What are Social Signals and How May They Completely Transform Content Marketing?

Laura Ginn

Social media sharing is already used as an indication of interest in content by search engines. Search engines are increasingly using not just social media sharing but social signals as a signal as to the quality of content. While Google doesn’t give details as to how much weight social signals have in determining search engine ranking, it is one of the top four or five ranking factors. Let’s look at how social signals are transforming content marketing.

An Introduction to Social Signals

Social signals include all of the indicators of interest on social media. Social media signals include Facebook likes, YouTube video upvotes, pins on Pinterest, and views on LinkedIn. Every time someone views your video or reads your article, this is a positive social signal. Every vote or like is given even more weight by search engines. The strongest social signal is a social media share like reposting or sharing.

The Value of Social Signals

When people receive links to your content marketing via friends, it is seen as a vote of approval by their peers. They are now more likely to read the content relative to one of the top links presented by a search engine. If your content receives many likes and shares, others will give it more weight and be more likely to read it than pieces of content that lack any social signals. They are far more likely to read content referred by a friend as a source of entertainment or solution to their problem than an ad.

The Panda and Penguin Google updates began the process of using social signals as a measure of the quality and value of content. Search engines are moving toward giving social signals far more weight than SEO. The end result of this will be the replacement of backlinks and keyword density with social media outreach and fitting the user’s intent perfectly in order to rank in search results at all.

Social Signals and SEO

Social media link sharing is given more weight by search engines than other types of links, so your link building strategy should focus on asking others to share your link on social media instead of pasting the link in the comments section of articles. One of the interesting results of search engines using social signals as a ranking factor for content is the fact that one of your pieces of content that garners a lot of likes and shares can end up improving the search engine ranking of other content.

Another way social signals impact SEO is the fact that people are more likely to visit a website their friends have mentioned or recommended. This means that social signals indirectly drive people to the fifth site in a search engine results page that they’ve heard of versus the top spot.

Branding and Social Signals

One recent shift by search engines is giving more weight to brand names over generic keywords. Social signals improve brand recognition, while building brand loyalty leads to more social signals in favour of the brand. You need to apply brand and company name SEO to your company’s content and social media accounts in order to have it rank well in searches for those terms. Including both branding and social signals will increase the authority or weight given to your site as legitimate.


It is now essential to integrate social signals into your content marketing in order for it to rank well. Your SEO strategy has to include both your content and social media accounts with your branding. Social signals are increasingly impacting your site’s search engine results ranking by the search engines while indirectly improving it by priming your audience to prefer your content over that of others.