Optimising for social signals

social buttons

Although social content sharing has been around for some time now, only recently has the sharing of content had a direct impact on a pages ranking in Google or Bing. It is becoming ever more important to ensure customers are encouraged to tweet, share, like and now +1 your products or news stories.

The most popular and most significant social influencers on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are:

  • Tweets
  • Facebook likes and shares
  • Google’s +1

What are the benefits?

Google and Bing have both stated that social signals have a direct effect on rankings. Tweets already have been shown to aid rankings and there is an increasingly need for them to be considered as an additional form a link building. Sites should be aiming to get pages mentioned in tweets by authoritative people as you would aim to gain links from authoritative websites.

Twitter

If an article is retweeted or referenced in Twitter, Bing will add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. However, it currently carries more weight in Bing Social Search. Google also use it as a signal in both their organic and news rankings. However, only in the last couple of days there have been reports of Google placing less emphasis on Twitter and removing the ‘real time’ filter from the search options on the left hand side of the page. It remains to be seen if this is temporary or a more permanent move, perhaps to drive users towards Google+ and +1.

Facebook likes and share

For links shared within Facebook, either through personal walls or fan pages Bing has a close relationship with Facebook and currently looks at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages. Google treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as it treats tweeted links but has no personal wall data from Facebook.

Facebook “send” is more personalised recommendation and endorsement; earning Facebook shares currently will not directly boost your rankings (though it may have positive effects that indirectly promote links, tweets and other signals Google may use as suggested by Matt Peters).

Google +1

Google has been indicating right from the start that +1s are going to influence search results. Once fully rolled out in the UK, +1s, as well as being  used as a ranking factor, are also going to  impact both paid and natural CTRs from SERPs, as +1s appear alongside the search result.

Adding buttons to your site

Incorporating buttons into your site design is no simple task; there is an important balance between avoiding clutter and promoting the share buttons.

Generally the most popular method for implementing social buttons is a “Catchall service” such as “addthis”. Although the catchall can help prevent cluttering of your pages and avoid user confusion, they lack the call to action and impact of big bold buttons. They also don’t show the number of shares that may encourage greater user interaction.

What buttons should be included?

To avoid cluttering your pages and confusing customers only buttons that you see as significant use should be included, ideally limiting them to 3. Look closely at where your current traffic is coming from and consider your customer demographic before choosing the buttons to add.

What pages?

Social buttons are not relevant to all pages of the site and should not simply be replicated across every page. There are a variety of ways that the social sharing buttons should be incorporated into the site such as:

  • Product detail pages
  • Blog posts and news articles
  • Category level pages
  • Thank you pages
  • Wish lists

Where?

It is important that when placing social buttons there is a balance between content and promotion. We don’t want to the buttons to draw attention from any other goals but do want them to be simple to find. Consider containing within one widget and above the fold. Also add secondary buttons to the foot of long pages such as articles and posts.

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