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Do Social Signals Work for SEO?
Posted on May 19th 2013
Yet another topic that baffles the average person who doesn’t know, or need to know, about Search Engine Optimization.
As I continue to try and educate my clients in the elusive world of SEO marketing I find myself increasingly coming across the subject of social signals.
What are social signals?
Simply put – a social signal is a link from someone’s social networking profile to your web page. If you were to click on the ‘like’ button next to this very blog post then you, my friend, have given me a ‘social signal’.
Why do people think they are important?
Reason #1 – When you see a blog post and notice that 100 people decided to share your content across several social networks, you assume that it is content worth reading. You are essentially giving your visitors proof that you are important and an authority in this space.
Reason #2– Google is increasingly rewarding websites for their social signals. Every single time Google updates its search algorithm it seems to add more weighting to them.
I put Google to the test
I always knew that these kinds of links should be in the overall link building strategy, but I have never isolated it. So I drew up the following experiment:
- I took a couple of highly competitive keywords (Phoenix web design & Websites for small businesses)
- I steadily (over a month) built an additional 30 social signals to each page.
- I reviewed the results.
Keyword: Websites for small business
I have a screen shot below showing what happened to the rankings. At first, nothing really happened. Then all of the sudden it shot from 37th to 7th in the rankings. Since then it has climbed up to 5th.
Here is an image of the social signals it got:
Here is my Google ranking:
Keyword: Phoenix Web Design
I didn’t really expect anything to happen with this keyword, because it is VERY competitive. I will get to the top of Google for this eventually, but it’ll should take another 6-7 months. So what happened? Well, it went from 37th to 18thin the rankings. That might not seem like much, but for a keyword like this jumping a full 2 pages it is a huge deal. Especially since I only built 30 social signals to it.
Here is my Google ranking:
So do Social Signals work for SEO or not?
Like I said previously, everyone 'seems' to know they make a difference, but I had no idea they would make such a big difference in such a short period of time. To think that just 30 social signals will boost your rankings for such competitive keywords is definitely an eye opener for me.
I realize that I need to do a lot more testing to refine the results and a conclusion may be premature. So if you would like to repeat this experiment to help me along - here is what I did.
Re-creating my experiment
- Pick a keyword and a landing page/blog post.
- Make a note of their search rankings.
- Ask 10-20 participants (friends, collegues, people who owe you a favour) to 'like', '+1', and 'Tweet' your content.
- Once you have your team lined up, send out an email to 1-2 of them every day asking them to fullfill their promise. This ensures that the signals are 'drip fed' over 30 days.
- Check your search rankings periodically.
What results have you experienced with social signals?