More and more, it looks like the future of search will revolve around reputation and word-of-mouth as opposed to links and anchor text. That’s because the number one player in search engine results, Google, is reportedly exploring the possibility of using its new “+1″ feature (similar to a Facebook “like”) in its famous search engine algorithm despite its lackadaisical start.
The change in strategy, confirmed in an email to Wired.com, was articulated by one of Google’s spokesmen thusly:
The purpose of any ranking signal is to improve overall search quality. For +1’s and other social ranking signals, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality.
In a recent Google Webmaster Central Video, perhaps the best known Google spokesman to the SEO community, Matt Cutts seemed to be optimistic about the possibilties when asked if plus ones have any effect on search rankings:
We’re still looking at the plus ones and how much effect that can have. It’s definitely promising. We’re excited about it and we hope to figure out a good way to use that, but you don’t want to rush into it. You want to make sure that it looks like a good quality win and not just throw in a signal because you’ve got it.
There’s no immediate indication as to when these changes will go into effect, but it’s obvious for web marketers that now is as good a time as any to get started to focus on social media results as part of their search engine marketing plans.
Is this the first time we’ve seen a major search engine get heavily influenced by social media? Hardly. Recall the Yahoo-Facebook “Six Degrees of Separation” idea, a social test to find out whether or not everyone on earth really is only separated by, at most, six degrees. This experiment could spell out a future potential partnership between Facebook and search engines in which social factors influence rankings, such as how many of your friends recommend certain links.
As for Google’s +1 innovation, forward-thinking search engine optimizers will want to start paying attention to their social media statistics as well as their places in Google’s rankings. Their future popularity could depend on it.