The +1 button as introduced in March 2011 was Google’s answer to Facebook’s Like button for its own burgeoning social network, Google+, allowing users to share articles and ads with fellow members by giving them a +1 vote. The company’s plans for +1, as revealed in recent news releases, could have a very profound impact on all people who use Google Search, even if they are not using Google+.
Google has already implemented changes to its search algorithm that better accommodate the social aspect of Internet searches by turning user signals into ranking factors. This means that the person doing the searching is now impacting how sites are ranked as Google measures things like how many people click on but immediately exit (bounce rate) a site, and how many pages are visited once a user is in the site.
This computing power it takes to measure these factors is significant, however, and so updates like Panda that are used to analyze this data and refine the algorithm are only run periodically. The +1 button gives Google Analytics a new tool with which to measure user signals that is overt; it is provided by the users themselves based on their actual preference for the website.
Allowing this tool to shape the search results of users everywhere has its limits. Critics warn of “blackhats” infiltrating the Google+ system with false identities and artificially altering search results with bogus +1 votes. This makes Google’s persistence regarding authentic identification for Google+ users more understandable, but creates another problem in that many honest people value (and prefer) Internet anonymity. Both of these issues could make the system less attractive to users of both Google+ and Google Search.
Merging a social network with a globally accepted search engine may not be all that easy, but since Google and Facebook will likely never partner in business, it really has no choice but to move forward so that it may curb the threat of Facebook creating its own integrated Internet search function – which can only be a matter of time.
If you are looking to use +1 to help your website, one thing you can do is add the +1 button to sharable pages on your site such as blog articles. You can also participate in Google’s social network to build an authentic social profile by following relevant individuals and engaging in conversations with them to grow your followers.
James Madeiros is a staff writer for Sparkplug Digital, a provider of SEO services for startups and tech companies.