June Newsletter: What You Need to Know About Google’s “+1”
Google’s “+1” (“plus one”) button was launched in Google’s results on March 30. It allows searchers to recommend a site that appears in either the paid or organic listings. (Here’s Google’s explanation, and here’s what we wrote the day after launch.) On June 1, Google made the +1 button available to be added to any web page, similar to Facebook’s “Like” button.
What Does +1 Mean to Marketers?
First, let’s look at the impact of the +1 button in the search engine results. From a purely visual standpoint, it’s desirable to have searchers click the button because the blue +1 button and the notation that someone in your social circle clicked on it help take up more room on the page and draw the searcher’s eye to your listing.
On the SEO (search engine optimization) side, Google has said that when a searcher clicks the +1 button, it prompts Google to recrawl the page, which ensures that the freshest copy of the page is in their index. More importantly, as we predicted in March, Google has stated that +1s may affect rankings: “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” (source).
On the PPC (pay-per-click) side, Google reports that while +1s will not affect Quality Score directly, they may indirectly because more searchers may click on your ad (due to the “taking up more room,” “drawing the searcher’s eye” and “credibility” factors cited above). A higher click-through rate will positively impact your Quality Score, potentially leading to more clicks and a lower cost per click (source).
People need to have a Google Profile and be signed into their account to click the +1 button and to see others’. Google knows quite a bit about those that are logged in, and they’re tying in +1 with demographic data and providing it to advertisers. Currently, geography, age and gender are available, and we predict more will be coming.
Marketers really can’t impact the use of +1 in the search engine results. You can’t turn it on or off; you can only create good content and ads, which should encourage more +1s.
+1 On Your Websites
On the flip side, you do have a choice as to whether or not to add the +1 button to your website, blog posts, or other content that you want to make more visible in the search engines. It may sound like a no-brainer to jump on the bandwagon and do so now.
But don’t do it – not yet, anyway. On June 7, one of our colleagues found that there are some bugs with the current version of the +1 button that cause sites to slow down…which, ironically, can negatively affect your organic search engine rankings. Here’s Bill Hartzer’s article. We’ve had an “off the record” conversation with someone at Google who reported that this is in the process of being fixed. We’re watching this closely and will notify our clients when it makes sense to implement +1 on their sites.
For You Cynics
Are there detractors of Google’s +1 out there? Of course! Some of the criticisms inc
- This will be easy for unethical people to “game.” (Perhaps, although there’s talk about Google considering each person and topic separately – for example, my +1 of a search marketing site may count for a lot more than my +1 of a site about chemical engineering.)
- It’s a ploy to get more people to set up Google Profiles.
- It’s a copycat of Facebook’s “Like” button but without the incentive of using it (no News Feed where my friends can see what I’ve liked). (Google would counter that it makes my recommendations more relevant because my friends can see them when they’re actively searching for something.)
- Now Google can blame any bad results pages on the public instead of their algorithm.
- It shouldn’t count if people click +1 on an organic or paid listing before they’ve clicked and visited the site.
The accuracy of this criticism remains to be seen. Regardless, smart marketers need to keep an eye on Google’s +1, as it has the potential to transform their search engine marketing results.
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