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Social Signals: Google Is Watching

Pat Marcello

The object of search engine optimization (SEO) is to get pages ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs), which allows us to cash in on some of that great, free, targeted traffic that search engines provide.

To get that free traffic, there are things you can do on the page, like creating a good SEO-friendly title and description in the meta tags. Or like finding keywords that apply to what your page is about and using them when writing what real people can read.

And there are plenty of things you can do off the page, like guest posting on blogs, gathering links, and well... that stuff is OK, but it’s not all you have to worry about anymore.

Google is Watching.

But it’s not just Google. Bing has admitted to watching, too.

What are they watching?

Social Signals.

How popular are you online? How much cool information have you provided for others and how popular is it? Those things are important because they provide value to the Web. Google is now calling it “authority,” and if you have none, you probably won’t see many of those SERPs rankings we talked about above.

Google Plus

If you want to do well in search these days, you’d better pay some homage at the altar of Google+. It’s amazing to me that so many people don’t get that. If you want Google to love you, you need to play with THEIR toys, not go over to Zuckerberg’s house and hang out. I mean, you do need to do some Zucking up, but well... Google really wants Google+ to be successful so they have tied your participation in Google+ to search.

You need to have a page for your business on Google+, too, and your business address must be verified for your updates to be shown publicly. So, get that very important social signal going. Even if you have a business that you run out of your home, adding a Google+ page is vital. You need to get +1s on what you post, too. The more popular your posts are on Google+, the more Google will love you.

Social Friendships

Search engines are also looking at your social signals in terms of popularity -- connections made, not just with Google+, but with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and hey... Pinterest is coming on strong, too. You need to spend time in each of these sites posting and gathering friendships.

But it shouldn’t be tit for tat. Following back everyone that follows you is considered a “wash.” You need to build a fan base. If you have more people that you friend than friend you back, you’re probably not going to score in the pop category. But if you have more people that follow you than you follow back, you’re kind of a rock star and search engines will approve.

Likes, Shares and Retweets

So, yeah... I like to post cat pictures, too. What of it?

Though those are cute and fuzzy and all, cats or dogs won’t help you to be search engine rock star material. Your updates need to include other helpful links and comments too, and they should be things that people like, +1 or share.

Sharing is a huge aspect of this. If you post stuff that others want to pass on, that means they’re engaged. If they’re engaged by you (or your brand), then you’re Queen or King of the Prom and you’re golden in terms of social signals.

So, how do you make this stuff happen?

Be the life of the party! Get in there on Facebook/Google+/Twitter/LinkedIn, etc. and chat. Comment on what other people are doing and start conversations. When you make friends with the folks on these networks, they’re more inclined to look at your stuff and to do the necessary things, like sharing and liking and the rest.

What NOT to Do

One thing I see a lot of is what I guess to be primarily new marketers spamming the social sites with this offer or that program. That’s a really, really good way to lose friends and probably a negative in terms of social signals. Nobody wants to see just your offers. They want to hang out with you and get to know you. They want to know who’s behind your brand. They want to have some kind of relationship, without being sold.

Believe me, if you build these relationships, people will check you out and they’ll know what you’re up to. I mean, it’s OK to post something once in a great while, but every day or 5 times a day is just wrong. Personally, I think it ruined Twitter. Every direct message I get these days asks me to sign up for this or to buy that or something inane. In fact, those automated DMs are just annoying. I never read mine -- ever. So, if you want to reach me, you’ll need to find a better way. Twitter isn’t it.

Click-Through Rates Matter, Too

If you post a link to a blog post, an article you’ve written, an infographic, etc. search engines are also watching those click-throughs. They’re just another factor when it comes to measuring your popularity or what Google calls your “authority” online.

And while we’re on the topic, you should be sure that your website is setup to attribute you as the author of your posts or articles and to tie those posts and article to your Google+ profile, too.

But it all comes back to you. How happy, interested, and engaged do you make other people feel? If you’re not doing that at all, you have to beef things up.

If you can’t do it all, hire someone to do these things for you. It’s true that there are only so many hours in a day, and it’s hard to fit in the technological side of things, the marketing side of things, and now, the social side of things, too.

If you can’t hire someone, then don’t spend all your time running from site to site trying to be the life of the party, either. Pay more attention to one site than the rest. Add some stuff to the other sites, too, but really dig in and become part of the chatter on at least one site.

I like Facebook, too, but if you want to do really well in search, my advice is to spend more time on Google+. Remember the Big Dog gets most of the chow and the Big Dog is watching.

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Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager at, a full-service digital marketing company that serves small- to medium-sized businesses. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was "Google's Fetch and Render: Why It's Important."
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Come on, Guiry. None of us tell the whole truth. If I gave my complete system away, everyone would jump on board and be doing it and then, it would be ineffective. We all have our secrets.

But if you don't believe social signals are important, hmm... I still say they are. Engagement, social shares, and time on site (bounce rate) are crucial. If your stuff isn't being shared or talked about, it really doesn't matter all that much, so... No SERPs placement. BOOM!
yeah right, but ask Matts, he'll say it's no a factor, and why did he claim that? He does not want to be too direct in letting people know what really counts with their SERP placements...

Great article. It's amazing how much more and more social signals and the "human factor" is affecting search. I truly believe Google+ is going to be a huge factor in search for quite a long time to come; now is the time to adopt this technology!

Pat Marcello
You got it, Brody! And thanks, Brian. You are so right! I said way back when we were still calling social media "Web 2.0" that social signals were going to drive search. And here we are.
ye very nice

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