Forbes reports that Google Plus will be universal ranking signal...then pulls the article?

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Forbes reports that Google Plus will be universal ranking signal…then pulls the article?

In case you missed it, Forbes published an article this morning entitled “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Dies.” I saw the story mentioned on a tweet, but the link was broken. The title of the article was too enticing for me to forget about it, so I looked around for a cached copy. It wasn’t available on Google or other search engines, but I eventually got lucky and found it a Blekko cache.

Reporter Kashmir Hill, whose Forbes profile says she writes about the intersection of law, technology, social media and our personal information” for the “The Not-So Private Parts” blog, said she recently spent time with the Google ads team. She reported this from their conversations:

forbes-google-1

In case you can’t see the image, here’s an excerpt:

But a meeting with Google ad folks earlier this week made me realize that it’s going to be even bigger than that. Google is encouraging web publishers to start adding +1 buttons to their pages, and the message in this meeting was clear, “Put a Plus One button on your pages or your search traffic will suffer.”

She continued:

forbes-google-2a

Are you reading what I’m reading? Did “ad guys” from Google say—and someone from Forbes report—that social recommendations from contacts in Google circles will be a ranking factor, sure, but all “+1″‘d content will be a factor in all Google searches? Universally?

I have to read that again.

“The Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’ was the answer. “So if Forbes doesn’t put +1 buttons on its pages, it will suffer in search rankings?” I asked. Google guy says he wouldn’t phrase it that way, but basically yes.”

What is basically yes?

It sounds like Kashmir Hill wanted to be very clear on this point, too. Not surprisingly, the Google PR folks had a slightly different take.

forbes-google-2b

Let’s read that again: “Google will study the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results…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.”

Assuming that the Google “ad guys” were telling the unfiltered truth, and even if the spokesperson clarified things a bit, then this is a very big deal.

Why did Forbes pull the article?

Update 08/19/2011 11:10AM CST

Kashmir Hill is on Google+ and she publicly shared her Forbes post from her profile. She prefaced the post with:

Google +1s will be incorporated into search and not just the +1s from your friends. Google is encouraging publishers to add the +1 buttons to their pages, ostensibly to encourage social sharing, but the more important incentive from the publishing side — given that the Google Plus community is still small — is not to get punished in search results. Facebook has forced publishers’ hands in the past too, to add the Like button, but because of their huge customer base, not based on a crucial search tool. I wonder if there will be any pushback? It could be seen as the company using its dominance in search to force its social network on folks — in a passive and friendly way.

There were a few shares and plus ones for the post, and she did receive one comment, but she hasn’t replied to the comment or posted anything new (at least not publicly) since that post.

Kashmir Hill on Google+

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