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Google's +1 button and how it may change SEO

Mar 30, 2011 / by David Scoville

Google has released a new +1 button similar to Facebook's "Like" button, according to a Mashable post and a SearchEngineLand post. The new feature will allow Google users to, essentially, vote for pages and videos on the web and those votes will be displayed publicly. The new feature has not yet been released to all searchers but users with a Google account can choose to join the experiment at Google Experimental.

In the new promo video, Google says that when you click on the +1 button, "you're telling your friends, your family, and the rest of the world: 'This is something you should check out.'"

Matt Cutts was quoted in the SearchEngineLand post by Danny Sullivan:

“The primary benefit is that search gets better. It gets better in the user interface immediately, and we’ll look at it as a potential signal to improve search quality as well. I find social search extremely useful, especially with the recent updates. This change continues the evolution of social search, and it’s a natural progression to improve the search experience,” said Matt Cutts, a Google engineer who is most known for leading Google’s search spam fighting team but who also helped launch Google Social Search in 2009.

Another failed attempt at Social or will this one stick?

With such failures as Orkut and Buzz, Google has been relentlessly trying to get into the social space--and this +1 thing, may be their opportunity. While Google has a wide reach of users because of its products (e.g., Gmail, Google Analytics, etc.), Google has not been good at connecting users like Facebook does. For instance, when I signed up for Google Buzz, I only found 50+ Buzz friends to follow. Many believe that the new +1 feature will be more visible because it's existence right on the SERP.

What could this mean for SEO?

According to Mashable, Google says that "+1 data will directly influence its market share dominating search rankings." Thus, we may see modifications to the algorithm. My guess is that we won't see major algorithm changes for a while--at least while the button is in experimental mode. However, SEO firms and content farms, may have to start worrying about how the +1 button will affect rankings. Sure, you may have a lot of great links, but how many people +1'd (Plus One'd) your website?

If they haven't already done so, many SEO firms will need start tying SEO campaigns with other social media and content marketing campaigns. Interestingly, this new feature is being released just weeks after the Panda/Farmer Update. Perhaps, Google has realized that its use of the algorithm to populate the SERPs isn't enough to produce quality search results. From what I've read, Google has been known for not allowing people to help pare down search results as Blekko has done. Do you think Google has officially changed its love affair with a algo-only search?

What do you think? If the +1 button changes search rankings, will you change how you do SEO?

Update: I noticed an interesting comment from Marcos on the SearchEngineLand post:

Unfortunately I predict another bummer. The +1 button (named by robots) can get wide adoption among webmasters keen on SEO but who’s gonna click on them? You don’t get instant gratification from your friends or followers for sharing, just a bot will be feeded.

Poor Google, a company run by lonely engineers and their robot friends, instead of sociable people…

I agree with Marcos that people will need an added incentive to click the +1 button. I wouldn't be surprised if Google tries to get you to add your Facebook account so that when you click +1, it automatically posts the site to Facebook. Does anyone else have any ideas on how Google might incentivize "normal" people (not webmasters or SEOs) to click on the +1 buttons?

Other Articles about the +1 Button:

Topics: SEO Blog Social Media

David Scoville

Written by David Scoville

David is the former Creative Director for PRMarketing.com. He pursues innovative design and transparent marketing. On the side, he builds things like the SEO Rank Reporter Plugin for Wordpress. Scoville has a degree in Advertising Communications from Brigham Young University.

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