Like Me? Follow Me.
They’re not calling it a ‘Like’ button (pretty sure Facebook would have something to say about that), but to all intents and purposes that’s exactly what ‘+1’ is.
The basic idea is: a ‘+1’ button appears next to each search result and you can use it to indicate specific results which you have found useful to friends, family and other contacts in your Google account.
At the moment this is at the testing stage, however it’s yet another indication of what’s been just over the horizon for some time now: the democratisation and personalisation of search.
What Does This Mean?
It’s obvious that Google is attempting to find ways to make search results more interactive and more social, primarily as a means to enhance user experience, but also as a further way to gauge the value of specific sites (and thus decide where they will appear in results).
Alongside the trialling of ‘+1’ and the introduction of ‘Realtime Results’, in the last month Google’s Matt Cutts also announced that the search giant has added a feature which allows users to block sites from their search results.
On the official Google blog, the search engine’s head of Webspam said:
“…we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future.”
Social activity is becoming more and more important as a method for ranking sites – this fact, coupled with the continuing democratisation of search, is as good an argument as there’s ever been for diversifying your web presence and ensuring that the content you distribute is of a good quality.
Potential Flaws with ‘+1’
The primary issue I had with both these features was that the people I connect with (meaning e-mail) using my Google account are not necessarily the people I want to connect with socially.
I primarily use e-mail for professional purposes, and use the likes of Twitter and Facebook to chat with friends and family. Therefore, when I’m clicking ‘+1’ on Google search results, I’m recommending sites to people I e-mailed about a job three years ago, recruitment consultants and former university tutors, not my friends and family (the people I actually might want to recommend stuff to).
If Google are going to get something like this to work, they really need to either bring an existing and successful social media platform in-house or create something themselves that actually works.
What might be more interesting is a ‘+1’ system which is completely public, so that you can see which sites have been most recommended by internet users. Of course, this isn’t a perfect world and a system like that would most certainly be spammed to the point where the ‘+1’s’ become irrelevant.
I’m testing the ‘+1’ feature in Google Labs, so we’ll see how it goes. Regardless of whether it eventually launches or not, the ‘+1’ feature is yet more evidence that businesses really should be investing in social media in preparation for the seemingly inevitable socialisation of search.
This post inspired by Social Media Examiner.