The Google +1 Button and What It Means for Marketers

Recently I wrote about how social ratings such as online customer reviews may begin to affect search engine rankings. I ended that particular column by stating: “My guess is that Google…will continue to work to uncover a potential solution to begin truly integrating social reviews into the core algorithm.”

I would never call myself a prophet of course, but given Google’s recent launch, I would venture to say that I hit the nail smack-dab on the proverbial head.

Similar to “Like,” “Digg,” and “Fan” buttons, which enable users within social networks to give “props” to the content they like, Google has recently launched the “+1 button” within its search engine. This +1 button enables users to click to recommend your ad to others.

Google provided our agency with a “one-sheeter” overview of this function, using a fictional example to illustrate how it works. The story goes like this: Brian went to Madrid last summer and had a splendid time at a certain hotel. He likes it so much that he clicks the +1 button to recommend it to his network (example below).


When Brian’s friend Ann starts planning her own vacation in Spain, she performs a search for accommodation and comes across an ad for the same hotel Brian stayed at. Except this ad looks slightly different as it now shows that her friend Brian recommended this page (he “+1’d” it). Ann then thinks to herself, “Well, if Brian recommends this, I should check it out,” and promptly clicks on the ad.


+1ing is a user-initiated process and will only show to users who are already signed into their Google account. This change will affect all advertisers, but will not affect the ad text as the button appears adjacent to the advertiser-controlled copy (as shown above).

It is important to note that these +1 buttons will not just show up in the search results. Google is currently working on a version of the +1 button that can be placed on websites/web pages, facilitating the ability for users to recommend content without having to go back to the ad itself. Advertisers can sign up to receive information when +1 for websites will be available.

What Does This Mean for Advertisers?

Google is confident that advertisers should get more qualified traffic coming into their website based on this addition (e.g., if you saw a friend recommend the ad, you may be more likely to convert). Google suggests advertisers will likely also see an overall increase in click-through rate (CTR) as these +1 annotations increase over time. Google is very clear about the fact that the +1 button will not affect quality scores or sponsored ad rankings; the same elements (user experience and relevancy) will be used to determine quality scores.

What Does This Mean for Organic Rankings?

The +1 button is meant to help Google provide more relevant results to its users. It is no surprise, therefore, that it plans on leveraging this information to help optimize its organic rankings. In fact, Google asserts that since the beginning of 2010, data from social networks have been used as “signals” to inform organic positioning: “Since January 2010, we’ve been using data from social services, such as Twitter and Flickr, as signals in organic search rankings. Now we’ll use +1s as an additional signal in organic search to help users find recommendations from their friends and contacts.” Clearly, the amount that your site is “+1’d” could potentially have a significant impact on your search rankings.

So What Should You Do to Get “+1’d”?

Make sure that your sponsored search user experience is as optimized as possible – be sure to deliver on the query that someone searches for both within your ad copy and the landing page you drive to. Above all, make sure that your site offers relevant, compelling content that users will want to recommend to their contacts. Revisit your offerings to determine if there are additional opportunities to stand out from the competition and maximize positive customer experiences.

How Will I Know How Many +1s I’m Getting?

Unfortunately, reporting is not currently available. However, Google said that reporting will soon be available within your Google AdWords account under the Dimensions tab.

It is currently unclear on how detailed (or not) this reporting will be, but ideally we’ll be able to see some granular breakdowns of which ads and keywords are resulting in +1s, which could potentially help guide optimizations.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of this new addition!

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