Search giant Google recently released another product, known as ‘+1’, aimed at mimicking the concept behind Facebook’s Like button and Twitter’s ‘retweet’ button. The idea is that users will click the Google ‘+1’ button to signal to other users in their social spheres that they like the content of a particular page shown in Google’s organic and paid search results. It is thought that this will make search more personalized as users will be able to see the number of times a page was ‘+1’ed’ (or ‘+1’d) and by whom. The more ‘+1s’ a result or ad receives the more relevant Google believes it is.
However, with the recent failures of Google Buzz and Google Wave in mind, many marketers may feel that this is just another failed attempt by Google to compete in the social media realm. Is it? Here’s what we think…
Google +1: Blending Search and Social
The concept behind Google’s +1 program is to blend its unrivaled search capabilities with the social leanings of “Web 2.0.” Rather than trying to compete with a site like Facebook on its own terms as it did with Orkut and Buzz, instead it is merely adding a social dimension to users’ search experience. All users have to do is click a button, and they will broadcast what sorts of sites they like to other users in their social spheres. This means that two people with different friend networks will receive different recommendations on a similar search.
For instance, a housewife searching for “summer vacation hotspots” might find a completely different set of top links than a college student’s search for the same term, simply because they spend time in different circles. Google Product Manager Rob Spiro said in a statement that, “relevance is about relationships as well as words on webpages,” and that Google’s +1 was designed to further its goal of providing the most relevant search results.
However, as with anything good, there are those who will most assuredly abuse this feature in an attempt to spam unsuspecting users. Our hope and guess is that Google is aware of this and will put measures in place to limit spamming.
Adwords and Google +1
Not only will Google +1 blend organic search results with social inputs, it will also extend to Google’s Adwords pay-per-click advertising program. This will (hopefully) provide a powerful new level of advertisement for Internet developers to exploit. Social networking has already proven to be a powerful tool for promoting business. If anything, Google Adwords’ adoption of +1 social media technology will only further the trend, providing a new method to convince individuals to invest in a particular brand.
Word-of-mouth advertising is among the most powerful methods that exist – +1 on Google Adwords helps to automate word-of-mouth advertising, so potential customers can easily see who among their friends has also invested in their products.
This said it is quite possible that ‘+1’ may carry more weight in SEO than PPC simply because +1 will not be a part of Google’s PPC quality score algorithm (yet?). Only time will tell how it evolves.
How Google +1 Works for Adwords: Landing Page URLs
Another factor is that coding for +1 gives a rating to each individual landing page URL. It even goes as far as distinguishing between URLs with dynamic tracking parameters. Since most websites track user visits through URL code after the page location, this means that for anyone using parameters, the +1 credit will be shared among each parameter even though it relates to the same landing page. Thankfully, there is a fix for this problem. It is called canonicalization and consists of a single line (meta tag) included in the head section of every page. This will tell Google that even though there may be many versions of this main URL with different parameters that all the credit should go to the base page.
The Future of +1: Blended Search and Social
Many businesses and developers are considering Google’s +1 button with mixed feelings, and few can predict how it will ultimately work out. Based on current trends though, we can bet that Google’s +1 probably won’t replace Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. At best it will find a spot next to ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ and the ever constant ‘Email’.
Revolutionary or not, it’s a smart move for advertisers and developers to stay on top of this new search technology. By embracing this new development and staying on top of search campaigns in light of the +1 button, we can be ahead of the curve when (if) it catches on with the masses and becomes a very powerful way to influence search results. Think of it this way -What do you have to lose if it flops vs what you have to gain if it takes off.
Sure there are many arguments both for and against blending search and social. Our take on it is that there will always be naysayers no matter how much evidence there is in support of it. But that is our take, what do you think? Will it be embraced by the masses or will it fizzle out and be rejected? Are you ready to implement Google +1? Post your thoughts below!