Earlier this week, Wired.com ran a story about Google exploring the integration of the +1 button data into their search ranking algorithm. While this is something that most of us in the industry have expected since the launch of the +1 button, it is the first time (to my knowledge) that Google has confirmed it.
This isn't the first time, however, that Google has looked at social signals as ranking influencers. They have already begun to use the data received from Twitter to help determine rankings for websites. Facebook, on the other hand, hasn't allowed Google to have access to its data, which may be one of the reasons why the +1 button was created.
So, is this Google's plan to force everyone to utilize the +1 button?
In a way, yes. Google's never-ending search for data has led them to the social sphere. With people constantly tweeting, liking, and +1'ing, Google can gain more insight into the quality of the websites they are ranking. Hopefully, as the social influences show their importance, Google will begin to tweak the amount of importance they place on links, especially coming from lower PageRank sites that run rampant with link spam.
Is this a perfect solution?
No. Google will need to combat the creation of fake profiles used for +1'ing purposes. They have already shown their intentions for their new social network, Google+, by allowing users to report fake profiles, but this system may need overhauled if the +1 button becomes a major influencer to their rankings. Black hat SEO's will relentlessly attempt to scam the system, just like some link building services do today.
Keep in mind there are lots of ranking factors, not just the +1
Where does this leave you, the site owner?
Google changes their algorithm all the time. Most of these changes are minor, but some aren't. At the end of the day, you always know that Google is trying to rank the highest quality sites for the terms they deserve to rank for. Add relevant content to your site, interact genuinely through social media, create landing pages for marketing campaigns, and make sure your website can convert visitors to customers. Remember, you are the expert in your industry, act like it...but in the mean time I'd go ahead and add Google's +1 button to be safe.
Here are the instructions on how to do it: http://www.google.com/webmasters/+1/button/