by Chris Horton
If there wasn’t enough to worry about with Google’s Social Search project that has been looming about in various pieces for a while now, Google just announced that it will be launching Google +1. Essentially this gives the searcher an opportunity (when logged in) to click a +1 button next to a search result. This will then show websites that people +1’d in your network and also sites that they have themselves +1’d previously. Not only do the organic search results get this +1 attention, but so do the paid listings. Advertisers should start freaking out…..now.
Exactly how this new +1 feature will possibly skew results, if any, is unknown. One would assume that if a site is neck and neck with a competitor, but one has more +1 votes, it just may be an algorithm attribute taken into consideration to push a site into the higher slot. If it’s not going to be used that way, then what’s the point? This was Google’s answer to the Facebook Like button, but there is also an upcoming feature that will allow webmasters to incorporate the +1 button onto their website as well. Will that functionality pull the +1 data from the SERP’s and input them there and vice versa? Will a click on the website +1 button add a “vote” to the SERP listing?
The ad part is the most disconcerting and especially for new advertisers that don’t have any established votes. You can see what a site that has received multiple votes looks like on this new report from Search Engine Land that covers this new feature in somewhat good detail, but it raises more questions than it answers. While it’s understood what it’s supposed to do and why it’s there when looked at in comparison to the Facebook Like button, what it doesn’t explain is exactly how Google plans to use the +1 feature. Will it be used as part of their algorithm, even if very minutely? Will it have an effect on Adwords or factored in as part of the Google Quality Score? How much of a frenzy will it create when CTR’s start taking a dramatic upward spike due to “accidental” click-throughs?
Regardless of how you feel, it’s coming and is being pushed out in waves. If you don’t see it in your results, but want to take part of this experiment, head over to http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html and opt in. SEO experts should probably consider clicking on their client websites sooner rather than later to get the jump on competition. How skewed can this data get and how will they monitor these “votes” for legitimacy? Or will it be yet one more back alley tactic that black hats will start using somehow to their advantage. Since we don’t yet know the full implication, all we can do is start clicking as much as possible because it will be used. We just don’t know for what or even why.