The True Importance of Social Signals for SEO Marketing

Social Signal Significance

True Importance of Social Signals

In the recent world of SEO marketing, there has been a trending hype with “Social Signals”. Social signals are very simply, “votes” that the online public give to show approval or agreement to viral images, posts, videos or even comments. And these “votes” come in various forms derived from the different social platforms namely, Facebook likes and shares, Twitter tweets and retweets, Google +1s and Pinterest Pins. All of which are, what we in the industry like to call, social signals. We know what social signals are, why they are important in SEO marketing and we even know how to differentiate between the social signals. But do we, really? As oxymoronic as that might sound, there have been many times in which we think we know something, but we in fact, do not. In this article, I am going to attempt to point out why consumers are actually engaging themselves in producing these social signals. As I presumptuously mentioned earlier, that social signals are votes given by the online public to show approval or agreement with the circulated content. It isn’t exactly wrong to say that but as always, there is more than just one side of the story.


Popular Belief:

First off, we have the all familiar Facebook with its ever-popular likes. As a marketer, it’s probably reasonable to say that when someone becomes a fan of Nike or likes the Nike page — that someone is agreeing with the content, yes?

The other side of the coin:

Apparently not as a survey showed in 2011 that the number one reason why they’re liking or sharing content of a brand is to show their loyalty as a customer. There’s more — the other 2 most popular reasons why consumers like or share a product are to gain rewards as well as to track its news and updates. This is contrary as to how marketers think that consumers “want to be heard”. Marketers misunderstand the meaning of Facebook likes and as marketers, this is something to be cautious about and not just assume that all customers are at your beckoning. Without customers, there wouldn’t even be marketers. With that case of Facebook, the social signals being generated by users convey incentivisation — to be rewarded for customer loyalty.


Popular Belief:

Generally with Twitter, people often use it as a communication tool and small chunks of  information rapidly bounces around the internet. Tweets and retweets should then be our primary focus in digital marketing, shouldn’t it? They carry so much information on ideas, products and things that are going near the speed of light – but how much of it is actually relevant to you?

The other side of the coin:

These  social signals: tweets and retweets, primarily serve different functions. With tweeting, the content is most likely first degree, meaning to say that it is originally from the horse’s mouth. Generally, social signals occur because people want a need to be satisfied and in the case of tweeting, higher order needs such as love, self-esteem and self-actualization. If you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how Twitter works, you’ll understand how some of these needs can be satisfied by meeting and tweeting other people, commenting and agreeing on a topic which can eventually give rise to earning respect or even fame from the general public. Retweets are second degree in nature as you’re working on someone else’s tweet. Basically the content was never yours but you’re spreading and inciting it publicly to your own followers. Hence, the various other reasons why you would spread information like that is to gain friendship, show empathy and attention, maybe entertain or inform, or once again just to gain recognition.

As any marketer, we have to take note that despite how rapid and abundant tweets are in providing information, we must never forget whether each tweet purposefully provides us with the necessary and relevant information for our benefit.


Popular Belief:

The +1 was a feature made by Google in order to compete head on with Facebook and its social likes and shares. Seeing how popular and useful in spreading online content and making them viral, Google needs something similar and do one better than Facebook. However, this is still debateable.

The other side of the coin:

“Google defines the +1 as a feature to help people discover and share relevant content from the people they already know and trust”, according to In a sense, it’s something like a Facebook like but it doesn’t share content on a user’s social stream. The main reason Google introduced the +1 is to improve search relevance and the experience of users. Google launched Search, plus Your World early this year, which I believe the +1s will play a significant role in. It works like this simply: your standard Google search engine will display results that you would normally get PLUS results that pertain to you more because of the +1 stamps of approval given by your network of friends.

For now, Google+ may not be socially represented as the most popular social media platform currently, but it gives us insight as to what kind of users actually use Google+. These are usually the more business oriented and the ones who are probably more aware of what Google +1s actually do in SEO marketing. They are also the ones who are more likely to share a recent article on social signals as opposed to the latest gossip or fashion advice. As of now, Google’s +1 is still at its infancy but in the future, there is definitely a huge significance for it in determining search rankings, especially personalized ones. The implication to marketers here would be this, “In order to influence one person, I would have to first influence his friends.”


Popular Belief:

Just a simple website which allows its users to remind them about stuff. An online Pinboard which literally allows them to pin images onto a virtual board for future reference.

The other side of the coin:

There’s more to this than just being a pinboard as “pins” are social signals that are in the same league as Facebook likes and Twitter tweets. The users of this site are mainly young parents, middle-aged moms and the recently retired. 87% of the users are female. Amongst the 3 other social platforms, Pinterest is the most attractive probably in terms of visual aesthetics. And of course, the things that go onto Pinterest have to be very visual.

Here are the top 10 categories of Pinterest:
1) Home
2) Arts/Crafts
3) Style/Fashion
4) Food
5) Education/Inspiration
6) Holidays/Seasonal
7) Humor
8) Products
9) Travel
10) Kids

In other words, the social signals generated by this specific group of audience symbolize something completely different yet just as powerful. These may not be reward-driven (though there are exceptions), not for social acclamation and not for optimizing search rankings but just like a pinboard — these users merely pin to remind themselves of the product, be it ideas, products, images or recipes.

However, the significance of pins is the mere fact that users are reminded to come back to that content in a while. In consumer behaviour, Pinterest easily illustrates how users get exposed to imagery that captures their attention, analyses it a bit and then subconsciously decides whether they want that embedded into their memory or not. The pins on Pinterest, are essentially the conscious representation of whether users want something to be in their brain for the long term. Subsequent and continuous exposure ultimately leads to sale in marketing, which is more significant than just “pinning to remind”.

In SEO marketing we know what social signals are, we know how to measure them and we even know how to produce them to an extent. But at the end of the day, we need to know what it truly means when someone likes something on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, Google +1s or pins on Pinterest, because they are all significantly different. We can’t always look at just one side of the coin as it doesn’t give us the whole coin’s worth.

But that’s just my view – what’s your take on social signal significance?

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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