People have always pondered just how much impact social signals actually have when it comes to the search results. While Google has said on numerous occassions that social signals, such as shares, likes or retweets, do not have any impact on the Google search results for ranking, because Google can index those pages, there is often the question of whether those social signals might help even slightly.
The question came up in the last Google Webmaster Office Hours. The question was specifically whether social signals have any impact on the organic rankings in Google and here is John Mueller’s response.
Not directly. So it’s not that there’s any kind of ranking effect there, to the most part social networks also have a nofollow on the links that they kind of provide when they host this content, so it’s not the case where that would give you any kind of a ranking boost there.
What you do sometimes see however is that these social posts show up in the search results, they can be contented like any other piece of content and they can rank for your keywords, they can rank for your product name, so they can show up in the search results as well, which in turn gives you maybe a little bit more presence, maybe provide some context for users in the search results.
Another aspect there specifically around Twitter and maybe Google+ at the moment is that when we recognize that there’s content in social networks that are relevant to the user, then we will try to show that in the search results as well. So I believe we show Twitter content in the index in the US on mobile at the moment, so that’s something that might be visible as well.
It’s not that your content will rank higher because of that, but there’s just more content with your company name or your brand or your product name out there and we might choose to show that in search as well.
We have seen cases where posts can end up ranking higher than the website those posts lead to – especially for sites that are penalized – and have even seen cases where Facebook posts can show up as a featured snippet result. It can also be an effective way to help lock out additional competitors from ranking their own content on the first page of the search results, since social posts can sometimes rank well, especially if those posts also have links pointed to them.
There’s also plenty of benefits from the sharing aspect and additional exposure to others who may not have seen your brand, your products or your site if someone hadn’t shared it to them. That in turn can lead to additional direct traffic – even if not Google traffic specifically – but it can also lead to the possibility that some of those people who saw a share related to your brand could also share or even link to it from their site – another indirect bonus where a social media post can result in another great link.
So while there might not be direct ranking benefits for your website with regards to social signals, Google can still index those social posts and rank them accordingly – possibly competing with your site or simply complementing your site while preventing competitors from ranking there.
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