Is Google’s +1 Search Results Feature Useful for Marketers?

March 31, 2011


Yesterday Google announced their +1 SERP ranking feature. This is Google’s attempt to be social…again, allowing searchers to share their “+1s” with their friends. I, for one, hope this is the beginning of them turning the tide when it comes to having a social angle with long-term traction. The question is, given past attempts with Google Wave, Google Buzz, and others, is +1 something that marketers should be looking at?  In this post you’ll learn how the feature works, why it could win, and why it could join the bucket of failed social attempts by the bright minds at Google.

Is Google’s +1 Search Results Feature Useful for Marketers?

How does it work? After performing a search, the result page has a “+1” option on the right hand side of each result listed. Here’s a screenshot.

Why? This feature the answer to the Facebook “Like” button (as seen at the top of this post). This gives searchers the ability to indicate they found the result useful, and that information shared with friends who see the same search result. So far so good.

The first time I selected the button, I was prompted with this popup window (account info in upper right blacked out).

After selecting “Confirm and +1” the box was dismissed, and back on the search results page. I never saw this popup on subsequent +1s.

First, The Good with +1 – Why It Could Win

Data. Facebook has the best profile data on the Internet. The “Like” button has been a key component to gathering profile data. Google needs such data, and so +1 appears to serve that purpose. A searcher who ranks a result offers more value to Google, and ostensibly to Google users (friends), than searchers who do not.

With this data Google can build more relevance in search results, and provide more value to site owners who place the +1 button on their site as well as AdWords advertisers.

Now, the Potential Problems

Not Intuitive. Reflecting on Facebook, the “Like” button is intuitive. It does not require much explaining. My concern with +1 is that it doesn’t clearly translate to “this is pretty cool”. It has the potential to create confusion. What is this button for? Beyond that, how will people communicate this function? Saying I “Liked” it, or will you “Like” my page is fairly straight forward,and probably already updated in an official dictionary somewhere, but +1? “Will you +1 my site, article, post?”

The Forgotten Button. Site owners might +1 their site, but will searchers? Afterall, a searcher clicks a search result, that they like and move on to the next thing. Will they hit the back button and click +1?

Google Account Required. It is necessary for searchers to have a Google account and be logged in so they can use the +1 feature. This could work well for Google by training searchers to always be logged into their account, something Facebook has done well, but it will initially slow down the experience for searchers, and may create frustration.

It’s still early, and likely part of a greater social strategy Google may roll out in coming months. Too early to tell. That said, as with anything Google does, marketers do well to pay attention. In fact, you may just see a +1 button on this site in the near future.

What about you? See yourself using +1 feature long-term, or do you see it going the way of Google Wave, and Buzz in your regular web routines? Looking forward to your feedback in the comment boxes below.

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About Travis Campbell

Husband. Dad. Marketing automator. Author. Educating and coaching others in their online business endeavors. Here's his Google profile.

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19 Responses to “Is Google’s +1 Search Results Feature Useful for Marketers?”

  1. Jacob Says:

    Very interesting. For me, I’ll be watching what others do and if this gets any traction. I do think Google will get it right eventually.


  2. Ron Says:

    I wonder what advertisers will think of this feature on Ads??


    • @steveplunkett Says:

      From what I have seen the biggest opportunity for abuse and manipulation using “+1” will be in Paid search and display if they add the “+1” to it.


      • Travis Campbell Says:

        I think it has the same snags mentioned above as the SERP pages. What’s unclear is how Google will actually use the AdWords +1 data to serve ads, and how they will respond to abuses.


  3. @steveplunkett Says:

    ME thinks it’s not the “+1” that will make a difference in Google but the “-1” once it is installed.


  4. Sebastian Says:

    My only concern is how many +1s you will be able to get on fiverr for $5. I guess something like 200 over the course of one week, because it must seem natural, so the numbers will be lower. Hmm… good idea for a new service to start………..


  5. Edna Says:

    Very interesting post Travis, thank you!


  6. Pioneer5010 Says:

    All I can say is if they go through with this let the bot building begin!

    Will be such a shame to make it easier for spam sites to automate authority.


  7. Peter L Masters MCIM Says:

    A great post and right on the button! (no pun intended) So Google copies Facebook but doesn’t do it that well! I’ve signed up to your newsletter, Tweeted and added this to Facebook and joined you on Google. I like this Blog already Travis, thanks, Peter


    • Travis Campbell Says:

      Welcome aboard Peter. Indeed, I’m just wondering why they don’t go for consistency with their YouTube property, and go for thumbs up. +1=not intuitive. Won’t be surprised if there are more announcements from them in advance of Google I/O in May.


  8. APetsWorld Says:

    One problem: Google +1 doesn’t work with all browsers as I quickly discovered.


  9. Arcanysj Says:

    A nice presentation of arguments. As for the record, I really can’t foresee how these +1 would user view these feature as well the effects in algorithm, its too early to say so. Nevertheless I’m looking forward for any updates about this one.



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