Why I Don’t Care About Google’s “+1” Button

Why I Don’t Care About Google’s “+1” Button

google +1 button personalized searchIf you spend as much time goofing off in internet marketing forums as I do, you’ve probably seen all the buzz about Google’s latest foray into the social media world – the “+1” button (also being referred to in some circles as “personalized search”).

But if you haven’t heard about this latest development, the “+1” button is basically Google’s equivalent of the Facebook “Like” button (and their latest attempt to capture the energy of social networking after the failed attempts with Wave and Buzz). Whenever users visit a website they like, they can essentially “vote” for the site by clicking on Google’s “+1” button.

Sounds innocuous, but internet marketers have some concerns. Unlike Facebook’s “Like” button (which only influences content within the site), Google’s “+1” button could be tied to search results. It’s possible that the number of votes a site receives could influence where it appears in the rankings – effectively negating any SEO/backlinking strategy the site is employing.

However, I don’t believe that the “+1” will become a major ranking factor (at least not at first), given the potential for scamming. It’s been a few days since the official launch, and the gigs are already up over at Fiverr selling hundreds or thousands of “+1” votes for $5.

Google isn’t stupid, and I’m sure they realize the potential for fraud. So until they’re able to refine the algorithms to reward natural “+1” liking patterns (and if you look at the number of sites that were unfairly targeted by the “Farmer’s Update“, it’s clear that their algorithms just aren’t that sensitive), they simply can’t give a lot of weight to “+1” counts.

Now, what I do think we’ll see is an adjustment of individual search results, meaning that those who choose to participate in the “+1” voting system will see results tailored to their demonstrated preferences – which is why many people are calling this the introduction of “personalized search”.

Basically, if you go around “+1-ing” certain pages, Google will learn more about your preferences and tailor your results to these interests so that your SERPs will look different from the public’s at large. Obviously, this development could be frustrating for marketers who have put time and money into achieving top rankings, only to have them overruled by content that wins on the number of “+1” votes.

But that brings me to the second reason I believe the “+1” button won’t be widely used – you have to be signed in to an active Google Profile in order to use it. Two problems here…

First of all, most internet users are lazy. They aren’t going to take the time to log in just to be able to “+1” a site when the benefits to them aren’t significant. Seriously – what’s in it for the users? Slightly more targeted results? The ability to participate in yet another social networking platform? While I’m sure it’ll be adopted by some users (aka – those who will jump on any new bandwagon just to be “cool”), I don’t think there’s enough incentive for the average user to participate.

The second problem – at least in the eyes of most internet marketers – is the amount of intelligence that’s given over to Google through their public profiles. There’s at least some indication that more weight will be given to “+1” users with more complete profiles, but handing that much info on your personal and business connections over to Google has at least some people wary.

If you want to learn more about this topic (and I recommend that you do!), check out the following articles:

Official Google Blog: The +1 Button for Websites: Recommend Content Across the Web

SEO Desk: Early Signals That Google +1 Button May Be a Dud

Leo Dimilo:The Ugly Side of Personalized Search

Lisa Barone/Outspoken Media:Google Corrals Users into Social Network, No One Screams

So will I be using Google’s “+1” button? Probably not right away. I’ll add the buttons to my sites at some point (here’s a plugin you can use to do it easily, although I’m hoping some of the social sharing plugins will just add the button to their toolbars – Easy Google +1 Plugin), but I don’t intend to fill out a Google profile and start “+1-ing” things myself.

If, against all my predictions, Google’s “+1” button becomes popular (and believe me, I’ve been wrong before – just ask my husband…), it won’t play a major role in rankings until Google can figure out a way to only reward natural voting patterns. And if/when that happens, the same advice that I always give is going to hold true – publishing good, quality content is the best way to succeed in SEO, and in marketing in general.

31 Responses to Why I Don’t Care About Google’s “+1” Button

  1. Leo Dimilo says:

    Hey Sarah,

    The fact that users won’t see who “plus’d 1 a website in search results unless they are signed into a google account is going to be an issue for most. Most people won’t even know it exists.

    Of course, Google could change this in the future (after all, they do own the search engine).

    The benefit for the search engines is that it is yet another indicator for search engines to factor into ranking.

    For the marketer? One word. Proofing, even if no one in their social circle likes, there is still everyone else who has liked it.

    And since it affects single URL’s, if you rank for more than one keyword, the proofing should be all the way across organic search. Click through rates should definitely be higher.

    I think that they are very aware of the potential of it being gamed. I mentioned awhile back that this will probably be alleviated by weighting social clusters to factor out the “gaming” factor to a point, dismissing “likes” from clusters that take on the appearance of the social equivalent of a link wheel (or 3 way links)

    • Sarah says:

      Yeah, I agree that they’ll likely use it as one of many ranking factors and I’m sure that they’ve got some weighting system to look for natural “+1-ing” patterns over frauds.

      What I’m not sure about is whether or not their algorithsm are, or will ever be, sensitive enough to weight these correctly.

      If you look at the number of good quality sites that were incorrectly targeted by the Farmer’s update, I think it’s clear that they aren’t as advanced enough to truly filter out legit content versus scams as they need to be (which, I’m guessing Google knows as well, and which is what I suspect will prevent them from giving it too much weight in the near future).

      I’ll be keeping an eye on it for sure, but I’m also not going to be running out and encouraging people to +1 all my content.

      • Leo Dimilo says:

        “If you look at the number of good quality sites that were incorrectly targeted by the Farmer’s update, I think it’s clear that they aren’t as advanced enough to truly filter out legit content versus scams as they need to be (which, I’m guessing Google knows as well, and which is what I suspect will prevent them from giving it too much weight in the near future).”

        These days, I dunno what quality means. Could you define it again?

        In all seriousness though, you have to wonder how much link profiles played a part in determining what websites stuck and which didn’t.

        I read all the complaints from webmasters who said that their websites were built with quality in mind. I imagine that semantics took part in this. I betcha, ads in relation to content did too as well as the placement. With so many websites affected, you have to think that there wasn’t a manual review….these came from what the bot saw. But I imagine if you took a look at their link profiles, you would probably see that much of their linkbuilding efforts came from websites that were devalued. Once again, speculation because I personally don’t care about panda/farmer/any change.

        • Sarah says:

          Haha – Fair point. I took a look at some of the sites that were devalued in the last algo update and thought they offered good content (original, substantive, etc), but you’re right that their link profiles might not have been as strong.

          And I agree that the update was almost certainly done by bot, but if they weren’t sensitive enough to pick up on good content (even if it’s backed up by bad backlinks), I’m not sure they’ll be sensitive enough to pick up on manipulated +1’s versus natura.

          But yes – all speculation, and not really speculation that matters if you’re building good sites and quality brands.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for an interesting take on Google +1. I have to admit that I’m not up on the latest with this new feature, so your article and the reference articles you provide are very useful.

    I agree that the potential for fraud is high. As you pointed out, just head over to Fiverr and you can see where this could be headed.

    I can’t help but wonder if the owners of these websites who employ people to +1 their site to death will experience some sort of new Google slap for trying to cheat the system. I guess time will tell.

    Great post, Sarah!

    • Sarah says:

      Bob – I’m sure they’ll penalized in some way, although I’m curious to see how much weight the +1 button is given in the rankings in the first place.

      I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see how this pans out 🙂

      • Leo Dimilo says:

        My “hunch” is that the #1 feature will help to further personalize your web results. I have played around with this. For instance, I have liked Lissowerbutts website. When I do a search for passive income, she ranks #1 as a result of me “liking her”, the fact that she is in my social circle, and that I visit her website. The #1 ranking didn’t happen until I clicked the #1 button (before that she wasn’t on the first page).

        So, with that in mind, I don’t think that the #1 feature in terms of ranking is going to have much effect. I believe that it will be another part of personalizing the web for each individual.

        I think that eventually, websites are going to rank that your social friends “like” over other websites and the ones you like over those websites.

        Bad news for SEO’s with poor content…..good news for those with brands…

        So what happens when you query something that none of your friends like and that you don’t have a connection with? Who knows? I imagine that the +1 feature will be a part of the algo showing you that so many people liked it in your country.

        Obviously, this is all theoretical. But it looks to be going in that direction. Knowing how to analyze social clusters to boost your brand is going to be important should personalized search ever become general search.

        • Leo Dimilo says:


        • Sarah says:

          Which makes total sense, when you consider that Google’s goal is to make search results as relevant as possible.

          That does open up some interesting possibilities in terms of influencing groups vs reaching out to individuals.

          But god, I hope my friends have good taste… 🙂

          Thanks for all the insightful comments!

  3. Hi Sarah,

    thanks for sharing. I agree with you on all accounts. That didn’t prevent me from installing this button, but of course, as outlined by you, we shouldn’t get obsessed about it. Only time will tell…

    Take care


    • Sarah says:

      Oliver – Definitely something to keep an eye on. I’m pretty curious to see if it’ll be widely adopted or not, but I’m not planning on investing much time on it until I see if it catches on more than Wave or Buzz.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Jayne Kopp says:

    Hi Sarah, to be honest, this +1 button hasn’t convinced me of it’s magic either, but as Oliver says… I did have it added! 🙂

    I would hate personalized search to be honest…. I am not keen on the Goog knowing as much about me as it already does.

    As Oliver Says, time will tell… but I certainly dont think the results will be earth shattering.

    Thanks for all the info.


    • Sarah says:

      Jayne – I keep wondering, if personalized search is based (in any part) on the things my friends “+1”, what happens if my friends have really bad taste?! 🙂

      Well see how this goes…

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Sarah,

    I’m not super familiar with the +1 button, but it sounds just like another gadget that will soon be forgotten. Like you, I see the potential for fraud as being quite high.

    Thanks for the info!


    • Sarah says:

      Greg – There’s definitely fraud potential, but whether or not that’ll be effectively mitigated via weighting factors will be interesting to see.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Randy says:

    I have only read a little bit about the +1 button, but I think you bring up great points. One thing I have not found is are you supposed to add it to every page you have, or just the main landing page/home page?

    Great post!

    Thanks, Randy

    • Sarah says:

      Ideally, if you’re going to use it, I’d post it on every page, as +1’s on internal pages will likely be just as beneficial as ones on the home page. Check out the plugin I have listed above, though, as coding every page by hand could get time consuming!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Tisha says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Okay, I am not liking this +1 button from Google at all. After all the work we put into getting our selves high up in the Google rankings, they go and come up with this crazy idea, which is NOT beneficial to us.

    Stupid Google! lol


    • Sarah says:

      Haha – Tisha, I agree… Just when we start to get things figured out, Google goes and changes everything! Although I can see how it makes sense from their user-focused standpoint, but it’s still frustrating 🙂

  8. Sarah, aloha. Thx so much for the details in this post on +1. Though I have been seeing conflicting reports on it, quite honestly it did not make sense to me.

    With as little as I know about the topic, I saw the potential for fraud–and i didn’t even know about people providing that service on Fiverr.

    What I think I will do, Sarah, is read a few of the posts and look for any further thoughts from you on the topic. If you change your mind, please do a brief post to let us know why.

    Thx again, Sarah. Aloha. Janet

    • Sarah says:

      Janet – Sounds like a good approach. I can see some potential, but I’m going to wait to see if it’s more widely adopted before I put too much time or effort into it.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Adrienne says:

    I just wrote a post about this same subject over at my main blog. Sure, there are pros and cons to anything new thing just released and there will be those who try to scam the way this works. That’s just a part of life I’m afraid…

    But I’m not ignoring something that Google is putting out mainly because in the long run, it could really be beneficial. Luckily, each individual can chose whether they want to participate or not.

    It took me awhile to figure this all out too. Hope I made the right decision.

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah. Always great to get other people’s views.


    • Sarah says:

      Adrienne – You’re 100% right that we shouldn’t ignore anything Google does right off the bat. I’ll be adding the button to my sites, but I don’t plan on doing much more until I see how widely adopted it becomes.

      Although there’s always a chance I’ll be wrong and the early adopters will win big, I’m not going get too invested yet, given the limitations I see with the +1 button in particular and Google’ implementation of social media in general.

      Keep us posted on whether or not you see a benefit to it, though!

  10. Kesha Brown says:

    Wow, people are doing it like that on Fiverr already!

    Yeah, though I’m already usually logged into Google I hadn’t really started using it (except today before reading your post!) to see what it’s all about.

    I’m with you though that people won’t do anything extra than they have to and it would be interesting to see how this all plays out.

    This is just what we need eh? Another button! 😉

    Talk to ya soon,

    • Sarah says:

      Haha – yeah, I know… Yet another button to add!!!

      I think the biggest issue is going to be user adoption – I just don’t know if personalized search is going to be enough of an incentive for people to log in to use the service.

      But I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how things turn out!

  11. Jon says:

    Sarah – these are the types of additions to the user rating and overall experience that make things exciting.

    We’re living during a time of web’s early years so we’re bound to experience more growing pains with tools like this.

    Useful and easily shared content won’t find its way to the masses on its own. So, we should be strategic about the methods we implement to rank and syndicate.

    Thanks for calling this to attention!

    • Sarah says:

      Jon – We’re definitely still in the infancy of the web, so it’s always interesting to watch what sticks and what doesn’t.

      I’m not 100% sold (obviously) on the +1 button, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on how it’s used and implemented to see if it’ll be worthwhile down the road.

  12. teatree says:

    I’ve put the +1 button on some of my sites and have had no bites at all. Will give it another month and then take it off if I don’t get results (it looks embarrassing to have 0 nest to the button)

    • Sarah says:

      Teatree – Interesting – keep us posted with whether or not you decide to keep the button on your site.

      I have to admit, that’s one of the things I was nervous about as well. It’s like being the uncool kid in the lunch room all over again 🙂

  13. Pawel Reszka says:

    I think Google can distinguish the fake plus 1s from real ones. Most of the sellers on Fiverr basically login to their Google accounts from 1 IP and then hit +1 for your site. Google can see that lol If you get +1s from different IPs, aged, and more mature accounts then it starts counting towards your search performance. Just my observation.

    • Sarah says:

      Definitely agree – I’m sure Google’s got a filtering system in place to weed out spam clicks, but I’m not sure how accurate it is. It also looks like the primary affect of +1 votes occurs more in the creation of personalized SERPs than the reorganization of traditional results. But since that’s such a small impact right now, I’m still not worrying too much about it 🙂

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