Google's New +1 Button

Jun 15, 2011 by Bryan Saunders

You might have noticed a new feature on our blog today, namely Google’s new “+1 button.”

Google’s +1 button is a lot like Facebook’s “Like” function or Twitter’s “Tweet” button, but specific to Google.

The +1 button also looks to be Google’s chance to finally successfully enter into the social media realm—especially after its other attempt at social media, Google Buzz, failed to launch.

Why Google needed to introduce the +1 button

In many ways, Google had no choice but to introduce this new +1 button: Google’s #1 competitor, Bing, has teamed up with Facebook and Bing is quickly stealing market share from Google.

As if this weren’t enough, Microsoft (which owns 1.6% of Facebook, and 100% of Bing) has been integrating Bing into every new Windows computer, Windows Phone 7 and as the default search engine on Internet Explorer.

Microsoft and Facebook are leading an assault on Google and Google needs to fight back.

What Google’s +1 button does

On a basic level, Google’s +1 button allows you to mark websites as “favourites” and keep them for later reference.

On a more social level, Google’s +1 button also allows you to share websites with your friends and see which websites your friends have recommended.

On a deeper level though, the +1 button allows Google to deliver the highest quality search results to its users and win the battle for search engine supremacy. Keep on reading and I'll explain.

How search engines pick which webpages to show you

All of the big search engines like Bing and Google have a number of “signals” that they use to determine which exact websites show up when you search for something.

If you’re searching “+1 button” in Google search, for instance, Google is going to look for websites in its cache that have the term “+1 button” in their:

  • URL
  • Title tag
  • Body text
  • And anchor text

This is, of course, a simplification. In actuality, search engines don’t just use 4 signals in their algorithms, they use hundreds (many which they keep secret), but those are some of the big ones.

How Facebook and Twitter affect search results

One of the other ranking signals that both Bing and Google have been using lately is social media “clout.”

That is to say, all else being equal, websites that are generating a lot of buzz on Facebook and Twitter are favoured in search results over websites that aren’t.

This just makes sense: if lots of people are “liking” or “tweeting” a webpage it probably has higher quality content than a website that isn’t getting any social media love.

Now, with their new +1 button, Google has a way of seeing the real time, social buzz that a website is generating. Better yet, they don't have to depend on a third- and possibly hostile party like Facebook. They can then use the information from their +1 button to tweak their search results and deliver better content to their users.

The future of the +1 button

Google hasn’t gone into too much depth yet on what else it plans to do with its new +1 button, but I suspect it’s going to be the backbone of a new social media network a lot like Facebook or Twitter.

Will it be successful? Perhaps. Personally, I’m optimistic on Google’s chances. As the #1 search engine and website in the world, I believe that Google can leverage themselves into the social media space. But what do you think?

Is Google’s new +1 button a good idea or a bad one? Would you use a Google owned social media site or do you already spend too much time on the internet? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Bryan Saunders - Contributor

Bryan Saunders is a researcher, marketing consultant, and internationally published writer.

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