Does Google +1 = Big Changes for Search Marketing?

google+1 buttonOn 31st March Google announced the release of their new social tool for search – the Google +1 button.

I am making a big statement here but my gut feeling is that this is going to be big, very big for both natural and paid search.

I say this because Google have obviously had ambitions of playing a major part in the social arena through developments such as Google buzz, which didn’t quite cut it, but this is different…

This fits perfectly with Google search and also has a great social function.

The premise behind Google +1 is that often when we are searching for something (anything) we would also like some back up to help us find whatever it is we are looking for.

How important is a recommendation on the fly from a trusted friend or person we know?  I know for me that if a friend that likes similar music to me recommends a CD then chances are that I will go out and buy it. If my mate who is a film maker recommends me a film then I will go out and see it. Friend recommendations are strong and Facebook is being used for this a lot.

However, say that you need an answer super fast for something and you do not have the time to pose the question to your friends in person or even the time to put the question on your Facebook wall then what do you do? You rely on customer reviews and also just website product descriptions to determine the product/service relevance to you.

So seeing in the search results pages, before you have even clicked through one of the ads displayed for whatever search you ran, that a friend of yours has recommended a site that is displayed in the SERPs is surely a powerful incentive that will help push you towards that site. Unless of course you know that your mate has absolutely no taste and that you are best off doing the complete opposite of what they recommend….
Anyway, watch Google’s intro here:

So, now you know the basics how is it likely to affect search marketing?

+1′ s are going to be used both for paid search and natural search, therefore your performance in search is going to be influenced more and more by how visitors to your site and business rate their experience. This means that customer service is going to be even more important than ever before and also your site really needs to sing to your visitors; you need to show your expertise, not arrogantly, but in a human, person to person conversational way.

Google have already stated that users use of the +1 button will become one of the factors that they use to determine natural search rankings. In the offing there will obviously be a lot of misuse and attempts to take advantage of this through manual manipulation – i.e. getting all your mates to click the button next to your site, or far worse paying people to do that. However, Google are not idiots, this will have been thought about and there will probably be some pretty harsh penalties for manipulation if caught that will serve as a deterrent, just in the same way as Google manually punished JC Penney for paid link building.

However, misuse aside this will help the quality sites to rank higher and the duff ones to be pushed out – great!

In terms of PPC Google have said that the +1 button will not directly influence quality scores. However, this is because they do not need to – it will happen naturally! The core determining factor in quality score is the click through rate (CTR), and if you have loads of people recommending your site to their friends then how is that going to affect the chances of them clicking on your add and your overall CTR?

So what are the barriers to the success of the Google +1 button?

It mainly comes down to the fact that all users need to have a Google profile and currently most people probably do not know what a Google profile is. However, this is a helpful tool and I believe that word of mouth will soon change this. I think that most people are really passionate about social media and the benefits that it has brought to our lives and this tool fits well with the whole social media movement. Google can easily add pop-ups/ads/notices to those people who are obviously looking at the +1 button on screen and wondering what it is. When people start talking about how it helped them find something and then thank their mate in front of a group in the pub then you can bet that curiosity will drag some of those listening to have a go….

I for one think that Google have the nous to make this work, if I am wrong then I will eat my shorts!

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