Google +1 was launched in June 2011 as a ‘social tool’ to assist with searches, makes them more relevant to the searcher who can now save them on their Google profile and share them publicly. It is considered to be the Google equivalent of a Facebook ‘Like’ or a Twitter ‘Follow’ so clicking it gives a ‘plus’ vote for that website or link. As it is still early days, there is much speculation as to exactly how it may affect SEO in the future.
Although Google states that +1’s are not currently part of its algorithmic search, many in the industry believe that they soon will be. Google is expected to use +1 data to rank pages on specific keywords or phrases i.e.
the more +1’s, the higher the ranking. The SEO advantages of this speak for themselves, so it would be considered wise for online content services to start using it now and begin tracking how much it is used and how effective it is.
Google +1 could also have influence on website content. Webmasters may have to change the type of content to take full advantage of +1, which could represent a significant boost for SEO content services. The current message from Google is very much to produce websites for users, not search engines and +1 appears to reinforce just this. It is simple to use and gives immediate feedback by naming the user’s personal contacts and an anonymous count of others who have clicked +1 for a particular website or link.
Another way in which +1 could be made to work to the advantage of searchers is by producing ‘individual’ search results. When the +1 button is clicked it is a public action to highlight something the user likes, agrees with or recommends. Once clicked, the +1 button changes colour to blue and it is added to the user’s Google profile. So, with +1 recommendation from friends and contacts taken into account, Google’s first page search results could eventually appear differently to every user. To get +1’s websites will have to be appealing and online content services will have to do the job right to achieve this.
Google has introduced +1 gently with the intention of getting everyone on-side. To activate it, a Google account must be created and the user must be logged in for +1’s to show next to search results. Going forward, Google has recently launched its Google + Project Social Networking site (still in Beta, but with an estimated 15 million users) and is shortly to release a business version.
With the +1 button and the social networking site being so new, the full impact of them has yet to be felt. However, it speaks for itself that future social networking and content sharing could have a substantial effect on search traffic. It is far more complex than ‘Follows’ or ‘Likes’, it is all about influencing, with the leverage to affect the search results of others.
Online content services may need to update their methods to remain competitive in this environment.
Google seems to have thought this whole thing through at every level and if it takes off, which it seems sure to do, it could well rewrite the book in SEO terms.