Should Your Site Implement Google +1?

Bryan Connally
Staff Internet Marketing Specialist

Some background info on Google +1 for SEO:

  • Google has stated that “+1” for websites will be used as a social signal to help determine a page’s relevance for a particular search query and ultimately its ranking. This will likely be rolled out in a controlled manner so that Google can ascertain how the new signal might be manipulated. It is therefore unlikely that it will have much effect on the rankings in the short term.
  • Google has also stated that the “+1” for websites may cause “Google to crawl or recrawl the page, and store the page title and other content, in response to a +1 button impression or click.”
  • A page’s +1 activity will show up visually within the SERPs which could potentially increase the click-through rate of individual search results. In the beginning, Google only showed +1 within the SERPs to users that were logged into their Google accounts and had opted into the +1 program. In recent days, however, the +1 has begun to roll out for all users, regardless of whether they are logged in or not.
  • There has been some indication that Bing will be using the +1 button as a ranking signal. This, however, is very preliminary and may change.

Risks & Benefits:
As in the case of the Facebook “like” button, the Google “+1” button does not have a negative counterpart. On Facebook, there is no way to “unlike” or “dislike” something. The same goes for “+1”. There is no “-1” option so the downside is minimal to nonexistent. Therefore, there is no potential risk for a small subset of disgruntled customers to hijack the technology for their own means.

One risk of the technology is that if a brand were to implement the button and subsequently attain very few +1s relative to their competitors, this could be used as an indicator by search engines that a site is less relevant than others within the same comparison set  (at least against those competitors that are participating).

Another potential risk associated with the +1 button is forcing users to choose. For many users, the Facebook “like” button is the method for sharing web content in a social manner. Very few users are going to both “like” and “+1” something. It is redundant. The negative risk in this scenario is that involvement with either one is diluted across twice as many social technologies as before. It is our feeling that Google will normalize growth rates for Google +1s and Facebook Likes to compensate for this, so the risk is again minimal. We tend to believe that a site  not participating is probably more detrimental to rank than diluting overall involvement.

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