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Google +1 = Facebook Like + Twitter RT

On the 30th March, Google announced yet another foray into the social side of the web with the Google +1 button. The Google +1 button is a simple way for people to share and receive website recommendations, “right when you want them” in the search results page.

Below I take a look at the potential implications:

+1 and Paid Search

Google +1 won’t just be coming to Natural Search results but Paid Search ads too. +1ing a search result or on any publisher will impact the way the Paid ad is displayed. Advertisers can opt out using this form but Christian Oestlien, Google’s Group Product Manager for Ads, told SearchEngineLand how the +1 had the potential to significantly increase click through rates (CTRs) from Paid results.

A more Social Google

Google states “relevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships”. Google +1 is yet another stage of evolution of Google to a more social experience. The recent Social Search update has seen an increase in the number of results ranking based on things your friends in your social circle have shared on Twitter, Flickr and other sites. If your logged into your Google account you can see what Google knows about your social circle based on your contacts and connected accounts.

The Impact of +1 on Search

Google is emphasising right from the start that this is going to influence search results as Tom Critchlow identified in the type of language being used by Google around the launch of +1. Currently you need to have a Google account and be logged in. This already is a limitation to the impact the +1 will have at least initially with Google looking to take capitalise on the approximately 170 million Gmail users. This is however far less than Facebook’s 500 million active users.

Our very own Lucy Freeborn sums up the struggle facing Google

“My main thoughts on it are that, even for Google, it’s fairly ambitious. As Facebook’s like button is universal it’s going to be quite difficult to get people to use another button that, in principle, does exactly the same thing. Also, almost everyone has a Facebook account that they log into everyday where as far less people have a Google account and not everyone is logged into their Google account all the time. As +1 will only work when you’re logged into your Google account I think this could be a big issue for Google.”

If you are not logged in and you click the +1 button, you won’t be able to recommend (you’ll be asked to sign up or login). However, without a Google profile you may still be subject to the influence of the +1. On Google’s official +1 post:

And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop.

So even if other peoples +1s don’t affect rankings when your logged out (which I would expect they will) CTRs will potentially see a similar boost as is expected with the Paid Search ads.

+1 and Spam

A lot of comments around the launch of +1 have been about how easy it will be for people to manipulate. However, the nature of the Social Circle means Google has a lot of information from your connected accounts to help confirm your humanness making it potentially very hard to game.

What to do next?

Be prepared, get ready to add +1 buttons to products, blog posts etc. think about how they might best fit into your site design. There aren’t any

Currently only a small number of searchers on Google.com in the US will be able to see the +1 buttons automatically, but if you’re keen for an early preview you can enable it in Google experimental search. Just make sure your on Google.com for the moment.

Depending on whether Google is willing to share statistics related to users there is potentially a huge amount of demographic data available. Google has hinted at this in its Privacy Policy:

“We may share aggregate statistics related to users’ +1 activity with the public, our users, and partners, such as publishers, advertisers, or connected sites. For example, we may tell a publisher that “10% of the people who +1’d this page are in Tacoma, Washington.”

It’s still early stages and it’s very hard to guess the uptake of +1. Google has historically struggled with its attempts at being social so far (remember Google Wave and Buzz?)

At the moment it’s a wait and see.

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