How social engagement drives popularity, associated search & rankings

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  • October 6, 2014
Tim Grice

Tim Grice


Have you ever come across a website that has very few links but still manages to dominate rankings? A website that doesn’t seem to have any clear SEO strategy, yet it outranks other sites that do?

Since Google cracked down on poor content and the influence of anchor text driven links, we are seeing more and more different ranking signals come to light.

I wrote about website engagement recently and how ensuring you are serving content for all user types can have a dramatic impact on your rankings, however, there are other things at play that have increased in influence since manipulative links have been banished.

Brand Search

A key ranking factor that has been discussed in detail many times is brand search, specifically how many people are using Google to search for your website and services.

Google wants to rank popular websites, websites that people are actively looking to find. The presumption is that the more people that look for a particular website, the more Google can trust that site and the products, services and information it delivers. This is why big brands do so well, everyone is looking for them on Google.

However, another element to consider is associated keywords, this is when a website or brand is searched for in-line with another keyword.

For example, I might search “Amazon books” or “Vision Express contact lenses” or “Branded3 SEO services”.

If your brand or business name is used in-line with a particular keyword, Google is more likely to rank you in a better position for that term, even if your link profile is relatively weak.

This is only correlation but let’s take a look at some results:

Amazon is position 1 for ‘books’:


MoneySupermarket is position 1 for ‘credit cards’:

Office is position 1 for ‘shoes’:


Thomson is position 1 for ‘holidays’:


They are all broad terms and the websites mentioned will have invested in multiple channels and have lots of links. So let’s get a little more niche:

Banham rank in the top five for ‘locksmiths’, “” is the position 1 result so would have been an obvious related search.


Krisina Gasperas ranks position 1 for ‘makeup artist’:

Make-up artist

Kevin Mullins ranks position 1 for ‘wedding photographer’:

Wedding photographer

As you can see, these highly ranking websites have all got associated relevant keywords that they are ranking for, putting it simply, the more people search your business out on Google, the more trusted you are; the more they search for your business with associated keywords, the more relevant you are.

Put these two powerful signals together and you will be well on your way to better visibility in search.

Where does Social come in?

Getting people to seek out your business on search can obviously be influenced through multiple channels, however, I personally think that social is one of the best for driving the signals I have mentioned above.

It’s more personal

It gives you the opportunity to have more personal, meaningful interactions; which means your ability to influence a specific action is greater.

You can run a TV ad with a strong call-to-action, but this won’t drive the specific results we are looking for, it won’t guarantee that someone will search you out on Google.

Through your conversations on social, you can influence people directly, requesting that they find out more from your website, “see our images”, “read our insights”. These specific calls to action will more likely influence people to go onto Google and check your website out and probably do a few searches around your business name, services and reputation.

You can really Engage

Let’s be honest, it’s very rare you feel genuinely engaged by a TV ad, billboard or a banner, most of the time these forms of marketing are simply a disruption to you living your life.

However, social media gives you an opportunity to genuinely contribute and engage your audience, not by selling to everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but by genuinely contributing to conversations, giving an opinion, sharing advice and pointing people in the direction of genuinely helpful resources.

As you interact in a credible way, people will naturally be inquisitive and investigate you on Google, they will want to know more about what you do and who you are.

This level and quality of engagement will drive popularity and associated search queries, in turn giving you better rankings.

Your peer group can help too

You may not be interested in engaging with your peer group or competitors on social media, but actually, this can help you rank better.

Having an opinion in your industry, adding insight, getting involved in online discussions, hangouts and forums can cause people to head to Google to find out a little more about you, as they search to discover who you are and what you do they are inadvertently helping you rank. Remember that the next time you spy on your competitors.

In a nutshell, genuinely engaging your audience on social media will cause people to take an interest, they will take that interest to Google which in turn will enhance your search visibility.

I still don’t believe social alone is a ranking factor, however the fruits of social engagement can be the key difference between you and your competitors.

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