Google may be great at search engines but they have enjoyed mixed success in the social media sphere – the failure of Buzz a couple of years ago is a prime example. On the flip side, its purchase of YouTube has to be deemed a resounding success, although that should be tempered with the fact that the firm didn’t develop YouTube from scratch the way it attempted to do with Buzz and its other social media experiments. Regardless of its success-to-failure ratio, Google isn’t afraid to experiment and its this willingness to keep going back to the drawing board that will likely see it succeed sooner or later.
One of the applications that may stand the test of time is the new +1 feature, announced as a global experiment rather than a full-on launch. Google +1 is more like a bookmarking tool than a complete social network. The simple premise is that a +1 box appears next to a search result. Just like Facebook’s ‘Like’ function, if you like the page or want to save a link for future reference, you hit the +1 button.
To use +1, you’ll need to have a public Google profile. This is easy to set up even if you don’t currently use any of Google’s other online marketing tools such as Analytics. If you already do have a profile, it’ll be made public or deleted on July 31.
The mission statement of +1 is to allow others in your social circle to let you know “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out.” Clicking on a search listing with a +1 from someone you know is like having a personal recommendation from that person, making it easier to find things you’ll like as a consumer. You can control who sees your +1 activity via your profile.
Although those outside of your circle won’t see your +1s with your name attached, the general number of +1s per page will be shown. Having your +1s aired to the world in this way means that you also have the power to influence the success of your favorite sites. So, if there is a great local restaurant or bar you support, a wonderful hotel you stayed at or an airline you’d fly around the globe with, +1 gives you the opportunity to be a brand advocate for that particular website. +1 buttons are expected to be rolled out on websites across the internet as well as placed at the side of search results so you can +1 individual pages directly from the site itself much like you’d share them on Facebook or bookmark them.
So what does this mean for you as a search marketer?
A Google +1 rating doesn’t change your search ranking, but the more +1s you have, the more powerful the social recommendation attached to your site. The number of +1s you have received will display as a number in the search results, meaning the higher the number the better the chance you have of attracting interested traffic.
A higher number of +1 counts will generally mean the page is also interesting and useful as well as being popular, which is a good indication to you that you are serving your audience well. If your +1 hits stagnate, it could be a sign that you need to step up your ideas and add more dynamic content or fresh new information to the page. Using the +1 markers as a benchmark of popularity is a great addition to any online marketing measurement procedures you have as they function as a real time barometer of whether or not your changes are resonating with the very people you are trying to attract.
Even Google AdWords adverts can be +1, which is a truly unique feature of the new social tool. While the number of +1s you have won’t impact on the Quality Score of your advert, high numbers of +1s are likely to increase your clickthrough rate which WILL be beneficial to your quality score.
Google have said that +1 may be considered as a ranking factor in future. There’s a guest list feature on the Google +1 page which allows you to submit your website for inclusion when the +1 button is released for the web. Why not submit your site and start building up your credits as soon as possible? Visit https://services.google.com/fb/forms/plusonesignup/ to get started.