No…this is not a nerdy Dungeons & Dragons reference. Google announced on Wednesday that they are introducing a new feature called "+1 Button." This new feature from Google is still in the experimental phase, but it is most definitely going to have an impact on SEO and rankings. So far this new feature has only been release in English searches in the USA and Canada.
Use +1 to give something your public stamp of approval, so friends, contacts, and others can find the best stuff when they search. Get recommendations for the things that interest you, right when you want them, in your search results.
Your +1’s are public. They can appear in Google search results, on ads, and sites across the web. You’ll always be able to see your own +1’s in a new tab on your Google Profile, and if you want, you can share this tab with the world.
Google states clearly that:
The +1 button is shorthand for "this is pretty cool" or "you should check this out."
Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1’s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.
Google is being very clear that this will have a significant impact on sites and will be part of the new Google Social Ranking signals. It seems that this is another step in reducing the emphasis on links as a ranking signal as well.
It is well documented that social signals are already a determining factor in determining rank. Facebook "shares", for instance have long been established as having a significant impact on rank.
This is another move towards the "Social Web" by Google. Inbound marketing is definitely the future for all SEO efforts and will soon be one of the few ways to garner truly organic traffic to your site. It is increasingly necessary to engage users across as many social mediums as possible.
From an SEO standpoint, some people feel that the new social metrics will be easy to game. However, I would have to disagree. Google collects a lot of information on users in order to determine that profiles are in fact tied to real people and are authentic. Taking a look at your Google Dashboard will give you a good indication of some of the main factors that Google uses to determine if you are “rea” [erson with authority. Some of the factors Google will look at are: Gmail account, Analytics, Blogger, Buzz, Calendar, Contacts, Google Docs, Picassa, Reader, and perhaps most importantly: Social Circle and Content.
Both Bing and Google have been very clear that links shared through Twitter and Facebook have a direct impact on rankings and as SEOs we need to make this major part of our SEO strategies.
Google is already working on implementing a +1 feedback button for you to embed on your website. This will be similar to the Facebook "Like" button, or the Twitter "Tweet" button, or an upvote. Once you enable +1 you’re also opted in to show this information on 3rd party sites in exactly the same was as Facebook buttons.
I think the biggest concern that arises from the implementation of this new feature, is what about sites that are not necessarily “cool” or “popular,” but are more useful in nature. We can only hope and assume that the more traditional ranking signals will still hold water for these sites.