Google Introduces +1 Button
Bookassist's Ciarán Rowe shows how Google's new +1 feature is taking on Facebook's popular "Like" function with big implications for search.
Google has recently introduced a new feature called the “+1” button, which allows users to recommend a website in the search results page. This recommendation will be visible to members of that person's Google Contacts - i.e. contacts from Gmail, Buzz and Reader etc. To see who you are connected to, check the Google Dashboard (https://www.google.com/dashboard/ ). It is likely that at some stage in the future this will expand to include your entire social circle, using non-Google sites such as Twitter.
The +1 feature is being rolled out slowly, so may not be visible to all users immediately. You can sign up for the experimental version here: http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html
Once you are signed in, you can see +1 in action: go to google.com and enter your chosen search term. The results page will look like this, with a small +1 link beside each entry.
If you decide to recommend the page by clicking on the +1 button, you will see a new line appear as below - this also offers the opportunity to undo the click. You will be able to see all the +1s that you have created in a new +1 tab in your Google profile page:
￼Google's version of "Like"?
The second phase of the new rollout is that the +1 buttons will be made available to website owners, so that they can add the button to their website similar to a Facebook ‘Like’ button. This is likely to be a much more useful service than adding the button to the search engine results page. In order to “+1” a page in the search results, a user would need to visit the website to decide if they want to recommend it, and then go back to the results page to “+1” it, which is unlikely to happen very often, as it involves extra effort for no reward. However, once the button is added to the website pages, it is very easy for a user to recommend the page by clicking on the ”+1” button. It will probably be a few more months before the button is available for websites, but you can sign up to be notified of the launch here: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/plusonesignup/
The benefits of the new button are twofold - for the searchers, they can see recommendations made by their friends, which would carry more weight than recommendations from strangers, and therefore help them in the decision making process. For the website owner, having recommendations displayed beside your search engine listings (both paid ads and natural) gives them more emphasis and encourages users to click through.
An example of a PPC ad that has had the website it leads to recommended would look like the following:
The message is clear and makes it more likely that the user will click on the ad based on their friends’ recommendation.
Apart from the visible effects of the recommendations, they also carry some weight behind the scenes. There is some speculation that +1’s could become the new pagerank, which is Googles view of the importance of a webpage. A large portion of pagerank is based on the number of incoming links a page has, but this is easily abused, as links can be bought and sites can be spammed. So if each incoming link is considered a vote, then a +1 is an even better marker, as friends are less likely to spam each other. Google’s perspective on this issue is:
“Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1's, as with any new ranking signal, we'll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”
So in conclusion, what can a site owner do about about the new +1 buttons?
The presence of the buttons beside your site listings in Google search (ads & organic), is automatic, so there is nothing that can be done about that. When the facility to add a +1 button to your website becomes available, ensure that you do so.
Above all, encourage people to recommend your website by providing useful, relevant & interesting content that people would be happy to share with their friends.
Ciarán Rowe is Senior Search Strategist at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.