+1…more time for Google

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Nasser Sahlool

Google hasn’t had an easy ride in the social space. Google Wave and Google Buzz were both false starts. There has been speculation recently as to how Google was finally going to crack social media. Today they fired their latest salvo in the race; +1. As with any of Google’s most successful offerings, what works in its favour is its simplicity. It works in the same way as the Facebook ‘Like’ button. Starting today, in limited search results in English in the US, you will see a +1 symbol next to the search results. Click on it and it lights up. In effect, it is an endorsement. If you have a Google account, then your connections that also have Google accounts will see that you +1’d the listing. Even if you don’t have a Google account, you can see how many people have +1’d a given listing (although you won’t be able to see who has +1’d the listing). This should tell you that a given listing (or for that matter an AdWords ad) is a quality listing and encourage you to click on it.

This all seems like a smart, obvious and unobtrusive way for Google to begin to have an impact on social media, but there are a couple of pretty obvious questions around this: Why would I +1 a listing before I click on it? Or am I expected as a user to click a listing, read it, then return to Google and +1 it? This is going to be somewhat… limiting.

Assuming this is going to have an impact on SEO (more on this in a moment), how long before we have an army of outsourced +1ers in India furiously recommending results in an effort to game the system?

When Google rolls out the +1 button in the same way as the Facebook ‘like’ button, allowing the user to +1 content from a webpage as opposed to doing it in Google, it will overcome the first issue. This is just a matter of time. As for the impact on SEO (and click through rates on AdWords campaigns), there is no doubt that the impact is likely to be significant. The more endorsements a listing has, the more likely it is to be clicked. The more visits a site receives as a result, the higher it is likely to rank.

Regardless of how +1 plays out, it is just another reminder of how serious Google is about succeeding in social media and further underlines the need for digital marketers to integrate a social strategy into a wider search campaign.

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