Social signals

What are social media signals and do they really help SEO?

social media signal‘Social signals’ is fairly loose terminology which has been coined in the SEO community to describe social media activity and in particular, interaction with social posts e.g. retweets, G +1’s, Facebook ‘likes’ etc which may contibute positively to a broader search engine optimisation campaign.

However, whilst there is some experimental evidence to suggest that these types of signals *may* be beneficial, there is no hard data or confirmation from Google directly, that they are used as a specific ranking factor within their search algorithms.

So we have to be a little bit careful about what we read and hear and try to understand what social signals can actually contribute and also what they probably don’t.

I was recently directed to a blog article written by a prominent dental marketing company where they spoke very authoritively about ‘social signals’ and how they directly influence your website’s ranking in Google and other search engines; albeit they have no evidence to actually suggest this is really the case. Unfortunately this was another example of a company trying to sell services, in this case managed social media, by making exaggerated claims which, to the unsuspecting and inexperienced, seem highly plausible.

At this particular time, there is very limited evidence to suggest that social signals are actually a direct ranking factor and just because you tweet, post on Facebook, G+ and the rest, doesn’t automatically mean that your practice website is going to the top of Google.

So is gaining social media credibility and seeking out likes, retweets etc worthless? Certainly not, but we have to understand why social signals are actually beneficial and not just believe those who may tell you that they are directly linked to your website’s Google ranking.

Social engagement, authority and influence

So whilst we have no confirmation about how Google may interpret social signals, what we do know is that social media is a recognised way of building your business authority and influence on-line as well as reaching out to a potentially very large audience. When your social media post gets a like, retweet or + 1, then your influence is spreading, potentially exponentially, to others who may be interested in the services you have to offer.

Additionally, if you are regularly publishing content on the web, say to your dental practice blog, and use social media to broadcast this, then those who retweet and like your content are further helping to spread your message and build your authority. If you pick up a link back to your website as a result of this kind of activity, then it’s easy to see the SEO benefit without having to speculate – herein lies the real SEO “gold”.

It’s also considered that those who do have a large community of on-line followers who engage with and share their content, *may* be awarded some form of ‘authority’ badge by Google which could help their content rank better than those who aren’t considered authoritative. But again, this has neither been confirmed nor denied by Google and possibly stems from Google’s now defunct “authorship” experiment of a year or so back.

Summary

As with many web marketing “silver bullets”, there is much innaccuracy woven around social media and in particular, “social signals”. If anyone tells you or implies that you need to engage in social media activity because there is a definite link to where your website will rank, then treat it with caution. However, it’s worth understanding how social media can help bring enquiries to your business and the indirect but very positive benefits for SEO.

If you would like to know more about SEO for your dental website and the role of social media, please get in touch on 01332 672548 for more information.