If over the last several days you’ve been confused when you noticed your friends profile pictures popping up as recommendations under Google's organic searches, it’s thanks to Google’s new service called +1 - the digital shorthand for “this is pretty cool". As described by Google themselves, this is their new effort “to get you the most relevant results as quickly as possible” to Google searchers.
The concept behind +1 is very much like Facebook's “Like” button that has received so much popularity since its launch. But, unlike Facebook's “Like” that get automatically forced onto all your followers or “friends” for unsolicited promotion of whatever item you happen to be pushing, Google’s +1 only shows up to the unsuspecting party during their relevant Google search. In other words, let’s say you’re in the process of researching a web design company ( :) ). You go on the most popular search engine in the world - Google - and you do your search. In the organic results, you notice a listing for Logic Media and under the organic listing you notice that your good friend Billy Bob happens to like Logic Media’s services. Now, are you more likely to do business with Logic Media considering your good friend has offered his personal endorsement for the company? Google thinks so! Regardless of the outcome, Google’s theory holds true in that individuals are more likely to do business with a company whether it’s a web design firm, travel agent, purchasing a product or attending an event, if someone you know (in your network) has promoted it as “Liked.”
Myself, always observing and being dedicated to the world of Search Engine Optimization, I raise the question of how this will effect the organic results for all Google searches. Basically, will long-term search engine rankings change or actually get displayed based on the “Likes” of your network of “friends” on Google? If, in the past, a company with low organic rankings would not be displayed in the top organic search results, would they have a higher chance of being displayed in organic results after +1 promotional recommendations by people in your network? Also, what safeguards are in place to prevent marketers or companies from forcing visitors to click +1 in order to get access to their website or promotional coupons, in essence staring to use this service as part of their "black hat" SEO efforts?
Those individuals who are interested in adding +1 options to their Google searches can simply update their Google Profile and start participating in the recommendation / promotional fun. Businesses or website owners are also able to add the new +1 button onto their websites and have it function similarly to the Facebook “Like”, Twitter or RSS buttons.
I think it’s great that Google is constantly considering new and mostly innovative ways to add user interaction to their search results and provide searchers with the most relevant and useful content possible during their Googling experience. There is a part of me, however, that is concerned with our individual privacy, and this seems to be taking another step closer to a total transparency of our existence. Of course, to Google’s defense, we voluntarily become transparent by being dedicated Googlers.