Rumours of Google entering the social space are nothing new. Rumours of Google Me/Circles have long since been doing the rounds – and slowly but surely we are seeing Google rollout new features which would appear to be aimed at embracing the social ‘effect’. This doesn’t come as a surprise to be honest. Speak to many at Google and most will tell you that they don’t see Bing, Yahoo, Yandex or Blekko as serious long term contenders – its Facebook that they see as the big threat on the horizon.
Yesterday we saw the latest incarnation of Google’s increasing fascination with social with the launch of Google +1, effectively Facebook likes for Google.
The +1 results are not currently being exposed to all – merely to a small number of US users searching in English but given the hype around this one would suggest its only a small matter of time before we see this move across other results. THe +1 option will be available next to the site title and is an option strangely enough for both paid and organic search results.
The result of +1′ing a result is interesting. Similar to earlier ‘tests’ (using other metrics) users both within the social network and outside can see which results people have +1′d results.
Paid Search Results
There is no doubting that this won’t be merely confined to Google Real Estate. Further functionality will be available soon to embed this into your websites and webpages. Users who then click on these will allow others in their circle to see that they have +1d these results.
For marketeers this could be interesting. A number of immediate effects stand out:
- Google will use this for ranking. It will certainly have an effect on organic results – and one would have to suggest this may effect paid search quality scores as well.
- This will effect click through rates. Those results with higher click through rates will in all likelihood receive a higher volume of clicks than those without for both paid and organic results.
- We will in all likelihood see further campaigns to influence +1 results. I can’t help feeling this is one of the easily ‘gameable’ channels – and as such advertisers will look to exploit this. Unlike Likes where it is debatable whether this has any direct impact on clicks or sales, +1′s could have a significant effect on your clicks and thus potentially sales due to the fact it is DIRECTLY plugged into your search results.
- We will in all likelihood see an increase in social search specialists as we have with LSA, LDA (yawn…..)
I still think the incentive for Joe Bloggs (ie the average consumer) to sign up and utilise such results is still very limited. Its a very different beast from Facebook, where such functionality is a natural extension of an engaged and social community – however it still feels to me like Google are trying to force a community without actively giving them a reason to be part of that community.
In my opinion, Google need to actively look at building a community which may mean looking beyond their core battleground. Whether this means we see Google buying social communities as part of that strategy is open to debate – but I personally can’t help thinking there still isn’t enough incentive to develop your social circle which ultimately is crucial to uptake of the +1 option.
The % of fully engaged Google Profiles is still fairly limited – and such functionality still doesn’t give me an incentive to want to develop that profile. I can’t help thinking this feels like Google letting the chicken out before the egg has hatched and as such can’t help thinking this may mean we see this go the same way as Buzz, Wave and SearchWiki. What Google really needs to do is build that user community – give them a reason to develop that extension within Google outside of merely GMail – and as such build people into the mindset of embracing such a feature into their mainstream search results.
The community angle in my opinion is Google’s big achilles heel. Facebook didn’t build Facebook because they developed their ‘Like’ functionality. Facebook prospered because it connected people – it came them a voice to speak with and a forum to speak with friends and other like minded people. Google doesn’t – and thats why Facebook continues to loom on the horizon and why we will probably see Google continue to develop a range of products to rival those of Facebook.