Social Signals in SEO: A New Source of Traffic and Credibility

Social Signals in SEO: A New Source of Traffic and Credibility

With the development of the Internet, the possibilities of social communication have constantly grown and improved. Small instant messaging services have been replaced by large social networks with more features. Today, the number of registered users on the social network Facebook exceeds one and a half billion. Entrepreneurs and marketers have long used this to promote their products and services to the target audience. Later in this article, we will look at how social signals affect SEO and how to use them in the search engine promotion of sites.

Social Signals for SEO

What are the social signals? There is a definition of social signals such as the public actions of users on social networks. For example, it can be posts, reposts, likes, views, voices, etc. It is logical to assume that they have an impact on the site’s search promotion. After all, one of the main factors that Google takes into account is user satisfaction. Accordingly, good reviews, likes, and reposts in social networks should have a positive impact on search ranking. 

How do social signals affect SEO? For a long time, nothing was known about it, and Google employees did not give any comments. Subsequently, more and more guesses appeared.  After all, if the search robot takes into account the authority of a site with external links, how can it calculate the authority of a user who shared a link on a social network? Is there personal data collected to determine their interests? Does content with a link to a promoted site published on a social network count? These and other questions remained unanswered until a Google employee revealed the mystery. 

For the first time, the situation became clear after Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s anti-spam Department, posted a video with his comments to the public. According to him, search robots use links from Facebook and Twitter as a ranking signal.

Four years later, he released a new video message in which he noted that Google does not consider links from Facebook and Twitter a ranking factor. The pages of these social networks are processed like any other.

In 2018, SEO expert Zak Ramdani and a colleague experimented to find out in practice the impact of social signals on-site promotion in SERP. As a result of their work, they concluded that there is a significant correlation between the social activity of users and the site’s position in search results. 

Thus, we return to one of the main factors of internal site optimization, creating high-quality and useful content for the end-user. And although according to a Google representative, reports in social networks do not relate to individual links, you need to keep the correlation in mind. Popular content on pages in social networks, likes, and other social activities can improve the site’s position in SERP. However, do not forget that this is not a direct ranking factor. Read more in the articles: On-Page SEO and What is the SERP in 2020?.

The Influence of Social Signals on SEO

Below, we will look at how a social network user’s social activity can affect the SEO promotion of a site.

Improving Behavioral Factors and Naturally Improving Links

Numerous potential clients are registered on social networks. This should be used to promote your site, using various methods to attract users. 

According to statistics, if several sites are at the top of the search for a particular query, the user will most likely go to a page with a recognizable company or brand name. Take care to increase the CTR index. There is more information in the article: What is a CTR. A proper strategy for working with social media is an effective way to attract a target audience and, consequently, increase your position in search results. 

It is known that the Google algorithm takes into account the user’s behavior on the site, in particular, their number and duration of stay. Social networks can serve as additional motivational tools for switching to a promoted resource. Moreover, if the content on the page is useful, users will share links to it, which will also improve the rating.

Increasing the Site Quality Indicators in Social Networks

These are, for example, likes and reposts. It is doubly useful to increase these metrics. Firstly, numerous positive indicators will signal to search robots that the page content is interesting. Secondly, placing social network widgets with statistics on the site page is an important step to retain users and gain new clients.

Positive statistics will motivate the reader to study the material in more detail, share the link to the page with their friends, and will be proof of its usefulness to people.

YouTube in SEO

Today, YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. In the process of promoting on this social network, you should keep in mind that most of the search queries are non-commercial. But this does not mean that using YouTube in SEO promotion is ineffective. On the contrary, creating interesting thematic videos mentioning the promoted site will allow you to get more traffic not only from the video themselves but also from Google’s organic search results. 

You should not neglect the creative approach in creating a video. Experience shows that shooting interesting videos about your services or products can attract more traffic than a dry and clear description. For example, if you are talking about an online store, you can shoot crash tests of your product. If the site provides services, you can describe the benefits from a new perspective. 

The right YouTube promotion strategy can play an important role in attracting new traffic. You can read more in the article: 20+ Tactics for SEO Promotion on YouTube.

Local Traffic: Google Local and Yelp

To increase the chances of getting a site in local search, you need to add your company to the list of local companies to get a NAP quote. All the information provided must be truthful and as accurate as possible. Google Local and Yelp services are especially suitable for young, developing, and not yet well-known companies and stores. 

Having positive reviews in these services is important for Google. According to Moz data from 2018, for local search, reviews account for 13% of all ranking factors and 7% for general searching.


Currently, this data may differ slightly, but they are sufficient for a general understanding. 

Additionally, reviews from Facebook and Yelp will be displayed in the search results. For example, consider a search query for a restaurant in New York.

As you can see from the screenshots Google conveniently groups search results and restaurant information so that users can immediately view the overall rating, read reviews, and find the opening hours and contact information. Additionally, a link to Yelp is available in the search results below, where everyone can share their impressions of the company, read the opinions of others, and view available photos of the institution. There is more information on the subject in the article: Local SEO Checklist 2020.

How to Get Social Signals

It is necessary to understand that to attract traffic to your site using social networks, you need to develop an action plan that does not contradict the overall strategy for SEO promotion. Next, we will take a step-by-step look at the actions that need to be taken to benefit from social signals. 

  1. Creating and optimizing profiles in social networks. First, you need to decide which social networks you plan to promote your site. Nest, create an image of the company or brand. It should be clear and consistent on all pages. The pages themselves should be designed in similar styles. Then, you need to make sure that you have a high-quality description, which will reveal all the competitive advantages of the promoted site.
  2. Quality content and regular updates. Thematic content is important for attracting users. You need to make sure that the page audience receives fully relevant and high-quality information that will be of interest to them. It should be noted that too frequent updating of content can harm the promotion. Therefore, all updates should be natural and appropriate to the current state of affairs. 
  3. Image optimization. Images play an important role not only on-site pages but also in social networks. We encourage the use of images in social posts in the correct places of the text and with the correct filling of the alternative tag. They will help the user navigate the text and can become an additional source of organic traffic. 
  4. Change the appearance of the link to the site when publishing in social networks. This allows you to use the Open Graph protocol. By filling in special meta tags that structure information, you can easily control the appearance of the publication. This gives the result. A beautiful link catches the eye and increases the user’s interest to click on it. Read the article Open Graph Meta Tags for how to do this. 
  5. Optimization of web pages. Social network icons must be present on the site pages so that the user can easily share information. Please note that if the content on the site is not interesting, then the social network buttons will not play any role. First of all, you need to interest the user and attract their attention. 
  6. Creating viral content. Viral content has already proven its effectiveness many times, but its creation needs to be treated as creatively and unconventionally as possible. The main thing is to hook the user with some interesting information. Moreover, it can be not only a challenging title or message but also an unusual bright image that catches the eye. You can read more information in the article: What Is Link Bait?

After all the points have been completed, you should consider the general rules for attending an audience on social networks. You need to constantly interact with your potential customers to get advantages in SEO promotion. The page administrator should be the first to start a conversation and suggest topics for discussion. You can always conduct a survey, share recent news, or discuss some interesting topics with your followers. 

Comments on social networks also play an important role. You need to make sure that responses to comments on content are timely. You can ask clarifying questions to continue the dialogue. 

Working with reputable users will be an additional plus. They can help you attract an audience and raise your rating. The main thing is the constant updating of content and social activity. Periodically, you can conduct promotions and sweepstakes to increase the interest of potential customers.

The Danger of Cheating Social Signals

Social networks can bring significant benefits in the process of SEO optimization of the site if the promotion process is carried out according to a pre-created plan. However, it is often tempting to get a lot of subscribers and social signals from them as quickly as possible, so that this will affect the site’s position in the SERP. A sharp increase in social activity can harm promotion and lead to serious consequences. 

Methods of promotion that are not quite legal are called Black Hat. Such strategies may bring short-term benefits, but usually negative consequences follow. Let’s look at some of these black hat ways to increase traffic:

  1. The creation of fake accounts of competitors. This kind of fraud is used to get positive feedback from direct competitors or to get negative feedback in their direction. 
  2. Purchase or promotion of social signals, in particular likes. Additionally, subscriptions of live people or empty accounts are often purchased to increase popularity. 
  3. Paid negative reviews about competitors. 
  4. Buying positive reviews to promote your resource. 
  5. The use of special software for automatic promotion of the social activity.

There are still quite a lot of ways to quickly find subscribers and fight unfair competition. But they will not be considered in this material. For more information, see the article White Hat VS Grey Hat VS Black Hat SEO. The important thing is that today their use can bring more problems than success. Search engines are smart enough to distinguish non-standard increases in subscribers or any other social signals. 

Using black hat methods to cheat social signals can negatively affect SEO optimization in general.

Checking Social Signals and Analyzing Them

As with any website promotion event, it is important to keep track of all actions to receive social signals and understand their effectiveness. Their growth also requires constant monitoring, direct participation in the process, and monitoring of changes. Modern tools allow you to optimize the time and financial costs of monitoring social signals. 

One of these is the Semrush service. It provides a lot of tools that you can use to track user activity in social networks, find out all the data about your audience, select content, analyze competitors, their social signals, and much more. Here are some articles on this topic: Website Content Audit and SEO Competitive Analysis.

To start checking social signals, just go to the SEMrush Social Media Toolkit page, create a project, and specify the domain for which to analyze social activity.


After successfully creating a project, all you need to do is link all available social networks to it to get and analyze statistics. 

With the improvement of search algorithms and the Internet in general, the role of high-quality content has increased greatly. Google is getting smarter and taking more and more factors into account in the ranking process. Already today, social signals affect SEO in one way or another, and perhaps soon, they will become a full-fledged ranking factor. 

Today, we can only say that according to statistics and research, sites with numerous social signals win over competitors without social activity. By communicating with your clients on social media, you can learn a lot of useful information about their preferences, what you should work on, and what you should change. Feedback from users will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the competition. 

The best way is to get social signals naturally, without resorting to various not-quite-legal methods. The main thing is to provide high-quality content for your clients. If your site, product, or brand is fascinating and discussed, then Google will understand.

About author
Alex is a Java developer, electronics engineer and freelancer. His experience in IT is over seven years. During this time, Alex was working as a web back-end developer, a robotics engineer at the robot exhibition, as an editor of the business portal and as an SEO specialist assistant. He has written many articles about software development, SEO optimization and IT in general.