Improving SEO rank is the top priority for most online marketers however they often ignore the most important factor in improving SEO rank – social signals. This blog compiles the data that clearly shows the high correlation between social sharing and SEO rank.
SEO is the holy grail for online marketing yet it remains the most elusive metric to master. The algorithms Google uses to compute SEO rank are more heavily guarded than Azkaban and are constantly refined. So if the exact SEO secrets are inaccessible even to the wizards, what are we, mere muggles, to do?
Turns out there are over 200 factors that are taken into account to compute SEO rank. Even if you knew what these 200+ factors are, you can’t possibly monitor and optimize all of them. The best strategy is to understand which of these factors are most important. Historically the focus has been on creating backlinks, adding unique content, creating keyword heavy copy etc. However, with the advent of social media a new factor has now emerged as the most important strategy – social signals.
Most marketers have not yet realized the huge impact social signals have on SEO ranking. That gives you dual advantage – it is highly effective, and there is little competition.
Show me the Data
Here is some hard data that shows the correlation between social sharing and SEO ranking.
The chart below plots the results from an experiment that was run over six months by ShopSocially. ShopSocially measured the SEO rank of 100+ pages across multiple sites. These pages had less than 10 Likes at the beginning of the experiment. ShopSocially then used its platform to start accumulating Likes for these pages and measured the change in SEO rank with every additional 100 Likes.
Here’s a closer look at the data for 10 randomly selected pages:
The data clearly shows a strong correlation between number of Likes and the SEO rank. Pages with poor SEO rank benefitted with even a small increase in Like count. However, surprisingly pages that were already ranked on the first page (top 10) were also able to improve their ranking further. It usually took 500+ Likes to achieve that though. This is still very significant because each rank improvement on the first page creates exponentially higher traffic.
These finding are supported by several other studies that have been done by other companies.
SearchMetrics did a broader study to determine “Which factors are relevant for a good ranking in Google search results”. To quote their research data:
“Social media signals show extremely high correlation: social signals from Faecbook, Twitter and Google+ are frequently associated with good rankings in Google’s index.”
SearchMetrics findings are summarized in the chart below.
Source: Google Ranking Factors U.S. 2012
This video clip from Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, shows that Google started incorporating social signals for SEO rank as far back as Dec 2010:
For those you want to get a really in-depth understanding of how and why social signals are important for SEO, I would recommend reading this excellent SEOmoz article: Your Guide to Social Signal for SEO. To quote from this article:
“In two years, companies playing in competitive niches that don’t have a robust social strategy will be left in the dust by those that do; Social signals are becoming the new “link” in terms of overall importance in the ranking algorithm.”
How do I Improve Social Signals for my Website?
It is obvious that you need to embed social sharing elements on your site in order to improve social signals. However, we have found that merely adding sharing buttons on the site is not effective. Less than 0.1% of users bother to click on the vanilla sharing option. If you are trying to build 100 Likes for a page, you will need 100,000+ visits to that page!
A much more effective strategy is to actively encourage users to Like your products or share your pages. You may even want to attach incentives such as coupons, sweepstakes etc. We have seen sharing rates of 2%-5% by adopting this strategy. This means that even a small amount of traffic can generate a meaningful impact.
The best part – it can be implemented on your site in a few minutes!
Do you have any tips to share? Have questions? Please comment below or contact us to learn more.