In this Hangout, we talk about social signals and their impact on SEO and search engine rankings. There has been a lot of debate about this topic and we want to add our two cents to the discussion.
Can social signals alone rank a site in Google search? Yes AND no…
In tests we have conducted, buying spam social signals (unrelated and/or from a non-interested crowd) to a well optimized post did not provide any SEO benefit.
But when we have targeted the proper audience with the same type of post and with the same level of optimization, we were able to rank the post. This is because it wasn't just social signals that the post accrued. It also gained social links. Organic social links.
There is most certainly a difference. And when you combine natural (organic) social links with corresponding social signals (likes, +1's, Retweets, etc), you also get targeted traffic to the post, which is also a positive ranking signal.
So the short answer is: IT DEPENDS. You can't rank with SPAM social signals alone. But with targeted social signals, you most certainly can, but this is due in large part because of the natural links that will be created as a result.
Another positive effect that this social signals can have is the transfer of Domain Authority. Since most social media platforms have perfect (100) or near perfect Domain Authority, DA for your target property will increase. We have seen brand new sites increase from DA of 1 to a DA of 20+ in 30 days from just social signals alone!