Last month I said that we have yet to see just how much the +1 button will affect pages in terms of overall page rank. However, just a few weeks later, confirmation as to the relevance of the +1 button as a ranking signal was given when Wired.com published Google’s email to them stating, “Google will study the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results. 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.”
This fact is echoed in Google Webmaster help page on the +1 button answering the question on the button’s effect on a site’s performance in search where it says, “Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”
They are obviously emphasising their cautious attitude towards integrating the +1 button in their ranking algorithm, especially since there is much potential for abuse from spammers and black hat in the use of the +1 button. However, due to the ubiquitous nature of social media, and its ever increasing popularity, Google has no choice but to somehow find a way to incorporate social signals (albeit the +1 button) into the ranking algorithm. If they can’t find a way to do it successfully (Read: minimise the noise from spammers), they just mind find their search results increasingly deemed as irrelevant, especially if someone else figure out a way to do it before they do.
In the meantime, while Google figures things out, the important thing is that you put +1 buttons on all your pages. It doesn’t matter how they work things out in their end, what matters for you is that you get as much recommendations as you possibly can because it WILL affect search results one way or another. Just don’t go around trying to game the system, because that is exactly what skews search results and makes the internet such a noisy place. And if that’s not reason enough for you, just remember that Google is also working on finding ways to catch spammers, so your “hard work” in getting illegitimate +1s now could back fire big time later.