Google +1 Button on Search – Implications

Google’s latest innovation was announced earlier this week – the Google +1 button. This latest innovation is causing a bit of a storm in the industry because of the potential effects of Google’s latest amendment to their SERP’s (search engine results pages.)

Google Plus One Button

What is it all about?

The Google +1 Button is a button that appears next to natural and PPC advertisements in Google and allows users (who are logged into their Google accounts) to recommend websites to their friends via Google. It’s currently in beta test on in English  and here’s what the new ad’s will look like…

Google +1 Button for Search

For more information regarding the Google +1 Button you can view their video below…

What are the implications of the Google +1 Button?


For users:

Google is saying that the introduction of the +1 button will result in a better user experience, as users trust recommendations from their friends and, as such, will see more relevant PPC ads, and websites with more ‘approvals’ higher in the natural rankings. It is true to say that Google has been using data from social sites such as Twitter and Flickr as part of their organic ranking algorithm, and as such websites with big online followings show higher up in the rankings, as they are more popular and therefore deemed more relevant for users.

But is this actually true? There has already been talk in the industry about how advertisers will be able to take advantage of this in regards to organic rankings. It is possible that some advertisers will look to create Google accounts specifically to hit the +1 button in the hope to improve their natural rankings. It may also be the case that advertisers are all running around hitting the +1 button on their sites and their friends sites to improve their natural rankings…in a way a little bit similar to link exchanges between websites that help boost natural rankings.

What is not known is how much weighting Google’s natural algorithm will give to these +1 buttons as part of the overall makeup of its secret algorithm. But this latest innovation is definitely going to start to stir SEO agencies into action (authors note: Net Media Planet do not offer SEO as a service) and as such lead to websites appearing higher in the rankings, due to SEO’s agencies using the +1 button to improve their websites positions in Google’s organic listings. This could actually mean there would be a worse user experience for users…time will tell.

For Google:

Personally I think this is a good move by Google. The principle of using friends recommendations to highlight websites should in theory lead to better relevancy for users (aside from the point highlighted in the paragraph above.)  However, there may be something else at work going on here in the background…

Google has stated that it will not release its own social network to compete with Facebook, and after the issues they had around Google Buzz and the recent privacy audits by the FTC around violating its own privacy policy (for more information on this see NMA: Google to undergo privacy audits by FTC for the next 20 years) its easy to understand why they wouldn’t bring out a product that was a  direct competitor to Facebook. Yet, the introduction of the Google +1 button does mean that people will now take more notice of which friends they are connected to through their Google Accounts, which they can see  “Social Circle and Content” section on their Google Dashboard.

If more users start using the +1 button and want to share their recommendations with their friends via Google, then users may start giving Google more information on whom their friends are. This will inevitably keep users with Google rather than moving across to competitors such as Bing and Facebook. Google launched its social search product back in October 2009 which has had relatively little impact, but the +1 button puts Google in a stronger position to release more products which could tap into their information of users and their friends.

For Advertisers:

Google has stated that the +1 button will not have an effect on Quality Score for PPC advertisers. It is fair to say that it may have an effect on click-thru-rate (CTR) for PPC ads, as users are more likely to click on ads that have been recommended to them by their friends. As such PPC advertisers, and their agencies, will be closely monitoring their CTR rates of their ads to see what effect the +1 button has been. If they see detrimental effect, the question arises of what actions can be taken to improve the number of people hitting the +1 button on their ad’s. We could see PPC strategies promoting people to click on the +1 button in a similar way that advertisers currently are trying to have users ‘like’ their fan pages on Facebook.

Google has stated that the +1 button will be used as part of the algorithm that makes up the natural results rankings, which is going to have a knock on effect for websites and their SEO agencies. Advertisers and their agencies may look to try and artificially increase the number of recommendations a website is getting by activating new Google Accounts to help improve their overall rankings. It is unknown as yet what weighting Google’s algorithm will give to these +1 buttons, so I do not expect to see any immediate changes in the natural SERP’s, but it will be interesting to see how this latest development plays out.

In summary, it is fair to say that this +1 button has caused a stir in the industry, but how much of an effect it has will have to be seen. In principle the idea of friends recommendations for websites that appear in Google would be useful in providing more relevant results for users…but it remains to be seen that the +1 button will not be used to artifically  promote websites which will lead to a decrease in user experience.

For more information regarding the Google +1 Button you can visit the Google AdWords blog here.