25 Social Signals Google is Tracking – Factors To Optimize for Higher Search Visibility

Social Signal Factors You Should Start Optimizing Today

social signals Google is tracking - factors and optimization

25 Social Signal Factors

The grand-daddy of all search engines has long confirmed it. Social signal is also influencing how Bing ranks results. On December 2010, Matt Cutts- a former software engineer at Google and a member of its Search Quality team, has positively substantiated the rumors that Google was steadily elevating the role that social media plays in search rankings. He also mentioned that they were currently researching on ways to further improve the whole social signal ranking algorithm, such as keeping track of user recommendations across a number of social networks, and figuring out how to accurately measure an author’s reputation.

Fast forward to 2012 and a flurry of algorithm updates later, social media has now taken the front seat in Google rankings.

With social media’s rising importance in Google’s search universe, website owners and developers are now scurrying to find ways to develop their presence on major social networking websites. User recommendations- those Facebook shares, likes, Twitter mentions, retweets, FB comments, etcetera, have now become a much sought-after currency on the Web. Called “social signals“, these user social interactions and recommendations have drastically changed the way we see and comprehend search engine rankings.

Social Signal The New Current Of the Web

What are social signals and where do they come from?

Social signals are actions performed by a user that would allow him or her to share a particular webpage’s content on a number of social networking websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and others). Essentially, these are Facebook likes and shares; Twitter mentions, tweets and retweets; Pinterest pins; Google +1s; upvotes on Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other social news aggregate websites.

Following the decreased relevance of “gradually outdated” SEO methods (like backlinking) after the Google Panda and Penguin updates, social signals are now considered a more accurate units of measurement that would appraise a website’s performance. The more social signals that are being generated, the better.

* What’s in store for me, as a website owner?

Social signals have the capacity to drive a humongous amount of web traffic. It can make your website go viral. It can significantly step up sales and referrals, and increase conversion rates. If you are trying to build up a reputation for a particular niche, social signals are one of the building blocks you can use to make yourself look reputable and authoritative.

What exactly are the social signals that Google is tracking on my website at the moment?

Google has never released a definitive formula that they utilize for calculating search rankings. Neither have they divulged the exact ranking factors that they are tracking on webpages. But some independent Internet researchers have came up with studies of their own that lists down factors they think are currently influencing Google’s search rankings. Take note that these are not definite (since we have no way to know exactly what goes on at the minds of those guys at Google), but experiments have shown that they do, in fact, can affect a website’s performance in Google searches. Below is a list of social media related ranking factors (classified according to type and social network of origin) which were compiled from the numerous findings of these stalwart researchers, including some of our own.

Top 25 Social Signals (And Other Social Media Factors) Google Is Tracking On Your Website

Google+

In June 2011, Google made quite a contribution to the social media scene with the launch of its own social network Google+. Google+ is still a fledgling community when compared to social networking giants Facebook and Twitter, but its social signals have the most impact on search ranking results. Factors that you should look at:

1. Amount of +1s – You need to start distinguishing +1 to your site in general and +1 to each pieces of your content. I’d suggest working on increasing +1 to your brand/your authorship profile. This also applies to +1 on Local+ pages.

2. Authority of +1s – If your brand/profile gets more +1, you will get to rank higher and easier for the future content you produce.

3. Growth rate of +1s – Strategize a plan that will increase your +1 steadily over an extended period of time.

4. Amount of Adds and Shares – How many people are following you tells about how authoritative you are.

5. Authority of Adds and Shares – Who is following you is important too. Network with people with great profiles, it helps you to establish a voice.

6. Spread rate of Adds and Shares – This is the reason why you need to network, share great stuff and get people to Add you and +your stuffs.

Facebook

Facebook is the king of social networking sites. It has an active community of over 900 million(!) users which makes it a perfect platform for generating social signals (which is great if you are into content and social media marketing). Researches have shown that Facebook influences more search rankings than G+ or Twitter. The factors are:

7. Amount of Shares and Likes – with “shares” carrying more weight than “likes”.

8. Amount of Comments – The collective amount of shares, likes and comments correlate the closest with search ranking.

9. Growth Rate of Shares and Likes

10. Authority of Shares, Likes and Comments

Twitter

Second only to Facebook, Twitter boasts 500 million users that are constantly “tweeting” status updates and events in real time. Just recently, Twitter played a huge role in political protests across the globe which clearly showcases the huge sphere of influence that Twitter has the potential to generate. Twitter users (also known as “tweeps”) puts more premium on a tweet’s authority rather than sheer amount; though the overall social signals generated by it lags just a little behind Facebook. Searchmetrics.com have placed Twitter at the 6th spot in a list of top factors that have a positive correlation in regards to Google search rankings. At SocialMetricsPro.com, our data shows tweeting activity is positively affecting search ranking.

11. Authority of Followers, Mentions and Retweets

12. Number of Followers, Mentions and Retweets

13. Speed and intensity of tweets and RT over time – On the real-time web, if something gets on a trending topic, it usually gets shown on top of search results. For example, if there is a rising tweeting activity about an earth-quake happening somewhere in the world, and when you search “earth quake” on Google, you will find that incident on the first page of SERP. During normal days without any earth-quake news however, searching for earth quake will find you wikipedia or scientific information about it. Twitter contributes signals to the real-time web.

Other social websites (Pinterest, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, FourSquare)

The big 3 (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) are the movers and shakers when it comes to social ranking factors. But website owners should not ignore the potential of other user-driven social websites. Pinterest currently has a very active community, and its following is steadily increasing day by day (in the period of January to February 2012, it reported a user base growth rate of 85%, one of the speediest, if not, the fastest of its kind that was recorded in recent Internet history).

FourSquare is particularly useful in Google Places (formerly Google Local) where search results are arranged according to location. Meanwhile, the communities in social news aggregate websites like Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon can be a great starting point for an online viral marketing campaign.

14. Amount of Pins and Re-pins on Pinterest

15. Growth rate of Pins and Re-pins

16. Comments on Pinterest

17. Check-ins on Foursquare

18. Spread rate of check-ins at FourSquare

19. Upvotes on Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon

20. Comments on Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon

Other not-so-obvious factors.

There exists a number of factors that can affect a social signal’s influence on Google’s search rankings. Website owners must also take these into account to make the most out of their social media campaigns.

21. Clickthrough rate (note: CTR is the ratio of the number of times a user clicks on a link over the times it appears). We know by having great title and description we are able to improve CTR of our listing on SERP, having great texts for tweets, #hashtagging them, great image for Pinterest and Facebook shares/updates are all important. There hasn’t been evidences showing CTR for social signals influence your ranking, but optimizing on CTR definitely brings more people to your site.

22. Account backlinks (backlinks still play a part in Google rankings, but not as prominent as before) – Anchor text, the proximity of context between 2 interlinking documents, position of the links are still descriptive about a piece of content. Backlinks are still affecting search ranking, just that they are now sharing a stage with social signals.

23. Account age – this is related to authority; trusted individuals usually earn their reputation over a period of time.

Negative Social Factors To Avoid

Some ranking factors can even affect a website’s ranking negatively. This happens when a webpage is deemed to be irrelevant and low-quality by a dissatisfied visitor. Website owners and developers should always make an effort to avoid trigerring these factors.

24. Amount of user blocks a page receives – Some times when you search for something, hit on the result and click the back button, Google shows an option to “block this result” for you. It’s personalised, but it tells Google that site isn’t up to expectation.

25. Sentiment – Since before we even knew it, computers can already understand the sentiment of a piece of content. Is it recommending the object, criticising it, giving it a positive or negative view…the algorithm understands sentiment. It’s part of information extraction.

Getting Google To Notice You: Optimizing Social Media 101

Here are some of the things that a website owner can do to generate buzz on the social media scene:

Focus On User Experience

No one wants to share spam and unreadable trash. This is where the SEO mantra of “quality content” comes in. Gone were the days when a person can write just about anything and stuff it with irrelevant keywords, then have the thing rocket to the top of Google rankings. This is great for legitimate website owners who place providing high quality content to their visitors on top of their priorities.

A website’s speed is also an important aspect. People will be turned off by a wesite that loads too slowly and has too many unnecessary elements in it. The user interface should be uncomplicated enough so people can easily navigate through the pages and find whatever it is they are looking for.

Get Social

Engage visitors. Listen to them. Put call to action to get them share your content. This can be done by replying to their comments or tweets and organizing online events where loyal visitors can shine and show-off. A number of brands and companies have already been doing this- letting people post pictures and other content on the brand’s official social networking page. It’s a way of making people instantly notice you on social media networks.

Build Connections

One way to build your reputation on the Internet is by associating with a person, website or any other entity who is a leading authority on something and has already gained a remarkable online track record. You can also try to be part of an established social network or group, which could greatly increase your influence on the Web.

Clean Up – Must Do NOW

Connections can also be a double-edged sword. If you are unlucky enough to form an alliance with someone who is clearly not utilizing good Internet practices (using black-hat SEO methods such as cloaking, spamming, too much backlinking and keyword stuffing), then your reputation goes down along with them. You should erase connections with these dubious characters; these include links and comments that they may have left on your website, since your own website’s authority could rub off on them.

Social media is constantly being touted as the SEO industry’s next big thing. From where things stand right now, social media has indeed become an important aspect for every blog, website or online business owner. Though building a formidable social presence online cannot be done overnight, the trade-off is well worth the wait.

About Daniel Tan

Daniel Tan: A veteran Internet Marketer. Founder of SomoThemes, Social Metrics Pro, SEOPressor and XTabApps. Daniel's focus is to simplify marketing with technology, to help marketers reach more people in an organized and effective way.

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