A recent article suggests that Google will penalise websites that don't display the +1 button.

Derek Gordon's article on MediaPost delves into the recent mystery surrounding a Forbes technology reporter and a meeting she attended with a Google salesperson. The reporter wrote after the meeting that the man from Google had suggested a strong correlation between web publishers adding the Google +1 button to their pages and their position in search results. Unfortunately, this article is now missing, but Gordon has seen screenshots of it. A Google PR spokesperson commented:

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.

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