What are Social Signals and how will they Impact SEO in 2014?

What are Social Signals and how will they Impact SEO in 2014?


The Changing Face of SEO

We all want to rank on the first page of Google for our targeted keyword or phrase, and most people are looking for an “easy button” that will put them there. Truth is, there just isn’t one. Ranking high in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) is a result of doing many things correctly. Traditionally, the building of backlinks and the creation of quality, keyword-optimized content was all you needed to achieve a high ranking, but search engine algorithm changes and updates have turned the SEO world on its head.

You will no longer get a high ranking with keyword optimization alone. In fact, overusing keywords could even lower your ranking since it is considered to be “grey hat” SEO by most search engines. For your 2014 SEO, try social signals.

What are Social Signals?

Social signals are basically recommendations from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networking sites. The more people who cite, comment, share, +1, or like your post or web page, the more popular and trustworthy your content is considered to be. When you think about it, this makes total sense. With each “vote” a social media user gives you by sharing your content, your trustworthiness score rises.

Although Google’s Matt Cutts refuted the use of social signals in determining SERP ranking back in May 2010, he confirmed that Google was indeed using social media links to determine ranking in a December 2010 video. He stated that social media links are not only influencing real time search results, but that they are also using them to determine Web search results. In the video, he also says, “…we are also trying to figure out the reputation of an author…”


The aim of Google Hummingbird, their new algorithm that was introduced in late 2013, is to create a better experience for the visitor. Danny Sullivan, in a recent live broadcast event conducted via Hangout on Air (HOA), made a major revelation about the correlation between Hummingbird algorithm and social signals. He noted that although Google previously couldn’t use social signals to rank websites due to technical limitations, with the Hummingbird search engine, they now have the ability to do exactly that. In fact, a recent Searchmetrics entry read, “On average, social signals are the domain with the highest correlations. Websites that rank in the top positions on Google usually have a large number of social signals. In other words: well-ranked URLs have many shares, likes, comments, plus ones and tweets.”

The Impact of Social Signals on SEO in 2014

Your SEO campaign will be greatly enhanced by properly leveraging social signals, since sites that have a strong social presence will rank higher, as will sites that have a high amount of social user engagement. According to the 2013 Ranking Factor – Rank Correlation study, there is a correlation between websites that have low social engagement/presence and low ranking on Google.

Google and other search engines are interested in social media recommendations such as likes and +1s because they are considered to be from actual people who are likely to buy products/services from you. Anyone who likes your Facebook Fan page and a particular story therein is more valuable than a webmaster who backlinks to your site. The human aspect of social signals is also important because you will know how potential customers receive your products/services and you will then be able to make the appropriate changes.

The positive trend of well positioned URLs with high numbers of shares, likes, +1s, and tweets ranking high started in early 2012 and is expected to continue in 2014. This can be proved by the fact that activity on social media sites continues to increase.

Social signals are an important SEO campaign strategy because building a strong social media presence is cheaper when compared to PPC advertising for instance. Going social today is not only good for SEO, it also gives you instant feedback, your campaign will be on around the clock, and it helps promote your brand and products/services.

Even as you go for social signals to improve your SEO campaign, you should note that your campaign is more likely to be successful if you combine different strategies. With Google Hummingbird, Panda, and Penguin, the SEO strategies that remain effective are the creation of high quality content that can be shared widely, the use of on-page optimization, and working to deliver value to your clients. Clients want to feel valued not cheated!

Need help getting started with Social Signals? We’ve developed a Crowd Marketing System that will create buzz surrounding your brand in no time. Get in touch, and we’ll explain the details!


Jeff Bickley

Over the past decade, Jeff has worked with numerous Fortune 100 and Start-Up companies to establish, reinvent, and re-enforce their brand. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Jeff has a passion for leveraging his vast experience to provide solid and timely advice to business leaders at all levels.

  • avatar
    Ashley Newell
    Posted at 12:55h, 07 April

    I’ve had some decent success in boosting my rankings and attracting more traffic to my website by publishing content to many of the social platforms. Seems like I’m missing something though, because I’ve heard of others having quite a bit more traffic/success than what I’m experiencing. Any thoughts?

    • avatar
      Jeff Bickley
      Posted at 16:44h, 07 April

      Hi Ashley,

      Congrats on the success you’re having with boosting social signals. There could be many reasons your efforts aren’t proving as lucrative as you had hoped. We generally tell our clients to give a new campaign 60-90 days before you judge it’s effectiveness since it takes a while to get established. However, if you’re beyond this, and you’re still not seeing the results you’d like, feel free to request a website audit from us. We’d be happy to run this free of charge, and this will give us insight into your site’s performance. I’m also curious what methods you’re using for your social campaign. Is the content you’re posting to your social accounts being shared by others? In what ways are you expanding your reach on the various social channels?

  • avatar
    Brian Jones
    Posted at 19:53h, 04 April

    Are there any strategies available for people without large budgets to begin expanding their reach in terms of social engagement? I’ve seen various programs that cost several hundred dollars, but I’m a small business owner that doesn’t have that kind of budget to spare…

  • avatar
    Posted at 05:45h, 26 March

    Social signals are increasingly important as it relates not only to establishing your authority online, but also to reveal your credibility to Google. I’ve heard they’re only viewing social signals as one each – meaning it doesn’t matter if you have 1000 facebook shares or just one – it all counts the same. Is that true?

  • avatar
    Content Marketing 101
    Posted at 12:54h, 16 January

    Great article. Yes, a strong social presence is necessary to do well in SERPs.

  • avatar
    Telly McGuire
    Posted at 19:43h, 13 January

    Here’s a great article on how Social Signals are reshaping the dynamics of SEO.