Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, has dispelled the notion that the +1 button can have a direct effect on rankings within the search engine.

For a while many site owners have believed that social signals play an important role in determining their page rankings within Google.

So as well as relying on key SEO elements – a high portion of relevant keywords on the page,  well-written, non-spammy content (at least since the introduction of the Panda algorithm) and the inclusion of keywords in domain names and title tags etc.  – site owners have also focused on ensuring that their pages have a good number of +1s, with the belief that this will improve their rankings.

However, Cutts has torn apart this notion, claiming that they have no direct impact on improving a site’s ranking. Speaking in a Google+ hangout – “Power Searching With Google” – he moved to clarify the impact that +1s can actually have.

He stated: “In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is, so right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher.”

Interestingly he then went onto reveal that he expected authorship to have a bigger impact in the near future, stating that it was something that Google pays more attention to.

Continuing, Cutts said: “But there are things like, we have an authorship proposal, where you can use nice standards to markup your webpage, and you’ll actually see a picture of the author right there, and it turns out that if you see a picture of the author, sometimes you’ll have a higher click through, and people will say, ‘oh that looks like a trusted resource.’ So there are ways that you can participate and sort of get ready for the longer term trend of getting to know not just something was said, but who said it and how reputable they were.”

Through authorship users can link their accounts on Google+ to the content they’ve created. This means that, for example, a story produced by a journalist published on a website might, when displayed in Google, feature the author’s name as a byline. It might also feature their Google+ profile image.

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