+1; it’s fairly unimaginative as far as naming a social search sharing button goes. It’s also not terribly self-explanatory; not in the way that Facebook’s “Like” button is. You know what you’re getting when you see something your friends “Like”. But Google seem to (ahem) like the name and so +1 remains Google’s new “social layer” that is all part of its plan to make search more social.
It’s intended to help you in your quest to distinguish good content from bad by showing you results that people in your (Google) social network find useful, i.e., that they +1’d. You are then able to return the favour by +1’ing content that you like.
+1 was announced two days ago (30 March 2011), so enough time has passed for SEO hotshots to weigh in on the matter. The reception has perhaps been not as warm as Google would have hoped. There are several aspects to the concept that leave searchers feeling … uninspired. But many feel that +1 also shows some promise.
Where +1 gets an A-
The first problem that I noticed straight away (and which Danny Sullivan also points out) is that you can’t actually search for +1 in Google. All you get are results that relate to the number one. Wikipedia tells you that it is a numeral; it also tells you that 1 January is the first day on the year. You get results for Kill Bill Vol. 1 and if you’re in Google.co.za you get a result for SABC1, one of the public broadcaster’s TV channels.
I tried “+1 button” and Google popped up third. Sullivan was far smarter and went with “google +1”. In Google.co.za that still gets you mixed results, but at least it nabs the top spot.
Then there is its limited application. It only really works within your Google profile and Google contacts from Gmail, Talk, Reader and Buzz. As many SEO experts (Frederick Lardinois, Mathew Ingram and David Scoville) point out, these tools (apart from Gmail) have hardly set the world alight. Not many people make a point of updating their Google profile; at least not since its novelty value wore off.
Most of Google’s previous forays into social-type tools have fallen flatter than a dud soufflé; which is probably why Google is being extra careful, calling +1 a social layer rather than anything social network-related.
Where +1 gets an A+ for effort
What most reviewers seem to agree upon is +1’s potential. It paves the way for Google to make further forays into social search.
Sullivan says that the idea makes sense because, presumably, you and your social circle share similar tastes. If one of your friends recommends (+1s) something, then you would be more inclined to give it a look. Even if you don’t have the same tastes as your friends (after all opposites attract), it’s still likely you’ll want to see the things that they rate highly.
Ingram says that adding social signals to search is the “smart thing to do”. However, he has reservations as to how Google will make +1 relevant to searchers. His tip (and something that many others have pointed out) is for Google to increase the capability to include contacts from other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. But considering the social enmity between Facebook and Google, it’s unlikely that a mutually beneficial partnership will be announced any time soon.
One last thing
There is something that about +1 that puzzles me greatly. Most of the reviews I’ve come across take pains to explain to readers how to pronounce the name. My feeling is that if +1 gives you trouble, you’ve got bigger problems than how to integrate social into your search.
By far and away the most comprehensive review of +1 I’ve read is by Danny Sullivan. If you want to find out more about the nuts and bolts of Google’s new toy I strongly suggest you read it.
If you have any thoughts on +1, please share them with us. We’d love to hear some contrary views.