Google +1 hit the press yesterday and many are wondering whether Google can get a truly social product off the ground. However, the product announcement is more of an invitation to join an experiment rather than a Google-wide launch.
The success of Google +1 really is in our hands. Here is a summary of the fundamentals:
1. It's just a voting button for search results pages.
In line with Google's latest social strategy, Google +1 is a social layer for search results pages, rather than a proper social network.
2. Everyone needs a Google Profile to use it.
Yet, it sort of is a social network because it can only be used by users with a public Google profile. Anyone who uses any Google products, already has a Google Profile, but it has to be upgraded to be made public.
Strictly speaking Google +1 is not a social network. At this stage it is more like a collaborative set of tools for users of Google products.
However, pay attention because, the bad news is that regardless of whether you want to use Google +1 or not, all Google Profiles will go public or be deleted July 31.
3. +1's are shared publicly, but can be undone.
Anything you +1 gets shared publicly with your 'social circles'. This means that people you are directly connected to will see, where relevant, what content you +1 and anyone visiting your public profile will also see everything you +1.
However, any +1 you make can be undone, both in the search engine results pages and in your public Google Profile. The +1 tab in your profile can also be made private - but it is important to note that it just hides the aggregated view of what you personally vote up, not the +1's themselves.
In all cases, anything you +1 is public in the Google search results pages unless you manually undo it.
4. Your 'social circle' will see your +1's.
Who gets to see what you +1 is defined by your social circle. Essentially your social circle is dictated by the Google products you use and any web apps that you use that use Google Profiles authentication (similar to Facebook Connect or Login with Twitter).
You can manage who can see your +1 activity via your profile dashboard - you need to scroll down to the "Social Circle and Content" section. There you can edit your social connections and your social content connections. The former is who you know in your Gmail contacts book and the latter is services you are connected to using Google Profile authentication (e.g. Blogger, Youtube and external services such as Quora).
It is worth noting that the social graph of Google +1 is exactly the same as the social graph of the fated Google Buzz.
5. You will see total +1 counts for sites you are not socially connected to.
Although personally identifiable +1's will only be shown to people you know, you will also see general counts for URLs in the search engine results pages (SERPs) which have received many +1's. This will be display is the same way as the 'shared by' counts which appear in universally targeted Google News results.
6. Paid search ads can be +1'd.
One fairly unique feature of Google +1 is that ads can receive votes. In effect, this means users can bookmark ads. Social buttons in search ads would mean social clicks could potentially turn into earned media (which in turn impacts social networks). Could +1 be the 'killer app' for Google's Pay-per-click business?
SEW expert, Alex Cohen, posed these questions on how +1 buttons might affect paid search campaigns to Jim Prosser, Manager, Global Communications & Public Affairs at Google:
- How will +1 on ads impact Quality Score?
+1 does not change how we calculate Quality Score. As always, we look at an ad's performance relative to that of other ads for the same query, position, and UI treatment. However, while advertiser performance will of course vary, we believe that +1's may increase CTR, which would positively affect high quality ads.
- Will advertisers ever be able to opt-out of it?
The +1 button and personalized annotations are the default experiences for all signed-in Google.com users searching in US English. If advertisers have a serious concern about these features, they can submit this form for our review.
- Will +1 only apply to text ads, or will it also be available on Display Network text and image ads and on new ad formats such as product listing ads, product extensions, and Media Ads?
We're certainly looking at how the +1 button can add user value for lots of different types of ads, but don't have anything to announce just yet.
- Will +1 shares on landing pages impact the landing page component of Quality Score?
- Will +1 votes on products or landing pages impact the bidding algorithm for products that rely on prediction of conversion rate, such as Enhanced CPC?
7. Google wants to personalize ads according to +1's.
When you first use the +1 feature a dialog box appears with a pre-checked checkbox requesting to use your +1 data to personalize ads to you. This is obviously a feature that will be interesting to paid search marketers, but it also of particular interest in light of recent changes to gmail ads which are going to be more focussed on localized personalization.
Currently there is no tie between search data and Gmail data, meaning personalization is based on your email content and anything declared in your profile. All of this data is essentially passive and lacks the holy grail of Google's advertising model - intent data.
One of the +1 scenarios that Google paints in the video is that a user will +1 ads and organic listings about their favorite local hotspots. With data sharing across search and Gmail via the +1 mechanism, Google can finally pitch intention based ads to potential Gmail advertisers (That is quite a big deal).
8. There's a guestlist for Google +1 voting buttons.
'Tweet' or 'Like' style buttons are planned, but yet to be released. To get your hands on the official version, you need to get your website on the guest list.
Although Google has subsequently intervened and taken the example down, one savvy searcher in Holland already discovered a live version of the +1 button code via a Google search. Yvo Schaap confirmed point 5 in this post and noted, "These buttons also reveal the total number of +1's by changing the request URL. For example Google.com has 982 +1s, Techcrunch.com 241, Reddit.com 125. Whether this is a total count from my friend-circle only I'm not sure, but it should since that would make more sense."
9. You can start experimenting with +1's right now.
If you want to start using Google +1 to curate search results for you network, simply login with your Google Account and join the +1 experiment.
10. Google +1 might be a basis of future organic ranking signals.
When we asked Jim Prosser "if there are any plans to include +1 as a kind of search ranking signal?" he replied "The search team is very excited about +1 and are looking at this very closely as a possible signal for ranking."
With all of the above in mind, do you think potential Google +1 ranking factors will have more of an impact on paid search or organic SEO?