When it comes to page ranking, Google wants the sites that are most popular on top, as do users. This doesn’t mean you cannot be moved down in rankings – you can – which means you have to work to be ranked high. If you are popular and well known, you tend to be credible. Because of this, you have worked to earn a high ranking.
With that being said, hoisting yourself up to popularity can be rather difficult. There are factors that Google takes into account regarding popularity, such as the importance of quantity and quality of who is sharing your content. Social shares themselves are really beneficial for your popularity, even though they do not pass PageRank. Because they are good for your popularity, they are in turn good for your SEO efforts.
Another factor in popularity has to do with how your readers are engaging with your site. Google Analytics provides Google with a lot of information on user behavior, which helps to determine how popular websites are. Some components that help determine page popularity include scrolling on a page, the amount of time spent on the site, bookmarking, and copying/pasting information.
Lastly, links to your site will always improve your SEO. Google is starting to become strict on various linking tactics with links that cheat the system and simply do not deserve to be linked. The bots are improving on selecting good, quality links as we move forward, and this will be even more important when it comes to popularity. This is a good point to remember, as Google has made official algorithm changes and announcements claiming they are attempting to credit more veteran sites that are indeed trusted. The take away: build your SEO by remaining a trusted company and work to gain popularity.