What are social signals?

Social Signals and SEO

Social signals are the visible engagements - such as shares, likes and mentions - and overall visibility that is identified by search engines. Social signals can indirectly contribute to your organic ranking and are similar to backlinks in how they can impact your SEO.

Whilst social media doesn't directly affect your SEO and rankings in the SERPs, it can impact the factors that do affect your SEO rankings. When you share links, social media can drive traffic to your site, which can have a knock-on effect with the other SEO ranking factors.

Are social signals important for SEO?

As mentioned above, social signals can indirectly improve SEO, but this is largely down to subtle ranking metrics, such as an increase in the number of visitors and time spent on a website. When visitor numbers increase and time spent on a site increases, this shows the search engines that the content is of value to users (because they followed a link to the content) and the user experience is good (because the users are staying on the site for longer). These factors, in turn, can have a positive impact on your SEO.

Do social signals directly impact SEO?

Social signals do not 'directly' impact your organic SEO. This is largely due to the fact that signals like posts, likes, tweets, retweets can all be influenced and manipulated, which would in turn potentially lead to low value websites gaining higher rankings, albeit without any real consideration to the actual value of the website content.

Hypothetically speaking, a global influencer with over 100 million followers (yes, they do exist!) could use their influence to drive traffic to a website of their choice, for commercial reasons (that may be a website of low value in terms of actual SEO ranking factors), but would benefit the influencer financially. If therefore, Social signals did directly impact organic SEO, this would not only be hugely unethical, but would mean that the organic results in the SERPs would be inaccurate, which is the absolute opposite of what the search engine companies want.

Social signals are, however, important for generating website traffic - a means by which you can increase visitors. If, therefore, your user experience (UX / UE) is good and your content is optimised, well written and engaging, users will stay on your site for longer and engage more. So, in summary, whilst social signals do not directly affect your organic SEO, they do indirectly improve your SEO, due to the various metrics and complex algorithms that the search engines use to determine ranking factors and your page rank in the SERPS.

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Further reading on SEO

What is SEO? SEO Ranking Factors

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