Social Media for SEO: What Are Social Signals?

Social Signals

When people interact with your content on social – through likes, comments or shares – a signal is created that search engines can pick up on. These signals act as a form of citation (similar to backlinks) and contribute to a page’s organic search ranking and overall social media visibility.

For many consumers, social media has become a part of their daily routine. Companies who incorporate this channel into their marketing strategy can therefore benefit from greater ‘offsite’ brand awareness and engagement. But how does this ‘offsite’ channel support ‘onsite’ performance and SEO?

Social Media For SEO

Following the growth in social media’s popularity, the debate on whether search engines use social media as a ranking factor or not remains unresolved. Some search engines such as Bing have openly confirmed that social is used to determine a website’s organic ranking, but other search engines including Google, are yet to confirm.

With this said, over the years many studies have shown that website pages which are shared on social media do better overall in organic rankings, than similar pages which have not benefited from social signals.

So what's in a signal?

We mentioned before that social signals are a form of citation, similar to backlinks. A backlink occurs when ‘a website’ shares one of your website’s pages online. By adding your page’s URL into its own website content, a link between the two websites is formed. ‘A website’ could be an online news publication, magazine, directory or… a social media account.

Step 1: linking offsite with onsite

Sharing a page on one of your social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, creates a backlink to your site and with it joins your offsite (social channel) with your onsite (your website).

Step 2: creating a signal

You’ve shared a page of your site on social by adding it into an organic post or piece of sponsored content. Your audience now takes over the reigns. As your followers see your post, likes, comments and shares are generated. Your post has gained traction offsite and sends a signal to search engines that this piece of content is popular with your audience and therefore might be popular for similar users you are not yet connected with. The result, search engines will link your post’s performance with the shared website page and give more visibility to that page in future search results as it has understood/acknowledged its ‘value’.

Important to note: social signals that will significantly demonstrate a website page’s value need to be strong. The more people who like, comment on and share your post the stronger the signal is. It is therefore important to ensure that any post you publish with a backlink is meaningful and engaging. Social media users veer away from spammy content or posts which aren’t entertaining or informative, so make sure your post to begin with is strong.

Step 3: supporting your SEO

A social signal on its own helps to support your SEO efforts, but it doesn’t stop there. The shared website page itself can also help to increase your SEO power and in turn visibility.

As we mentioned before, sharing a website page on social creates a backlink, and this backlink allows engaged users to continue their journey on your website. Clicking on the shared link will bring a user to your website page, beginning a new session on your site. If this session lasts a long time and the user reads your page and some other pages on your site, this will signal to search engines that your website has good engagement – a key factor in improving visibility.


So there it is. Social media is not only a way to engage with users offsite but it also plays an important role in supporting your onsite performance and with it your SEO strategy.

Are you interested to learn more about how social media can support your SEO?