Google+ the New PageRank?
Let me start off by being very clear. Google is not getting rid of PageRank in favour of the +1 button. Google is, however, looking at the data from the +1 button as a signal of content quality, and +1s will no doubt continue to be largely coveted by webmasters and content creators web-wide.
It's been pretty clear since Google first announced the +1 button (even before they announced Google+) that the feature was designed to send Google signals for quality content. It was essentially billed as a way for web users to tell Google when a piece of content is good enough to be a good search result.
"Google will study the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results," a Google spokesperson is quoted as saying. "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."
Of course it is unwise to place too much emphasis on just a single ranking signal. At least that's what Google would have webmasters believe. They're tossing around very similar language with regard to the +1 button ranking as they historically have when people worry about PageRank too much: "There are more than 200 signals that we use to determine the rank of a website, and last year we made more than 500 improvements to the algorithm."
Just as you've seen plenty trying to boost their PageRank through black hat tactics, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that these same people will try to exploit the +1 button. A major weapon against this that Google has is its strict Google+ account name policy, which has been a bit controversial thus far.
It became clear in recent days that Google+ is all about identity as far as Google is concerned. While this makes sense for a variety of reasons (including the potential integration of Google+ with products like Google Wallet), it also makes a great deal of sense in that it shows Google exactly who is +1ing what, which should in turn help them enforce any policy (current or future) concerning abuse of the button for gaming search.
We’ll keep you posted on Google+ in the future.
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