Google + Social / Google +1

Google’s latest foray into adding a layer of social media on top of their existing search algorithm is an interesting one. It’s also likely to be colossally important – it will just take a little while.

Google +1 is essentially a like button.  Logged in users will see a greyed out version of the +1 logo next to search results, and have the option to click it to vote for specific results in the SERP as being more appropriate to them than the others.

Google +1 Button
Google +1 Button

The thing is…

If I’m still on Google’s search page, how do I know that the result is relevant to me, or indeed the most relevant  result for me at any given time?  Why would I vote for something I haven’t seen, and if I have seen a result that was right for me, why would I need to go back to the search results in order to vote for it.  I’m done with that search, I don’t owe the people behind me anything, and I’m not necessarily going to bother voting.

So, is this just another Google social dead end like favourites, SideWiki, Buzz, Wave, <INSERT FAILED GOOGLE SOCIAL ATTEMPT HERE>?

Well, no.

Google +1 is never just going to be about the SERP.  It’s intended to rival the social graph that’s being built by Facebook.  Google want every website owner to know that user feedback matters to rankings, and that without  the +1 button on their website, they won’t be getting any.

Will my SEO clients be getting an email this week recommending that they add the Google +1 button to every page on their website?


They’ll be getting an email telling them that providing the best possible user experience is a pre-requisite for getting people to vote for you.

Simply adding a like / +1 button doesn’t guarantee that people will click on it.  just think about the number of results for “why isn’t there a dislike button in Facebook” – 3.8 million!

And the Data…

Not every website uses Google Analytics (GA)  for tracking, but Google would love to have data about the usage of the ones they don’t currently know about.  Depending on how the Google +1 button is implemented,  Google might be able to track usage stats on non GA websites to the same extent that they do on GA tracked websites.  Using an iFrame like Facebook do for Connect would mean that Google could collect all kinds of data about your users:

  • What search term referred a visitor
  • What % of people who visited the website for each referring term clicked the Google +1 button
  • What % of people who visit the website overall click +1
  • How long people spend on the website
  • What referring keywords result in the longest visits / deepest exploration of the website

There is always a trade-off with Google.  The more you give them, the more they give you.  Sites that are well liked within a particular social grouping will probably be given a boost for similar demographics that Google can recognise, and provided that people don’t start to subvert the system immediately (which they will), Google +1 will give them a strong and subjective indicator of what is good for a particular person at a particular time.

But…  As I wrote above, there is no point in simply adding a Google +1 button to your website without first understanding whether you are the kind of site that deserves to be liked.

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