In an email to Wired.com, a daily technology news website, Google confirmed its plan to turn its “plus one” button into a community-based crowd sourcing tool. The "Google plus" button will help the search engine giant to reorder search results and combat web spam.
This newly-announced decision brings the Google search engine into the social networking age, one that is shared by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets. Unfortunately, it also provides a way for hackers, spammers, and other blackhats to manipulate Internet search results.
A Google spokesman said the company will study the clicks on “plus one” buttons to determine their influence on search engine ranking. Ranking signals are used to improve overall search results, the spokesman explained. The company plans to move carefully to see how the signals relate to quality.
According to Google’s email correspondence to Wired.com, more than 200 signals are currently used to determine website ranking. Google studied these signals before making more than 500 improvements to the algorithm last year.
When it debuted in March 2011, the “Google plus” button displayed the user’s profile picture next to the URL when a friend ran a search that included the URL. Today, web surfers can use the button to post stories to friends and followers, much like the Facebook “Like” button. The obvious next step is to rearrange search results based on what people are liking and sharing.
Google tested the social waters with Twitter when it licensed its live Twitter stream, but the agreement ended before the company could do anything substantial with the real-time data. Since Facebook will probably never share its data stream with Google, the company was left to create a social network of its own.
This new situation is not without controversy. If Google search results rely heavily on “Google plus” buttons, websites will be pressured to embed the buttons on their pages or see their Internet traffic suffer. It is a touchy subject for many site owners — and one that got a story killed by “Forbes.”
The story, written by Kashmir Hill, was titled, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers.” The article was a follow-up to a meeting with Google ad representatives.
Integrating the “plus one” button with the Google search box is definitely controversial, and a lot of people will be watching to see what happens. But a greater concern for Google, say some, is the possibility that someone will build a bigger and better search engine. Many people think such a creation would certainly require more of a human touch.
About the guest author: Marc McDermott is the Online Marketing Manager at Merchant Express, a provider of transaction processing services and payment processing technologies with a specialized approach to merchant credit card processing, merchant bankcard processing and transaction processing services.
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