Today Google is set to roll out another significant change to their search results, referred to as Google +1. This new feature is a small button that you will find to the right of each link (and ad) on the search results page:
Similar to the facebook “like” button, the +1 button will allow others in your social circle to see your preferences. But the new Google system has far more widespread consequences. While your social circle will see your recommendations, that feedback also goes into a public pool that will influence search rankings and ad placements.
While search and social have been on a collision course for a long time, and for good reason, it does make me think back to when webmasters and SEO practitioners first learned the effect inbound links could have on search rankings and link farms were born.
How long will it take before companies are scrambling to get more +1’s than their competitors through any means necessary (because I’ll bet it’s already starting), and then how long before Google has to decide whether or not they can or should change the rules? Will users that indiscriminately “+1” thousands of links have the same influence as those that selectively “+1” a few? How much and how fast will your website’s rankings and your pay per click costs change?
All that is certain for now is that change is coming.
The +1 feature is rolling out today (if you don’t see it in your search results yet you can manually turn it on by going to Google Experiments), but unlike some of their past forays into the social space, Google is taking it slow this time. Additional features will be rolled out later which will include +1 buttons that can be placed on websites just like facebook “like” buttons.