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How will Google’s +1 affect SEO?

After its launch in March, Google’s new +1 feature has slowly been growing as more websites begin to include the button on their home pages. It has fully taken hold now and is becoming more widespread across the web. We previously discussed+1 in our video blog, “What is Google plus one?” back when Google was getting ready to launch its foray into the social networking world. The revolutionary button is similar to Facebook’s “Like” feature and allows you to see what sites and ads your Gmail contacts like.

What is it like?

Let’s first talk about what happens when you want to +1 a site that you are on. You hit the button and the following comes up (obviously, with your name and email in the place of mine):

How will Google's +1 affect SEO?

As you can see, you can’t give Google your two cents about a website until you create a profile.

Once you create a profile, you can begin to do Google’s version of “Liking” something, and since the “Like” button is a feature that has been revolutionary for business presence on Facebook, we can only assume that this will have the same effect for websites. However, it will take time for people to fully get on board because they will first have to become immersed in a whole new type of social network. Creating a profile feels strikingly familiar. Here’s what Google asks you to fill out:How will Google's +1 affect SEO?

How will Google's +1 affect SEO?

Once your profile is complete, you can confirm that you want to add your +1 and then do so. It’s pretty easy. Here’s what a site with the +1 feature looks like:

How will Google's +1 affect SEO?

104 people like this site on Facebook, but only 4 people went to Gmail, created a profile, and gave a +1. Given how popular this website is, this will likely change soon. But it is a slow process.

How will +1 affect SEO?

Now that it has been around for a little while now, discussions within the SEO community have begun about how this new feature might affect the industry. Once it truly takes off, anyone who is anyone will have a Gmail profile and spend a huge amount of time going around handing out +1s to their favorite websites. It will become readily apparent to Google what websites are relevant to the people searching.

Relevant content is key here. The +1 button will eventually help people find content that their friends and associates feel are relevant to them. People are more likely to visit a site or buy a product if it is recommended by a friend (hello, “Like” button success!), so the button’s impact on relevant content is going to be huge. The Google Webmaster Blog comments on this: “+1 helps people discover relevant content—a website, a Google search result, or an ad—from the people they already know and trust. Adding the +1 button to your pages lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of Google search results.”

What does it all mean?

If you have the +1 button on your website and people tend to use it, your content will become a whole lot more relevant to a whole lot of more people. Since having relevant content is a large part of SEO strategy (especially since the Panda update), this button will likely, in the long run, help to bring sites up in the search engine rankings. The Google Blog admits that this will be the case: “+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… For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.” Until then, we’ll have to watch as this new social network gets off the ground.