Search engine optimization is essentially about credibility. The companies who run the major search engines want to keep their customers happy by providing the most valuable and credible search results possible. And we all know they do that with complicated algorithms that everyone is always trying to figure out. It’s like police radar versus the radar detector. Essentially, the search engines are constantly looking for better ways to determine if a site is credible, as more and more sites that aren’t learn new tricks to game the system.

One of the credibility factors search engines are trying to incorporate to produce more reliable results is the social signal. Social signals are simply the activity on social media platforms. And social signals bring a unique element that, if factored correctly, can reliably demonstrate credibility. That element? The human. If lots of reliable sources share something via social media, it must be worth something, right?

We get asked all the time how social media affects SEO. And that is a difficult question to answer, because no one has the complete answer yet. But we do know this: search engines do factor social signals into rankings. Last year, both Google and Bing announced that links shared via social platforms affect rankings. One of the big factors in SEO is inbound links. And the more credible and higher ranked the source that linked to you, the more it can boost your rankings. And search engines are applying the same to social signals. The more your link is tweeted by authoritative sources, for example, the better.

Anyone who spends time on social media knows that there is a constant and often overwhelming stream of links and content. And just like with web sites linked to other sites, search engines are trying to factor the authority and credibility of the sources of those links and content, as well as decide how much weight those social signals should carry. Social media platforms have a no follow code in all outbound links from users, so that the search engines don’t categorize those as directly from the platform. Instead, search engines know to handle those links as social signals from users. Within that, they then look at the authority of those sources. They look at the profiles of those sources -- the number of followers, who they follow, how long they have been users, activity level, etc. So, much like getting an inbound link to your site from the "New York Times", a link in a tweet from a highly authoritative Twitter profile would carry a lot of social signal weight.

So, we do know that search engines are factoring social media activity into their rankings. And how they do that will evolve via various updates, as they figure out what is and isn’t reliable. What this means for you is that you need to assure that you are always providing quality social media content and links.