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Google has just announced its +1 social layer, which adds a way for searchers to indicate when they like search results and ads. +1 buttons will be available soon for webmasters to add to their sites. These +1s may eventually become part of Google's ranking algorithm, too. So for our "Discussion of the Week," we want to know what you think the impact will be of this new Google venture -- impact on searchers, searching, marketing, and so forth. The floor is open!
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from hugoguzman 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I'm sure that folks will figure out how to at least partially game + 1 if it indeed becomes a part of the search algorithm. That said, I do like the idea, and I foresee that somewhere in distant (or not so distant) future the Facebook like and Google + 1 will become one and the same.

You heard it here first...



Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 3

I think Google is smart to do this, to recognize the need for a social/human aspect to how people search and find information. But ...

  • Didn't they already have this with the starred results? Why make yet another product?
  • I fear this will be spammed from here to eternity and back.

Haven't yet given it a lot of thought from a marketing perspective. Would like to be able to actually play with it, but even following the instructions I can't get +1 to show on my search results.



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from toddmintz 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 3

I'm not sure how meaningful it will be until webmasters are able to put the button on their sites.  Once that happens, it becomes a social signal of indeterminate value.  How much weight will Google give it in the personalization of SERPS?  If Google deems it important, it could be every bit as earthshaking as the SERP localization.  Or, it could be pretty insignificant.  Only time will tell.



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from incrediblehelp 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Considering all these new things are contingent on being signed into a Google account I am not sure how important the data will be.  Does anyone have numbrs on how many new Google accounts are created each month versus FB accounts?



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from Jill 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Danny has a good article on +1. I'm not clear on whether people who are not logged into Google and/or who don't have a Google Profile will be able to see the +1's.

Anyone know?



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from JulieJoyce 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I will take the cranky approach and say that I dislike it. It will be gamed I imagine, like everything else.



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from Realicity 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Not really sure I am behind the +1 on Pay Per Click ads unless they are going to share that data to AdWords advertisers.  I don't mind that Facebook allows you to tell them why you don't want to see an ad, at least in that you might get some real feedback.

I'm also wondering how they are going to handle URL changes and 301 redirects for these likes?  We have been, and are more so because of this, entering a web of permanent and recycled URLs.



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from AnnieCushing 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 4

This is a smokescreen. Google takes one in the chin by the FTC, apologizes again for its privacy misstep with Buzz, and then announces +1 on the same day? Please. It's nothing more than one more attempt to get people to search logged in since that's the only way you can see others' +1's.



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from TomDemers 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Yeah I'd agree it'll be pretty heavily gamed, but from G's perspective I think it makes a lot of sense - they've obviously been trying to figure out how to incorporate social signals for a while (search wiki, starred results, Chrome exclusion, etc.) and "Likes" have obviously been a pretty big win for FB, I think.

One challenge I see is that Facebook's likes are a much truer social graph - one of the reasons FB won and MySpace didn't is because FB did a really good job of building a platform where people use their real identities - people approach Google accounts very differently (see Buzz fiasco) and I think that makes the plus one easier to game (I don't necessarily mind voting for spam or my corporate site with my Google account because I don't really use it as a social tool, whereas there's incentive not to have a bunch of spam likes up on my FB wall because I'm tied to that activity personally). Google is layering in the "people in your social signal shared this" links in the SERPs already and most of the time I find it more interruptive than anything personally.

One thing that's interesting to me is I think that the implementation here versus what Blekko did with likes helps Blekko close the gap in search quality. Plus ones will be heavily gamed for SEO now because there will be traffic there (assuming they use it as a strong signal), whereas likes may be gamed for other reasons, but I don't think people are trying to optimize for a better Blekko ranking: Blekko has a good chance to have a better mousetrap re: social signals here.

Another thing I would guess is that this will be WAY overplayed as a ranking factor for a while - it may become a big signal but they'll likely have to take their time in integrating it, and in the meantime I'm guessing most people will dramatically over-value it.




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from AlanBleiweiss 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 5

There's so many aspects to this one it's nauseating.   It might only be for logged in users initially, but wasn't that the case for personalized search?

Also, it's 1 more step in Google's attempt to own every bit of data out there.  They couldn't buy Yelp, so they rolled out HotPot - and to top it off, started pushing the ability for searchers to rate local businesses directly in Google.  And reviews are already a factor for Local results, without you needing to be signed in.

Branko pointed out of course that it's not a true social sentiment factor unless you can also choose -1.  But that hasn't stopped Facebook so I don't see how it's going to stop Google from using it that way.  Heck, they seemed pretty proud of the fact that there was an 84% match between the Chrome block feature and the Panda/Farmer update.  Even though Chrome is by no means a fair representation of broad society.

It's also a marketing gold-mine as far as being able to say "we don't manually manipulate based on favoritism" - because now they have their crowd-sourced signals.  So they can blame "bad SERPs" on the false and misleading concept that "it's what users want".



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from skrenta 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 2

It would totally make sense for G to color the +1's on urls with user ratings/scores from gmail data.  It's straightforward to do analytics on the emails to score things like probability-human, reading-level, topic, demo, etc.  They already do when they show you ads.

Heck, you could even rank per-topic - give +1's on physics sites more weight if the +1 user is a physisict.

Gmail has 10+% of the email market, it's substantial and a great place to start a social network boot up from.  But even if you don't get any more social activity out of the system, the getting people to rate urls with an understanding of who they are mined out of their inbox would be great data.

Desire to influence +1 will drive more google accounts to be created - you need to have a google profile in order to +1.  If you bind an existing account to your google profile, they can score it based on correspondence with existing gmail users.

Voila', spam problem solved.  Click +1 all you want, but you don't know the per-topic weight G is giving your clicks.

Pure speculation on my part.  But that's what I'd do if I were them.



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from Thos003 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@AlanBleiweiss Interesting point about them not adding a -1. But dislikes on Youtube videos, like Rebecca Black's, don't really stop a video from going viral or getting attention. I think that reactions period, good or bad, are social signals. Interesting concept though and it does give us some perspective on what Google wants to control.

And I agree with you on the point that most users probably don't know how to tell Google what they want. Sadly, I don't think most users wil get how the +1 will help. As Hugo stated, it will be gamed by those few that DO get it.

@MattMcGee Didn't they already try this with Buzz as well?

On a side note, I think Google is learning how to better gauge real people. They have some interesting verbiage that suggest not all reviews are created equal. I would imagine that this would cross over to their other crowd sourcing metrics. Can Google tell who is an active gmail user? Can they tell how old a gmail account is? Are they not verifying google accounts now by text to cell phone numbers? I think they are assigning "trust signals" to users as well.

But don't me, just the pest control guy.




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from AlanBleiweiss 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Thomas you're most likely spot on regarding trust signals.  Yet give someone a budget and an overseas team of 50 cent an hour workers, and they'll map out a how-to on trust signal manipulation using IP-spoofing systems.  It'll be a flow-chart-from-hell but it is not rocket science.


The biggest problem I have is the scale - Google's 10% email market share - it's just like all the site analytics services that base their data on samplings and extrapolation.  The web is too big, too vast, too diverse for that to ever be truly valid in a real, unbiased way.  It's even a self-propogating nightmare from the exclusivity of it.


No - this is not a good thing from a quality results perspective at all.



Avatar
from TomDemers 1116 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Skrenta Awesome points and that makes a lot of sense, but wouldn't this still be more powerful if someone (you guys for instance, or Facebook themselves) did this with Facebook and/or maybe LinkedIn data (I don't what they let you grab via the API)? It's a much bigger and more intersting social graph, I would think. I think the fact that Google needs to try to own the data source makes them a bit vulnerable to someone tapping the bigger better data source (FB and/or LinkedIN) to outflank them on quality where intergating social signals is concerned.

Really interesting point on the topical approach, but as Alan mentioned I'm sure it'll still be somewhat gamable (you'll have "paid +1s" and "Gmail farms" about five minutes after it becomes apparent that it's a strong signal, assuming it becomes one).



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from skrenta 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 1

TomDemers - we are using Facebook graph data for social ranking at blekko.  Log in to blekko through Facebook and try /likes. We also personalize regular searches. It works great.

FB does have the biggest social graph, which Bing may be in the process of building a wonderful new search index with.  G isn't making use of that data.  G might still be able to build something interesting - and different - by projecting gmail user +1's onto web urls. It may also help G boot up a new, different social system that hasn't yet been released.

Any ranking signal is gameable, but +1's validated by an inbox worth of email correspondence is much better than trying to infer authority from domain whois and link data.




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from DanThies 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Google enters this game (assuming they roll out a "+1 for websites" very soon) a year late and more than a year behind. About the only advantage they have is the implicit hint-hint reverse-FUD idea that adding a Google +1 button can help your site's rankings in search.

If they actually SAY that of course, somebody needs to sue them. But they won't have to, because SEOs and "social media consultants" will say it for them. Even if it's not true. Maybe especially if it's not true. Few seem to care.

Like when that clown from Blekko was interviewed the other day and said you have to comment spam to rank at Google. Nice. That's not true, and this is the CEO of a search engine who ought to know better. Thanks to Blekko in advance for the extra comment spam.

Anyway... before we talk about "gaming" a non-existent ranking signal, it might be worth considering how much the world has changed since 2007, when Apple put the first real web browser on a phone.

In the past, when Googlefolk have been asked about using user behavior as a ranking signal, there's been this "gee, it's a noisy signal, and it could be gamed, not sure we'd want to do that bla bla bla." Yeah. Okay. That was probably mostly true at one point.

Now they've got mobile search and mobile web - and if it's handled correctly on the search engines' end, the only way to "game" that at scale is to actually buy a bunch of phones. GLWT.

A lot of ranking "signals" that we might have ruled out as implausible, unreliable, or easy to game in the past, may be "in play" as the mobile user base grows, and as mobile devices become more like the desktop.

Maybe some day the only way to "game" the system will be to delight your users. That's closer now than it used to be (delighting users has always been a very good idea), but we're not all the way there yet.



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from DanThies 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Wow. Foot in mouth. While I'm posting my comment, that dude from Blekko is posting one too. Need to learn to recognize his name. Sorry Rich. Kudos for innovating, and sharing, and actually dumping crappy sites from your index. Please stop telling people to comment spam - there are a million digs you can get in at Google (Mahalo's still indexed...) that don't encourage people to spam up the web.



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from TomDemers 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Skrenta Yeah I've seen that - seems like using that data for the relevance-driven scoring you mentioned would be markedly better than the plus one data since there's much more, and since it's a stronger social vote (tied to a profile people care more about in terms of social ramifications). In the end I just don't see a lot of regular people plus oneing stuff - people like things on Facebook to look cool/smart/show support. Why would they plus one a SERP other than to bookmark it, and they already had that signal with the starred search results.




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from JstaTad 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I think the reality is that in order to prevent this from being gamed the same influence and author authority factors in place for Social Sharing will sort of be in place for +1 being a ranking factor beyond personalized results.  I totally get the personalization part of it and how it could improve searcher experiences.  The real question, as with Social Sharing, is what is the impact on results BEYOND personalization.  Yes volume of +1's seem like an obvious signal, but I'm guessing "who" did the +1 is important from the perspective of how much weight a +1 gives in an Algorithm.

Right now I"m most curious about the potential impact on PPC ads.  I would guess that a +1 icon with an avatar from someone I follow on the ad will be a big factor in improving click through rates.



Avatar Moderator
from ajkohn2001 1115 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I've spent some time playing with Google +1, doing searches, +1'ing things, exploring my social circle and content, updating my Google profile and thinking big thoughts.

Ultimately, I think Google +1 is about social data and attention. Google clearly understands that the link graph is polluted and that social signals are an important new way to drive relevant search results. I don't think the web of links goes away, but it needs to be augmented by the web of people.

Giving a +1 in search is ... clunky. Isn't search about discovery? Shouldn't I search, visit a site and then give a +1 if it's good. Google got it right with the blocked sites functionality that only appeared after your returned to a SERP. I think Google +1 might be better working that way, or simply showing the icon based on my web history.

There are other UX issues from how it is activated and paired with instant preview, to the +1 nomenclature which I understand but might not be accessible to the soccer mom in Peroia. And without the +1 button showing up on sites, it all seems a bit incestuous and half-baked.

I think it may be all about having that social data. Google doesn't want to rely on Twitter (a frenemy of sorts) and Facebook (a nemesis) for social data. I think they want to own a primary source of data, not rely on secondary sources. Particularly as Facebook encroaches on search and hides more web content from Google.

Clearly, Google can use this data to personalize search results. It can mine your personal social graph (the +1s from your friends) and the +1 graph (overall popularity among all users.) Maybe we'll finally see some real personalization instead of the small subtle changes in rank or geographic overlays.

Really, Google could turn personalized search into something more like Facebook's EdgeRank, providing a radically different view of information.

I think Google would have to mine influence, and not just overall influence but influence by topic. A +1 from Danny Sullivan on a search engine site would carry more weight than his +1 on a cooking site. In addition, my connection with people in my social graph should be taken into account. I trust my best friend more than an old High School classmate who I don't ever talk to.

Google would have something if it could map influence by topic and connection, weighting +1s on a sliding scale to deliver better results and prevent widespread gaming.

To mine influence I believe they need a place to measure engagement. That's where Google profiles comes in. Suddenly there's a place where all my +1s live. Today it's just a list, but tomorrow it could be interactive. I could comment on your +1s or Yo Dawg it and give a +1 to a +1. Maybe you can even share your +1s or bundle them into Blekko-like slash tags? It's an interesting area for curation and engagement.

Ultimately, what Google +1 might lead to is a fight for the attention of users, which is currently being won handily by Facebook. That's a lofty goal, but no one ever said Google didn't have big goals.

You can read a more cogent version of my Google +1 Analysis on my blog.





Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1113 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Lots of great comments here to digest!

I think that +1 is actually more about personalized search than adjusting the search results for everybody. Just like the way Google shows your Twitter peeps in the results and now your bookmarked pages (if you have Google Sync) and lots of other personalized things.

They're not dumb. They're not going to count +1s as any sort of strong signal for what the rest of the world will see. If they count it at all (and I don't think they will) it would likely be an extremely weak signal when they don't have much else to go by.



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from springboardseo 1112 Days ago #
Votes: 2

This clumsy attempt at a vote feature is too game-able and offers little value. Who wants to vote for a site before even visiting it?

If Google wants to own a proprietary source of data that they can use to gather social signals, they should develop a social media platform that doesn't so blatantly prioritize that end.

The sooner Google begins think users and value first--and social signals second--they'll be headed in the right direction.




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from IrishWonder 1109 Days ago #
Votes: 0

>Who wants to vote for a site before even visiting it?

Its owner :-)

It's almost like Google offers people to manipulate its SERPs to their own benefit - and it might even look more successful than it would be indeed, e.g. you +1 something, ask your friends to check if anything changed for them, sure thing it did as they are likely connected to you via all those social layers...

This is not to say that +1's would be impossible to game on a larger scale should Google take them into consideration a least a bit seriously. However, we have seen the SearchWiki and where is it now?

Here is a post I did on what I make out of Google's +1.



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