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Do Social Signals Work for SEO?

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Written by Peter Visser

Yet another topic that baffles the average person who doesn’t know, or need to know, about Search Engine Optimization.

As I continue to try and educate my clients in the elusive world of SEO marketing I find myself increasingly coming across the subject of social signals.

What are social signals?

Simply put – a social signal is a link from someone’s social networking profile to your web page.

If you were to click on the ‘like’ button next to this very blog post then you, my friend, have given me a ‘social signal’.

Why do people think they are important?

Reason #1 – When you see a blog post and notice that 100 people decided to share your content across several social networks, you assume that it is content worth reading. You are essentially giving your visitors proof that you are important and an authority in this space.

Reason #2 – Google is increasingly rewarding websites for their social signals. Every single time Google updates its search algorithm it seems to add more weighting to them.

I put Google to the test

I always knew that these kinds of links should be in the overall link building strategy, but I have never isolated it. So I drew up the following experiment:

  • I took a couple of highly competitive keywords (Phoenix web design & Websites for small businesses)
  • I steadily (over a month) built an additional 30 social signals to each landing page
  • I reviewed the results
Keyword: Websites for small business

I have a screen shot below showing what happened to the rankings if you want a visual. At first nothing really happened. Then all of the sudden it shot from 37th to 7th in the rankings. Since then it has climbed up to 5th.

Click on the image to enlarge

Websites for small businesses ranking report

Here is an image of the social signals it got:

Websites for small businesses blog post

Here is my Google ranking:

Websites for small businesses Google ranking

Keyword: Phoenix Web Design

I didn’t really expect anything to happen with this keyword, because it is VERY competitive. I will get to the top of Google for this eventually, but it’ll should take another 6-7 months.

So what happened? Well, it went from 37th to 18th in the rankings. That might not seem like much, but for a keyword like this jumping a full 2 pages it is a huge deal. Especially since I only built 30 social signals to it.

Click on the image to enlarge

Phoenix web design ranking report

Here is my Google ranking:

Phoenix web design google ranking

So do Social Signals work or not?

Like I said previously, everyone knows they make a difference, but I had no idea they would make such a big difference. To think that just 30 social signals will boost your rankings for such competitive keywords is definitely an eye opener for me.

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About the author

Peter Visser

Peter has been in the online space since 2008 when he created his first online company. Since then he’s made all of his money online. As well as designing and implementing custom strategies for businesses, he is also an avid fan of any kind of beer.