Why Google's New +1 Isn't Game-Changer
Google Buzz. Google Wave. Google Knol. And now, Google +1.
The latest attempt by Google to integrate social sharing into search results has sent search marketers scurrying for answers on how the new +1 button will affect everything from organic search rankings to bids and quality score in Google AdWords. But have no fear, because like the aforementioned Google platforms, I don't see Google +1 being any sort of game-changer.
What IS The Google +1 Button?
Google launched the +1 button last week as Google's answer to the Facebook "like" button. Essentially, Google wanted to offer a way, like Facebook, for friends to recommend results to their friends. You can learn all about Google +1 at Google's official page, here.
No One "Likes" Ads. Not Even in Facebook.
I never click "like" for an ad in Facebook -- do you? If I like the ad, I simply click on it to see the offer. I never have really seen the point on the like button on Facebook ads. In fact, I suspect that so few people actually take the time to "like" an ad that it may be why Facebook added Sponsored Stories recently.
Google is, however, adding the +1 button to all ads. Danny Sullivan reported that Google told him that they had shown that click-through rates increase for ads with the +1 button. However, Google isn't giving advertisers a way to turn off the +1 button, which may frustrate advertisers who don't like the new addition.
The question here remains how +1 will affect ad Quality Score, and thus, cost per click and ad position. At this point, Google says that +1 will not affect Quality Score, thankfully. So at this point, I think there's little for advertisers to be concerned about, but definitely keep an eye on how +1 will be used in advertising in the future.
What About Organic? Will +1 Affect Rankings?
For SEOs, the biggest question has to be if Google +1 will become part of the ranking algorithm. Google +1 is based on personalized settings; in other words, you need to be logged in to see +1 results. Why? Similar to how Google's Social Search currently works, showing your friends recommended results within the organic results, +1 will do the same.
To use Google +1, you'll need a Google Profile. That's because Google uses the profile as a way to tie together your social circle, to understand who you are friends with on various networks.
Currently in Google Social Search, certain organic results can be promoted in rank when you're logged into your Google account and your social friends have promoted a website through Twitter and other means. However, log out of your Google account, and these promoted results can disappear completely. In one case when I was logged in to Google, I had a result from a friend's blog appear at position eight in organic results -- but disappear from the top 100 results when I was logged out.
I think Google is relying on +1 similarly to how it has used Twitter and other social networks in Social Search results to try to provide more relevant results to searchers, the theory being that searchers will naturally be more attracted to results that also interest their friends. Google +1 simply becomes an extension of that.
Google Isn't Facebook. Deal with It, Google.
The other day someone described Google to me as "demand fulfillment," while Facebook is a "demand generation" tool. I thought that was an excellent analogy. Ths reminded me of my recent search for a new vacuum cleaner. I asked my friends on Facebook for a vacuum cleaner recommendation, and within an hour I had 20 comments, all recommending the Dyson. Demand generation.
However, Facebook often does a poor job of converting that type of discussion into a meaningful call to action. There were no Dyson ads appearing on my Facebook page. Thus, I turn to Google. Well, in reality, I turned to my local Target store. I scanned the barcode on the Dyson I wanted, which searched Google Shopping, and gave me the lowest price on the Dyson it could find. Demand fulfillment.
Facebook serves a different audience need than Google -- and really, that's just fine. In order to truly be a social network like Facebook, Google will need be BE like Facebook, integrating all of the pieces like social sharing, photo sharing, and more, into one interface. While Google has many of the pieces, it's done a poor job of bringing them together. And why? People have traditionally used Google for demand fulfillment, so it's going to be tough to change that mindset now.
The bottom line is that search marketers need to watch Google +1 very carefully moving forward. Do I personally believe it will stick around? Not really. I don't think it will have a powerful impact on search marketers at this point, but that could certainly change if +1 becomes a part of integral elements of search, like Quality Score for ads or a ranking factor for organic. While I think Google +1 deserves the attention of search marketers, I don't think it will be a game-changer at this point.