Monday, June 25, 2012

Google Plus One Doesn't Add Up

Google launched its latest social tool called +1. Google +1 is "the digital shorthand for that's pretty cool", according to its announcement on its official blog.

The +1 service, enabled in your Google Profile, lets people annotate search results and ads so that they can publicly recommend web pages. The reach of this feature is not limited to friends or others in your social group: all +1's are publicly visible on your profile as well as visible in the result of a search. People viewing results see the number of Google users that recommend pages in the search results, plus the names and photos of people they know.

Google finds people you know through Gmail, chat contacts, and people others follow through Google Reader and Google Buzz. Google says it may include contacts from other social sites, like Twitter and Flickr, in the future. Google says it will not include information about your contacts from Facebook because Facebook information is not shared publicly on the internet.

The +1 service works right in the results page. You must be signed into your Google account and enable +1 before the service will work. When you search and find something you think will be useful to others, just click the +1 button that's next to the search result. The data that the +1 service collects gets shared in aggregate, so you'll see the number of other people that +1'd a result regardless whether those people are in your social network. Back in your Google profile, there is a new tab where you'll be able to view and edit all of the sites you +1'd, so you can delete +1s on sites you no longer like.

The +1 service extends to Google ads too. All ads have a +1 button next to them, and users can +1 them too. The clever aspect of +1 for ads relates to search results - if the advertiser's page comes up in search results Google will show you the number of +1s for the ad in addition to the +1s for the page itself.

The nice aspect of +1 is that it is relevant to what you're doing at the time: searching for something. While you have to do some work to share a link via Twitter - you have to post the link to your Twitter account and briefly mention what you're sharing - Google's +1 appears right in your search results. You just click the +1 button and you've shared your 'like' for a search result.

Google is slowly introducing +1, starting with its English language search at You can give it a spin right away - just login to your Google account, visit the Google Experimental Search Site ( and enable the +1 service.

A nice feature for advertisers, people that track their search results, and those interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is that +1 plays a role in Google's calculation of a site's organic search ranking. Google says, on their AdWords blog, "think of +1 buttons as an enhancement that can help already successful search campaigns perform even better". Google states that they're working on a +1 button for site pages, so that visitors to your site can recommend it without leaving your site.

What does not make sense about the +1 service is how people will use it. A search result is just that - a result. You don't know about the result's usefulness until after you see or use it. Is Google expecting you to go back to the search result page and click the +1 button after you find the page in the search result again? How many people would do that? In addition, tabbed browsers like FireFox, Internet Explorer and others make it easy to open multiple tabs from your search results - I would not go to the effort of going back to the search result page to +1 a result that I found helpful, assuming I can find it again. It's quicker, easier, and more reliable to share a link via Twitter instead.

While +1 is valuable in itself, I'm not sure that I agree with Google going through my social graph to figure out if someone in my group likes what I like. I know a lot of different types of people and don't see how someone I know in HR might be interested in things that I find useful.

Social search is quite possibly the next 'killer app' - stay tuned!

Erik Westermann is an article marketing expert that boosts web sites' search engine ranking with original, well-researched articles, press releases and blog posts.

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