Google +1 Button – 5 Questions Surrounding Its Potential Success

    April 26, 2011
    Chris Crum

Last month Google unveiled its new +1 button, which the company came right out and said would contribute as a ranking signal for its search engine. While it has yet to roll out to everyone (you can opt-in for it), the button has the potential to either be a huge win for Google (and search in general) or a huge bust.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the button, and the impact it will actually have.

Do you think the Google +1 Button will succeed or will it be another flop? Share your thoughts.

1. Will publishers adopt the button?

One of the reasons Facebook’s “like” button is so popular is because publishers all over the web post it on all of their content. It helps drive engagement among readers, and potential traffic as users share that content with their friends.

Google already offers the Buzz button, and it does appear on many content sites. It stands to reason that any site currently using the Buzz button will adopt the +1 button, as it should do essentially the same thing, while also contributing to search rankings. Why not use it? that leads us to the second question, but before we get to that, it’s also worth noting that the Buzz button is not nearly as omnipresent as the Facebook Like button. Do you see a Buzz button on individual athlete pages on How about on movie pages on IMDB? Product pages on eBay? Again, the search implications may still encourage sites like these to adopt the +1 button.

The Like Button on ESPN 

The Like Button on IMDB

The Like Button on eBay

2. If they do adopt it, where will Buzz fit in?

If sites adopt the +1 button, you have to wonder how many will continue to use the Buzz button as well. Both buttons will post content to the user’s profile page. One will have the advantage of contributing to search rankings. Content sites are getting cluttered with social buttons as it is. How many will use both Google buttons? For that matter, how many current Buzz users will use both services? Is this the beginning of the end for Google Buzz? (Note: Facebook has a new “send” button as well, expect to see both this and the “like” button on a lot of sites).

Google did address this somewhat when the +1 button was announced. “Buzz button[s] are used for starting conversations about interesting web content (‘Hey guys, what do you think about this news story?’),” the company said. “+1 buttons recommend web content to people in the context of search results (‘Peng +1′d this page’), and +1′s from social connections can help improve the relevance of the results you see in Google Search. Soon, you’ll be able to use the +1 button, or the Buzz button, or both—pick what’s right for your content.”

The +1’s and Buzz shares will both appear on the user’s Google profile, but under separate tabs. It may make sense, however, for the two to be merged in the future, though Google has made no indication that it would so.

Google Plus One From the Profile

3. Will audiences click it?

Let’s say that Google’s +1 button does get the kind of widespread adoption that Facebook’s like button has, in terms of sites placing it on their content. Will the average web user click it on a regular basis? People click the Facebook like button because they want to share things they like with their friends. They associate Facebook with their friends. You have to wonder how many people actually care about content showing up in search results or recommending search results to others.

Search is not a social task. As I’ve discussed numerous times in the past, I do believe social data can have tremendous value to search, from an input standpoint. While there may be some value, I believe from an output standpoint, it is far less. In other words, comments my friends may have made about a restaurant or a movie that I’m searching for may help me make a decision, but how often are you looking at web content and thinking, ‘I bet my friends are searching for this.’? Maybe occasionally, but probably not that often. At least the average user, who is not in marketing or the search industry. If you disagree, let me know.

4. Will searchers click it?

This same audience is using Google to search for things. Again, more often than not, they’re probably not looking to make recommendations while they’re searching. Site-owners and marketers will certainly click the button for their own sites in the search results, but how often is the average user going to search for some piece of information and recommend it as a search result before they even click on the result? If it’s a good result, they’re probably not going to know as much until they click through to it and find the information they’re looking for. At that point, what reason do they have to click back to the SERP. To say, ‘Ooh, I have to recommend this to other people who are searching for this topic!’? Maybe a few, but most will probably just carry on with their day.

It’s different with Google’s domain blocking feature (which is also a contributor to search rankings now, and could almost be seen as the “- 1” button). When you don’t like the result you’ve clicked on, you return to the search results. When you do like it, you carry out the task and move on.

5. Will other search engines use the data?

There is also the question as to whether or not other search engines will gain value from the button. I don’t see why not (if the button is indeed successful). Bing is obviously not shy about using other data from Google users. This would simply be yet another indication of when people feel positive about content. When the subject came up at at SMX Sydney, Bing Director Stefan Weitz said, “Maybe,” according to a report from SMX leader Danny Sullivan, though Sullivan himself is hesitant to think that Bing actually would use the data. Based on a recent conversation WebProNews had with Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta (video up soon), that search engine doesn’t seem opposed to it.

What the +1 Button’s Success Depends On

Google’s implementation of other social features and their integration with one another will be key in whether or not the +1 button becomes the next Facebook “like” button. Google has to get social right for this to work.

Facebook’s “like” button works because of Facebook’s social nature. Google’s nature is largely search. Google has also been careful to position the button as heavily search-oriented. Probably the biggest question of them all is: Do people care about interacting with search like they care about interacting with their friends?

What do you think? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on our Facebook Page:

WebProNewsDo you use Google’s +1 button so far? Will you use it if you see it on content sites?


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.