Google Search Rank Might Start Including +1 Button Data

[ Ecommerce sites can now add +1 buttons. If Google adds +1 data to its search algorithm and enough people +1 this item, the page might appear high up in a search for v-neck t-shirts. ]

In a move that has major implications for content and ecommerce sites, Google revealed that it could add data from its "+1" button to its search algorithm, as Wired first reported.

“Google will study the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results,” a Google spokesman told Wired. “The purpose of any ranking signal is to improve overall search quality. For +1’s and other social ranking signals, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality.”

Google has been taking social activity into account for a while now -- Google Analytics can even show you likes, tweets, etc. This is generating a new round of "social SEO" that resets the entire SEO industry.

Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, told LAUNCH via email, "If +1 becomes a strong signal in Google's rankings or in their spam-filtering algorithms, I suspect we'll see a lot of early attempts at manipulation and spam from bad actors on the web, but eventually, I think it will be a net positive.

"Google+'s focus on real people and real names combined with their impressive identity analysis systems will likely produce A) a strong incentive for content producers to employ, adopt and promote +1 and B) a ton of mine-able data for Google to use in their pursuit of better results."

Because of bad blood between Google and Facebook, Google is unlikely to incorporate Facebook "Likes" into search results in the same way, which would make it even more important for sites to add the +1 button.
Google's search-algorithm practices already have come under government scrutiny because of complaints it favors its own products [ see our story ].

We have contacted Google for a comment on +1 data inclusion in search results and will update if we receive a response.

Last Thursday, Google began promoting the +1 button to retailers, pitching it as a way to make their products stand out.  

"We’re excited about the +1 button because it brings these personal recommendations to a place where many purchase decisions start -- the Google search results page," wrote Brian Lam, strategic partner manager for Google on the Google Commerce blog. "As more retailers add +1 buttons to their sites, we’re excited about how much more helpful search results will get."

Lam noted that underwear retailer Jockey and golf outlet Golfsmith have already added the +1 button to their sites using Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews, social commerce specialists Google teamed up with to make +1 button setup easier. 

Gamification of +1s for search results, as Fishkin pointed out, would be inevitable. Those who want +1s can already buy them -- 2,000 +1's cost $359.99.

Google currently uses more than 200 different signals to determine search results and constantly tweaks it -- making more than 500 changes last year. The last major update to its search algorithm, nicknamed "Panda," came in late February and was intended to push up high-quality results and punish low-quality content. The change reduced traffic to Demand Media sites and Suite 101 among others.

Google recently pushed Panda global, affecting all languages except Chinese, Japanese and Korean [see our related story ].

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