The significance of social signals in affecting search engine rankings has been widely speculated, and rightly so. Talk hasn’t shifted at the start of 2014.
If anything, gossip surrounding this known ranking factor is not going away. Just how much it affects a site’s search rankings is left open to much debate.
In a recent Search Engine Journal piece, Matt Cutts explains the importance of social media signals on search rankings — and when Head of Google’s Web Spam says something, it’s certainly not to be taken lightly.
— Wesley Young (@wezthewiz) January 31, 2014
There are a lot of people who take what Matt Cutts says with a pinch of salt though too. How much a factor social media alone has is hard to say for sure, with so many other factors including Page Rank, on-site SEO, Hilltops and HITS algorithms – amongst many others – all at play as well.
The social signal experiment
Whilst it is hard to measure the exact impact of social signals alone on Google’s search engine rankings, there have been some healthy experiments carried out drawing attention to its certain impact.
There is an amazing infographic from QuickSprout.com on: How social signals impact search engine rankings.
Google+ impacts search rankings more
As you can clearly see from the wonderfully animated infographic above, the importance of (surprise, surprise) the Google+ social network appears unquestionable.
The number of followers (or circles in which one’s Google+ profile sits) affected rankings the most. With 100 followers, close to a 15% increase in search engine rankings was found.
After 300 +1s on a post, there was a near 10% increase in search engine rankings reported.
As Google+’s links are do-follow by nature, versus Twitter and Facebook’s no-follow links, the clout given from a link from the Google’s growing social network is undeniable.
With the promise of 2014 (finally) being Google+’s year in the social media stakes, I think it’s important to step-up and take notice now, before you miss the boat.
One thing’s for sure, not adopting a Google+ presence is social and search engine suicide.
Another big thing to note for 2014, is making sure your site is updated with Google’s Schema Markup Language, using rel=author and rel=publisher tags, which coincides with the search engine giant’s tactic to get everyone shifting to its Google+ network (more to follow on this).
Social signals: the future
I’m not saying that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram (and the rest) are not important. They are. The consensual feel would suggest the greatest impact of social signals comes from more interactions with a post, tweet or status (not the amount of likes or follows a page has).
Personally, I think shares on Facebook, retweets on Twitter and +1s and shares on Google+ (because it’s Google’s own platform) are the biggest drivers in terms of passing rank.
Also, I believe author authority from your social profiles (or Klout in terms of online influence) will affect search rankings further, particularly on Google’s platforms.
My prediction is that the use of Google+’s social platform, increasing your social circles, +1-ing and sharing your content is only going to become more influential in 2014.