Google wants you to know that they care about what your customers think of your business.  So much so that they’re putting a lot of emphasis on using social media signals to rank your website.
But what’s a social signal?

A social signal is anything people do socially that involves your business.  That means sharing links to your site on blogs, video shares and thumbs up (as well as dislikes), comment likes, retweets, general engagement on sites like Facebook and even repins on Pinterest.

In the last two years, Google has made a series of changes to their ranking algorithm that puts more weight on these features.  As a result, businesses that were ranking well in search results started to disappear, favoring businesses that had more of a positive social presence.

Here’s why:
You have to think about Google as a business.  The search engine is a service they provide, and the people who use it are their customers.  In order to keep customers coming back they need to deliver the best search results, as well as the best options in paid search.

Google is always making changes to their algorithm in order to deliver the best business and information sites on page 1 of their search engine.  Businesses with a lot of positive social signals and viral activity are for more likely to be a reliable result for a specific keyword phrase over those that aren’t.

How to Improve Social Signals
If you’re not active on social channels then it’s time to start thinking about it.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider what you can do to improve your social presence and your search rank.

Provide quality content
– Shallow, self-centered and uninspired posts won’t get you anywhere.  They’re boring and won’t stir your audience.  Share great content and your audience will be more likely to share it with their friends.  Those shares will promote you to their entire network of friends.

Listen to your audience
– Don’t just talk, listen.  Pay attention to what your audience says on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  This is a great to find out what’s on their mind, their pain points, things they celebrate and what they would love to see.  Your next conversation topic, or even product design, could come from listening to your audience.

Stay active
– Posting once a week to your social accounts makes you easy to forget, and the algorithm used by sites like Facebook will bury your content without your audience seeing it if the system thinks you’re not interesting enough.  Post regularly and share, engage your audience, and remind them that you’re there.

Most importantly, when you engage your audience, their comment activity shows in their feed on sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Their followers see it and it could inspire friends and connections to check you out.

Share more than words
– If all you share is text, the algorithms are likely to bury you.  People don’t want to read all the time.  They want to see links to interesting articles, videos, pictures, polls and more.  Tackle engagement in social media from a number of angles to give some variety to your audience.

Don’t just promote – Social media is about being social, not promoting your services.  It’s OK to promote your business, but keep it to a minimum.  Like email marketing, your promotions should only be a small fraction of the content you push through social media.

Go where your customers are – Don’t just assume that because your competitors are using Twitter that you should be there as well.  Research your audience and find out where they hang out.  The majority might only be on Facebook, Pinterest, or hanging in the dark recesses of Google+.
Other Ranking Factors To Get Your Business at the Top of the Search Results
Social signals are becoming a huge influencer when it comes to your search rank, but they’re not the only thing.  I caution you not to throw everything at social and ignore other marketing efforts.  You’ll get the best results if you mix in common digital marketing tactics like optimized site content, blogging, video marketing and optimized local business listings.