Google has recently responded to the Facebook “like” button by releasing its own social recommending tool called Google +1. Clicking on a +1 button signifies a user’s personal endorsement of a website or piece of content. The +1 will also apply to Google PPC, or sponsored ads.

In order to hit the ground “+1ing” you need to do three things:

1. Be logged into your Google account

2. Have a Google profile that is “somewhat” public (at least your name) because all others will be automatically removed by Google on July 31, 2011.

3. Find a site and click +1, for your convenience there is one above. Once you have +1d for the first time, the +1 option will begin showing up in your search results.

The +1 button allows users to get recommendations from those in their Google networks (Gmail contacts, Gchat buddies, those followed in reader, etc..) while actively counting the number of +1s a website receives. The +1 button will be displayed in Google search results pages and will be personalized if you’re logged into your Google account, showing what friends have +1d a page. Here is what personal recommendations look like in the search results when logged in:

 
 
 
 
 
If you’re not logged in, an aggregate annotation will show the total number of +1s the site has received. (Currently I can only see this for Google products, but this will probably be implemented in all search results soon.)

 
 
 
It is now possible to get the +1 button on your website, google has made it available in different sizes and it can include a running total of +1s.  This is what the +1 button looks like before and after it’s clicked:
 
 
 
 
Websites you +1 will also show up on your Google profile, acting as a bookmarking tool:

  








So the question on everyone’s mind is, “how will the +1 button affect your rankings in search engine results?” According to Google, “+1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query.” The keyword here is relevance. Google’s primary goal is to bring the user relevant information and it does so by tweaking the factors that determine relevance, suggesting that social will very soon (if it doesn’t already) play a roll in rankings. How large a role? That has yet to be determined. One thing is clear, Google plans to use +1 as a means to improve search results and allow users to share content. At this point it seems Google is figuring out how +1 will affect their algorithm and carefully moving forward. As +1 is more widely implemented and used, we will have a better understanding of its significance.

The idea behind the +1 button is logical. In an era where decisions are largely based on reviews who better to turn to for information than your network? Google has simply expedited the recommendation process by displaying them directly in your search results. The impact of social on search engine results has been debatable in the SEO world. The +1 button however, is an indicator that Google is moving toward the inclusion of social factors in their algorithm. Time will tell how successfully Google can filter social inclusion into organic search but for now I would highly recommend adding +1 to your site. Increasing the running total of +1s validates your website to users and ultimately Google. Staying ahead of your competition inevitably leads to success or as Ricky Bobby would say, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

By Emily Thompson, Online Marketing Consultant