now have a way to determine exactly how many people are liking and sharing your content.
2. Social signals determine what is best for the user – Again, we all know that Google spends thousands of man-hours making tweaks to their algorithms to determine what is best for the user. Social signals are a great way to determine what’s best for the user. Let me elaborate by offering a quick hypothetical example. Let’s say there are two websites that are equal in the sight of Google. Now let’s say both of these websites release articles on the same day, and the articles reach the same amount of Internet searchers. Then, the rest is left up to Internet searchers to like, share, tweet, and pin the article. The amount of social signals one article receives over another is a pretty hefty indicator of which content the users find more useful. This helps Google understand what is best for the user—because the user is telling them in a very direct way.
3. Internet users trust social signals – Not only is the world becoming more and more reliant on social media platforms like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, but also people are starting to use these methods as the new word of mouth. People are more likely to trust a website recommendation that comes from one of their social media friends than a recommendation that comes from a search engine. As such, Google, and other top search engines, are well to do to pay attention to what people are personally recommending to their friends.
4. Websites with a strong social presence have stronger brand loyalty – A strong social presence indicates a strong brand loyalty from followers, and also better conversions. This leads to more sales, better reviews, and more referrals, which leads to increased popularity and more inbound links. It just makes sense for Google.
How to Increase Social Signals
We know that social signals do in fact play a role in helping Google determine your website’s rank, and we have some generic speculative insights as to why Google has decided to include social signals as one of their ranking variables. This means it’s important to turn some of your Internet marketing attention to increasing your social signals. Here’s how.
1. Get on social media sites – The first thing you want to do in order to increase your social signals may seem a bit obvious, but it’s extremely important. Make sure you have an updated profile on every social media site. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn (when it makes sense).
2. Stay active on social media – Not only should you make sure you have a social media presence, but you should also make sure you are actively participating on social media. If this means you need to hire a full time social media strategist, then do it. It’s worth it.
3. Become the destination for social engagement – People are having conversations on social media daily. People are conversing about subjects that are directly related to products and services you offer. Make sure that your profiles and website blog are where people are choosing to engage in these conversations.
4. Generate quality content – You can ensure that you are the destination for social engagement by generating quality content. People like to be informed, entertained, and inspired, not inundated with updates about how cool you and your product are. Give them some content that makes them better.
5. Add social sharing buttons to your website – This also may seem a bit obvious, but make sure you give people the opportunity to easily share your content. It’s not likely that someone will copy and paste your URL link into Facebook or Twitter, because it takes too long. They will, however, take an extra half of a second to press their social sharing button of choice. Trust me, I know. I do it all the time.
6. Put social sharing buttons on the top of your pages – Another great strategy for increasing your social signals is to place your social sharing buttons on the top of your website pages and articles, rather than at the bottom. The more visible and well designed your social sharing buttons are, the easier it will be for someone to actually share your content.
7. Blog – Every website should have a blog. Yes, every single website. People are crazy about blogs. They love free and interesting information, even if it presents a conflicting opinion. A perfect way to generate conversations that go viral is to start a blog. If you don’t have time to blog, hire a freelance copywriter to help manage your blog content. You won’t regret it.
8. Ask people to share your content – Asking people to do something goes a long way in regular life and in the Internet world. If you feel you have generated an inspiring piece of content, feel free to ask your most dedicated followers to share it. Most likely, they will.
9. Share others’ content – Okay, it’s not all about you. While it’s important to make sure you are generating interesting content, it’s also important to get your name out there as a business that engages in social conversations. Follow blogs that are of interest to you and participate on their site by commenting. When you come across a stellar post, feel free to share it on your blog or social media sites.
10. Stay ahead of the game – Internet marketing is always changing. You never know when Google will make a slight algorithm change that will completely change your game. Make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest Internet marketing and social marketing trends.
Some Things Not to Do
Just as there are some things to do that will increase your social signals, there are some things that you should definitely not do. Keep these things in mind when approaching your social media strategy. If you stay away from the mistakes listed below, you should be in much better shape to benefit from your social media strategy.
1. Don’t go nuts! – Just as it’s important not to go buy a bunch of fake links, it’s important to not go buy a bunch of fake followers. Remember, Google is pretty smart and they have ways of figuring out what websites are legitimate and which ones are not.
2. Don’t value quantity over quality – While you may be tempted to share your content on a forum that may generate a lot of shares, if they are not quality shares, don’t do it. Seek shares from higher quality of websites and Internet users with more Klout.
3. Don’t give up on other strategies and trade it all in for social signals – While social signals are playing a bigger role in ranking, remember there are over 200 other factors that Google takes into consideration. Abandoning all other strategies would be like tossing out all ingredients in your salad except for lettuce. Remember, Google likes many veggies in its salad.
Social signals are definitely playing an increased role in SEO. Just keep in mind that the main goal when it comes to getting more social signals also goes back to high school mentality—be yourself, and hope that people like you.