Over the last couple of months Google has been shaking up the social media world through their creation of Google+. Up until now, Google+ was and still is a closed social media network that you must be invited to in order to participate. It is not hard to get an invite, but you have to have one to create a profile. Once a part of the network you can start to “+1” things ranging from search and ad results to independent websites. All of which will get added to your +1 history and gives the owner and website a happiness boost since their site is being interacted with.
Recently though, Google announced that they are now allowing +1’s from people that you are connected to to influence your search results. While in theory this is a great new feature as you often trust the people that you are connected to on social media so their influence is welcomed. This ranking in itself is very easily manipulated and with the way social media connections are headed you could be receiving results shared by your second cousins wife’s mother in law who you randomly accepted but who’s opinion you may not trust. Also, enter the world of companies that sell hundreds of +1’s for a nominal fee (I won’t link to them but you can find them online if you are interested) and you have a metric that will soon be able to influence lots of searchers and create trust, that can easily be bought. While the same thing is true for companies that sell Facebook likes and Twitter followers, these metrics do not directly influence the search results you receive so their effect is more for social media clout then for results manipulation. I have personally seen a result jump from page 2 to page 1 in my results with just one friend sharing it. You can see an example of what it looks like below.
Google is smart and they will no doubt find a way to combat the selling of +1 clicks, but you have to wonder that since the selling of links to influence pagerank still such a widely used tactic you would think they would not want to release another metric that can so easily be influenced. Either way the implementation of +1’ed results into organic search is interesting and it will be exciting to see where it goes.
What are your thoughts on this, do you think it is a good idea? Let me know in the comments.