Social signals are incredibly helpful to SEO, business growth and blog exposure. The search engines do not directly measure such social signals – they have no direct bearing on Google’s algorithm – they are nevertheless important. Their primary importance, in fact, is in how they can help you gain quality organic links.
There are a range of potential social signals, available depending on the social networks you choose to use. You should, of course, have a presence on the big networks. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn are all essential. Others, such as Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit can be very helpful, if you have the capability to exploit them.
The key to remember is that social signals are not part of the search algorithm. Rather, they are an indicator of the popularity, engagement and value of your content. High quality content will draw higher social signals, which is a sign that your content is doing well. Checking your SEO performance will confirm it.
Social sharing is powerful for one reason; it puts your content into the eyes and minds of a wider audience than your blog alone sustains. Think about it; one person visits your blog and reads your article. That’s one view. One person reads your Facebook post and shares it to their 200 friends. That’s the potential for 201 views, from one person. Of course not all of those people will see the post, and of those that do, not all of them will click to read it. Few of those will share it, but if even one does, it spreads your circle of potential influence even further.
Not all social shares are equal, however. Not as in the difference between a retweet and a Facebook share, although that has some relevant. No, the important difference is in who, precisely, is doing the sharing. Consider these three scenarios:
Which of these scenarios is best? The first scenario has the most shares, but each share is low value, because you paid for them. Shares from a paid service likely come from robot accounts or accounts made for the purpose of sold shares. They have low audiences themselves and serve only to boost your shares number. You may have 5,000 shares, but each “person” that shared your post only has a couple of friends, none related to your industry.
In scenario two, you have a smaller number of shares, many of which found your blog organically. They are all readers of content in your industry, but very few of them are authors themselves. This means your content has a high level of engagement per view, but you have few sources of backlinks.
In scenario three, you have a smaller number yet of shares, but more of them are from content creators. These people love your content, find it relevant to their business and post their own related blog posts linking back to yours. Their posts are shared on social media, and that audience follows the link to your site, sparking another round of shares.
Which of these scenarios is most valuable? The first is right out. High numbers are not better, in this case. Two and three are somewhat tied, depending on how many content creators are present in the audience of scenario two. Of course you’re never going to get a post shared exclusively by content creators. Scenario three is the least realistic of all.
Unfortunately, the fact is that the majority of the people who consume content online do nothing further with it. It’s a struggle to get them to share your posts or comment on your blog. It’s only a small minority, the content creators, that can then use your content in other posts and give you a high quality organic backlink.
So if more shares aren’t always better, why are they so strongly correlated with success? Why is it that a post with more shares almost inevitably performs better than a post with fewer? Taking purchased shares out of the equation, it’s a matter of math.
Say you know that one percent of your readers are content creators. That one percent is going to provide you the best return on your social investment, but you need to reach them. There’s no magical Facebook group for creators, no Twitter hashtag used exclusively by those who blog links. How do your each them? By reaching a wider audience in general. If you have 100 shares, one percent is a single content creator. That creator may or may not link to your post. If you have 10,000 shares, on the other hand, your one percent is 100 creators. You have a much higher chance of your post receiving several quality links.
Of course that math is fuzzy. One share doesn’t equal one view, it can range from a small handful to several hundred views, depending on the audience of the person who shared the content. Still, the basic concept is the same; more shares means a wider audience, and a wider audience means more potential for creators to see your post.
You can’t target everything towards the creators and hope for the best, ignoring the people who don’t blog about your content. These people are your lifeblood in a number of other ways. They may not blog your post themselves, but they may be the link in the chain between you and the creator who does.
Additionally, the 99 percent are the people who read your post and convert into regular readers or customers. Social media is about more than just your backlinks, after all.
So how do you do it? How do you increase your shares and reach the creators who will give you quality backlinks? The key is in the audience. Shoot for as many quality shares as you can. Join discussion groups and hashtag conversations in your industry. You’ll find more content creators in focused discussions. Share widely, but avoid the worthless purchased shares. A wider audience reaches more people for conversions, more people for shares and more creators for backlinks. It’s a win all around.