Yesterday, Google announced a new feature for both its search engine and site owners (in the near future). You’ve likely heard of it: Google +1, which is a small button on search engine results (and websites, down the road). It is roughly analagous to Facebook’s like button and is being characterized as Google’s latest attempt to “get social” — in both senses of the phrase.
Whether it will be a long-term success remains to be seen but I personally think it is interesting. I thought it would be useful to summarize my thoughts on this new feature and provide some insight on what it could mean for website owners, our primary customers.
How to get it
The effect on landing pages
The URL for a site that is +1ed on an organic link will also benefit in the paid search ads, if that same URL is used as the destination URL in an AdWords campaign.
Specifically, if one of your URLs gets a lot of +1s from its organic listing, then there is a natural incentive to use that URL as a destination URL in your ads.
This may be an attempt to push people away from using ad specific landing pages and focus on content that is narrowly optimized to paid campaigns that you run. If you can increase your quality score by optimizing the same content for both paid and organic search, it could get very interesting indeed. Google does, however, plan to cluster URLs in the future so that there won’t be an exact match requirement.
This also means that if you are running paid search ads on AdWords, there are real incentives for you to try to get your users to plus your pages. Even if you’re not running paid search campaigns, there are obvious benefits in organic search so having people plus your pages will be a big deal. What will be interesting is to see, when you have a Twitter button, a Facebook like button and a Google +1 button, is which one gets the most clicks and which one site owners value most. Definitely something to pay attention to.
Expanding uses for Google Profiles
Only users with Google profiles are able to +1. This may be an attempt on Google’s behalf to get more users to create their own profiles but to be honest, most of the incentives around +1 today exist primarily for site owners, not searchers. To get an early indicator of how this may play out, look at Google Buzz numbers vs. Retweets. The winner is clear in that race.
How will this affect analytics?
According to Danny Sullivan’s excellent summary, stats around +1s will start to show up in Google Webmaster Central (for organic listings only). Presumably, +1s on ads will show up in the AdWords interface (one would hope). If +1 gains traction, it will start to have an impact on how campaigns are organized and optimized.
Will this be game-able?
The first thing one should ask about anything on the internet is how could one game it to their own advantage. The default answer is almost always yes, although how may not be entirely clear yet.
The requirement for a Google Profile is ostensibly a barrier. One of the first things you can expect to see however, is mass experimentation around website owners getting people to plus their results in the organic listings to monitor its overall impact on their position.
Site owners will also be looking for ways to get people to +1 their site because of the effect it can have in both paid and organic performance. This is actually a pretty distinct advantage Google might gain over the like button because the amount of money being spent on search (both paid and organic) currently still dwarfs the amount spent on social media marketing. (Though don’t discount the discussions going on behind closed doors between Facebook and Microsoft (Bing)).
Where is this all going? Personalization
Despite its growing presence in our daily lives, one of the least talked-about, most important trends in online marketing and media today is the expansion of personalization. Within just a few years, internet users are going to expect highly personalized experiences with their brands, videos, games, websites, shopping, and yes, searches.
We are still in the infancy of social networking and social itself is a key signal that platform providers will use to personalize user experiences. Pay attention to this trend.