Google's Last Minute Date to the Social Media Party: +1

In late March Google announced that they would be rolling out the next level of their integration with the social media world: +1. In a nutshell, this initiative, pronounced "plus one", is their version of the Facebook Like button.

If you haven't yet seen any changes to your Google search results page, don't be surprised. Currently this feature is still in testing mode, but you can sign up to use it on their Experimental Labs page. Once you've opted in, you have the ability to click on the +1 icon not only within search results, but also the paid search ads, signifying your personal stamp of approval on a link.


Since the explosion of Facebook, Google has been desperately trying to roll out a social media presence of their own, including at least two failed attempts with Orkut and Buzz. Buzz not only flopped but also landed them in a messy lawsuit for privacy concerns. Since the announcement of +1, there was a flood of publicity saying how it's going to be a huge deal, and that it's going to change the face of search advertising. Discussions abound that this will be a great way to combine Google's stellar algorithmic rankings with a human eye, making rankings even more relevant. Paid search experts have also been talking about how advertisers will need to change how they craft ad copy to not only encourage click-throughs, but also +1 votes.

My predictions? The integration within the search pages will have minimal impact on ranking, PPC advertisers, and above all Google's algorithm for three reasons:

  1. Spammers will inevitably find a way to "game" the +1 votes which will water the whole system down.
  2. Since the big announcement a month ago, there have been crickets. There has been no follow up dialogue, either positive or negative. I haven't even seen any +1 votes shown on popular industry terms, including "internet marketing," which you would think folks in the industry would be leaping over themselves to "like".
  3. Most importantly - this system relies on the execution of the +1 button before the user experience, not after. Most searchers will hit the back button if the result they clicked on did not give them the information the wanted, but how many would take the time to hit the back button after their search was successful to hit +1?

If +1 has any legs at all, it will get tossed in the social sharing pile, overshadowed by Facebook and Twitter, gathering dust.

By Lauren Pickens

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