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Google +1: Thoughts and 7 Questions

Google now allows users to like -- uh excuse me -- plus-one both organic links and sponsored links to websites. People in your 'network' -- Google network for now -- will be able to see that you liked -- uh, plus-oned -- that link and how many other people did too. Moreover, Google will have the ability to factor those likes...plus ones into ranking algorithms, though we're told it will have no impact on Quality Score in the immediate term. Predictably, Danny Sullivan wrote the first, longest and most thorough write up on plus-one, well worth a read. Google's blog post and video are helpful as well. RKG is a data-driven company, so absent data on adoption rates, impact, etc, we have more questions than answers. But speculation is fun, and as our readership includes many luminaries in the space, maybe their comments will be more insightful than anything at this point. Question 1: Will users click the button? This is a big one. Certainly company employees, their agencies and other hired guns will plus-one 'til their fingers bleed, but average Josephine? I see two problems here:
  • The Google networks are pretty thin compared to Facebook/Twitter and Linked-in. The sparseness of seeing your network friends votes will slow adoption
  • There is something fundamentally odd about liking...plus-oneing...a link to something. First, I don't vote for the road to a destination I vote for the destination; and second mechanically how will it happen? How will folks know they like...plus 1...the result until they're already there? Do we expect them to go back to vote?
Question 2: How will this impact personalization of results? Presumably votes from my network will have more impact on my rankings than the votes of people I don't know. I also wonder if my own past votes will prejudice results even more than my network of friends' votes. If I liked...plus oned...my favorite shoe company, shouldn't it come up first any time I search for shoes? Question 3: Do I plus one a link, a page, or a domain? If I vote for one link to a given site, does that vote carry over to other links? Is it the landing page, so other links to the same page will show my vote? Or, is it the domain that really gets the vote? It will be interesting to see whether there is a difference between clicking on one link to a given site and clicking on EVERY link to that site. Question 4: What's the biggest benefit? In the past, we've noted that any visual difference (plus box, seller rating, whatever) in one listing over others draws attention and generates higher CTRs. Will that be the biggest win, or will it be the impact on ranking signals? Question 5: Will this be SPAMMED to oblivion such that it is no longer a useful signal? Certainly, website owners will encourage all their employees to like...plus one...links to their site. Agencies working for those websites will do the same. They may hire/develop plus-one bots. But not many people will friend...um, network with a bot, so while the overall counts may be higher, it won't impact how many people I know voted for a page, domain, link. As others have noted, mass account creation and +1 activity is pretty easy to spot algorithmically and may reduce the value of spamming techniques. But, will RKG have an advantage over smaller competitors because we have more employees to vote for our clients? Or, will our votes be discounted because they happen in waves when we sign new clients? Should they be discounted? We really do like ...plus 1 ... our clients!?! Question 6: When will this be expanded to wider networks than my Google network? Clearly, the wider the network the more likely the signals -- friendly faces -- will show up and be meaningful. Question 7: Will the on-site +1 votes obviate the need for the link votes? If I like...+1... a site isn't it likely...er, plus-onely ... that I'd vote for the links as well? Conclusions: To my thinking, this is a pretty big deal. I don't think this will die on the vine, I think it's the wave of the future. Just as businesses have a reason to encourage their customers to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, encouraging people to vote for their site as a SERP signal may be even more valuable at the end of the day. What do you folks think? Me? I like...er...+1 it!!!
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