You may have seen news of Google’s latest attempt to introduce social recommendations to its platform. +1  (US only service at the moment) allows people to up vote any website they like; this can then be seen by their social connections on Google in much the same fashion as you might like a friend’s post on Facebook. This can be considered a blatant, somewhat belated, but very welcome addition from Google in the social media arms race, but it also throws up a number of questions.

Could it be gamed?

I’m positive Google’s beta testing will place lots of whiz bang algorithms to stop unscrupulous people +1ing select sites to death. But, it does raise the query: will brands who have worked hard to appear in the Google Golden Triangle through great stories, competent SEO practices and positive reviews see smaller sites leapfrogging them in people’s search due to lots of local +1s?

What would motivate someone to +1?

Your +1s can only be seen by your Social connections on Google.

  • People in your Gmail & Google Talk chat list
  • People in your “My Contacts” group in Google Contacts
  • People you follow in Google Reader or Google Buzz

But, how many friends do you currently have on your Google profile? Is this group big enough to provide meaningful search impact? In addition people currently understand, or have been taught to understand the motives for liking something amongst their social group, but does this motivation transfer to search?

The upside

I may have seemed pretty critical of this new service, but I’m sure Google will iron out these potential issues. +1 in search can only be a good thing, we have been saying for months that human recommendations need to be considered in search; it shouldn’t just be down to algorithms and will combat SEO blackhatting.

When +1 comes to the rest of the web population, what site would you up vote? Oh yeah and Google, where’s the -1?

For further information check out Google’s overview video.

For a more detailed overview of the service there is a great description on Search Engine Land.

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