Google’s +1 — hit or miss?

June 21st, 2011

On June 1 2011, Google released the +1 Button for the whole web. In its official blog, Google writes, “+1—the digital shorthand for ‘this is pretty cool.’ To recommend something, all you have to do is click +1 on a webpage or ad you find useful. These +1’s will then start appearing in Google’s search results.”

This should be seen as a social recommender built-into web and search, sort of a cross between Facebook Like (which only shows up in Facebook) and Social Bookmarkers such as Digg, Delicious etc (which only shows up in their respective systems). Google’s +1 would be deeper integrated in web and search, making it more universal. So far so good.

But Google’s latest social feature, similar to Facebook’s ‘like’ button, will only work for Google if it can manage to import data from Facebook, Twitter and similar sites, into the individuals’ Google Profile thereby making Google, the gatekeeper of social interactions.

While there is probably a need for this as there are too many points of interaction – SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, Messenger, etc, we do know that Facebook has made it fairly clear to allow Google to access data it holds.

+1 could work for advertisers online. Let’s say you’re a big Google AdWords advertiser. You pay 25 cents a click. Now you start using +1 and your users drive up your ranking for all the keywords you are relevant for. This way your noticeability goes up and drives more organic clicks. So you pay less as your organic SEO is improved (non-paid traffic) and your ads convert better (paid traffic that converts better is cheaper in the AdWords algorithm).

In short, with +1 the ability for users to recommend paid search ads to their friends will potentially increase CTRs and thus lower overall advertiser costs. Currently, every user now sees different ads based on their search history whether they are signed in or not, but this is now a step further into personalising the ads a user sees.

Another plus for Google is that it owns search engine referral traffic, which is the primary traffic driver for websites. So if +1 recommendations can influence your page rank then its a wise thing to have on your website.

What I am wondering is that since ‘Like’ and ‘Tweet’ buttons have been around much longer, it is only natural that they have cultivated their follower habits. So will we take to another social sharing tool? And really, will we have the faith to try +1 out after the dismal social tools –Wave, Buzz etc — that Google dished out earlier?

Of course it might be too early to write off +1 Button. But given the string of failed attempts from Google in social media, there’s always going to be skepticism. And the odd thing with social media is that trying too hard is not quite cool. And if you are not quite cool, you can’t tell people “this is pretty cool”.

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