Google +1, a button for searchers to recommend a website, suddenly became important. As the biggest search engine by far, Google controls what websites are given priority over others in search result. Still, up until this point, Google had only used indirect means to rank websites. They didn’t have the sharing data that Facebook and Twitter have so they had to go on much less.

That’s no longer true. In fact, Google +1 is as direct as they come. And although Google +1 hasn’t be tied to search engine rankings just yet, it is just a matter of time until Google favors the websites that receive the most recommendations (in combination with other factors). The big news is that Google +1 buttons, like Facebook Like buttons, are now also available on websites in addition to being listed in the search results. Small businesses, like restaurants, should pay special attention as any advantage is search may be crucial to how close to the top of search results you are.

The brilliance of the Google +1 button is that it re-energizes the Google’s social media hopes while inevitably improving search. Still, for how smart the introduction of Google +1 was (though not very original), a major and valid objection was that a user had to go back to the search results page to endorse a website to click the +1 button. We return to search results when we find something we wouldn’t recommend, not what we would recommend. It was Google +1’s Achilles heal that crippled its potential. With +1 buttons appearing on websites, it becomes so much more natural to praise a site’s content.

Of course, don’t expect everything to shift overnight for Google. That’s because to use +1 you need a public Google profile, which is a step more involved than having a Gmail account. Essentially, you have to buy into Google’s social media campaign.

You may ask yourself why am I only talking about search when Google is claiming its true motive with Google +1 is in social media. Sure, Google +1 has social media potential just based on how all roads lead through their search engine, but as of yet, Google’s social media reach is minimal, and they can only envy Facebook’s rise. As Google is yet to commit to making +1 a major factor in search engine results (as far as anyone knows), sharing through social media is the only draw for users to participate. To induce webpage owners buy in, Google dangles the next logical step: that +1 is primed to influence search in a noticeable way.

We are with you . . . who needs the hassle of another button to fit on your home page. But a lot is riding on this. In even a greater way than Facebook, when the +1 starts to reward websites who have the button, it may be hard for latecomers to catch up unless there is a huge difference in the quality of content. Still, unless your only concern is search engines and you are after very competitive keywords, we feel that day is not here, so rushing to put up +1 buttons may be premature.

Over the long term, +1 will probably play out this way though. The ones with +1 receive the boost from +1 tallies and climb to the top of the organic search ranking, thus producing more traffic and the potential for even more clicks. Understandably, Google may develop ways to measure the percentage of users, but non-participation will make the algorithm blind to the value of the sites content and algorithm prefer larger data pools.

Knowing Google, I anticipate Google to hand over data in Google Analytics, thus allowing websites who use the button to measure how users perceive their content and change it accordingly (another way to lure websites into putting up the buttons). Google is out for content to improve. As a direct means of assessing what customers think, restaurants can see what works and what doesn’t. The question that remains is how fast and how much Google +1 will alter the landscape of the Internet in search and social media. We will surely update you when there is reliable data and a clear strategy to employ Google +1.