Google Goes Social with +1

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At the end of last week Google announced that it would be rolling out the new +1 feature on the UK search engine, in an attempt to make search results more personalised and more importantly more social.

The new feature will add a +1 button to the side of natural and paid search results, which will work similarly to the Facebook Like button. As Google put it, you can “Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1’s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.”

So by giving something a +1 you will be promoting it and affecting its position in not only your own personal rankings but in those of your close connections and search as a whole. There is the potential then, for this to have a big impact for SEO and natural rankings.

The impact on SEO
This new +1 feature definitely plays into what appears to be a new social heavy strategy by Google, with Tweets and Facebook likes appearing to have a greater and greater impact on indexation of pages and site rankings.

This new feature also seems to continue the approach of the new Panda update that removed a lot of mass, ‘farmer’ content from Google and the new Blocked feature that allows users to block, what they consider to be, rubbish low value domains from their search results ( a kind of -1).

All in all then this could really change the nature of how websites optimise for Google, with a heavier shift towards social. What’s more, if, as many suspect, Google do purchase Twitter in the coming weeks, then, given the data they will have at their finger tips, a shift to social does make sense.

Problems with +1
However, although +1 does have the potential to make Google much more personalised and social, it is still likely to face one or two teething problems.

For example, if your search results are based on your Tweets, Facebook Likes and +1, what about the people not on these social networks? They exist too! Is it reasonable to base these people’s searches on user behaviour in a sector they take no part in and have no interest in?

Another point is that although this sounds like a great idea, it may just not ever happen. Currently there is no +1 button that people can add to their sites (like the Tweet and Like buttons) which means you have to +1 it in the search results.

Now, if you haven’t been on the site before you won’t know if you want to +1 it. So, this means going onto the site, deciding you like it and then bouncing back off it to +1 it. For some reason, I can’t imagine people taking the time or changing their search behaviour to do this.

If Google +1 works and takes off it could create the biggest social network we have ever seen, trumping both Twitter and Facebook, and completely revolutionise search results.

However, it may well be that we are not yet at the peak of social and that people, on mass, won’t really adapt their search behaviour towards the +1 for a few years.