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Using Social Signals For Search

Earn the top spot on page 1 of Google search results and you’ve got yourself a competitive advantage. The top 3 positions on page 1 of Google search results account for 54% of clicks, with a 31% click through rate for the top spot. If you’re at the top, you can be sure your competitors will be coming for you, doing all they can to get a better position on the page while knocking you off the top spot. Mastering organic and paid search to improve online conversion is a marathon, not a sprint.  But what if you could get there faster – and secure your position more effectively? 

HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 report reveals that the biggest priority for 61% of marketers is growing SEO and organic presence on the web. And this isn’t just a priority for U.S. marketers – it was listed as the top priority across all surveyed geographical regions: North America, Australia & New Zealand, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Being relevant in search has been a priority for brands and marketers since Google became a thing, but search is a constantly changing landscape. One survey respondent for the State of Inbound 2017 summed up the primary challenge: “Google makes a lot of changes to their search algorithms, and it impacts websites and SEO.”

To be relevant in search results, you need the structurally sound foundation of a high performing, well-architected website with relevant content, but you must also move beyond the foundation. Gone are the days when a strong website presence alone would guarantee you top page rankings. Now, to ensure you have a presence when and where your customers hang out online, you need a strategy that spans the digital ecosystem: engaging, relevant content amplified on a variety of social sharing channels.

In the ever-evolving search landscape, there are several strategies to help you stay relevant and competitive, but the one we want to talk about today is social signals. Social signals boost your search relevance for a specific keyword target, which you might use to promote an event, a new campaign, or even a product launch. They can also be a great way to jumpstart your brand ranking for a significant keyword you want to own.

So, what are signals?

Signals are clues a search engine’s algorithm can detect and use to inform rankings. Signals affect SEO performance, but they also impact the performance of your overall digital strategy. On each individual page of your website, there are signals that will either positively or negatively impact your ranking. Let’s look at some examples of positive and negative signals:

  • Mobile optimized website: positive signal.
  • Slow page load time: negative signal.
  • Paid search ad content that doesn’t reflect the content on the landing page: negative signal.
  • Keyword is featured in page title, meta description, and several times in page content: high-quality positive signal!

Social signals are clues that come from social networks and social sharing activity. Social signals come from the major social media players (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest), as well as other sharing-focused sites like SlideShare, Flickr, Digg, etc. Social signals include (but are not limited to):

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Retweets
  • Saves
  • Pins

How do you use social signals?

Capturing engagement (likes, shares, tweets, pins, saves) for your content is critical in securing a boost in search equity for your keyword target.  To do this, you begin with a good, meaty piece of content and repurpose it, customizing it for individual social channels and optimizing it for your keyword target.  It’s useful to think of social signals in terms of sports plays; to reach your goal, you’ll be taking coordinated action on several fronts simultaneously.

Let’s say your brand is preparing for a product launch. To promote the launch and educate existing and potential customers about your new product, you’ve created a white paper. But why stop there? You can upload the PDF version of the white paper to PDF sharing sites. You can use portions of the white paper as the basis for a series of blog posts containing a call to action to a landing page, where people can download the entire white paper. You can deploy your content in a different medium by creating a slide deck to highlight a key point in the white paper, and uploading that slide deck to SlideShare. Make the same slide deck into a video and upload it to YouTube. Next, bring key concepts from the white paper to life in an infographic or other visual asset, and use that imagery in blog posts or social posts, or upload to photo-sharing sites like Flickr. Your customers will engage with these posts and share them to their own networks, because you’ve met them where they are and brought them relevant content.

At this point, you don’t just have a landing page optimized to rank you on the topic/keyword of your white paper. You also have several blog posts, a page on SlideShare, a page on Flickr, a YouTube video, and various social media posts all helping you rank on that keyword. This will help you take over the search engine results page for that keyword, pushing your competitors down the list. You get a boost every time someone likes, shares, retweets, or saves your content. The positive social signals indicate to Google that your content is resonating, and you will be rewarded!  These assets also link back to your website, thereby improving organic rankings for your main web presence as well. All this will be accomplished by making your content work smarter, not harder.

Social signal strategy is bigger than SEO

Social signals can be instrumental in winning organic results for specific keywords and initiatives for your brand. But beyond that, they provide an opportunity to stretch your branding strategy and increase your brand’s digital footprint.

If you, like many brands, are looking to improve your SEO and organic search presence, keep social signals in mind. They offer a simple way to cast a wide net for keyword-optimized content and are a great way to get a quick win that you can grow into a larger digital strategy. Not only are you improving your organic rankings, you’re making the effort to meet your customers where they already are, and winning them over by offering relevant, interesting content.