What Does the Google +1 Button Mean for SEO

Google logoGoogle, the internet giant based in California, has had a strangle hold on much of the online market for the past decade. Most would struggle to find a single person in the Western World who is not yet familiar with the Google Search Engine. In fact the search engine is so popular that the phrase ‘Google it’ has been adopted by many Gen-Yers.

In addition to their massive presence in the search marketplace, Google also commands a large percentage of the online advertising industry, generating revenues in the region of US$35 billion per annum.

Facebook, a relatively new comer to the internet, and center of popular film The Social Network, is quickly closing on Google’s market. Currently Facebook ranks as the 2nd most visited website online globally and holds over 750 million member accounts. Facebook is beginning to threaten Google’s market dominance in online advertising due to the huge volume of data that the social network holds about its members. While Google’s advertising model focuses around what people are looking for, specifically using search queries, Facebook’s model allows advertisers to utilize behavioural targeting. A Facebook advertiser can select very precise advertising audiences by focusing on:

– Age
– Gender
– Location
– Employment Type
– Education Level
– Likes and Dislikes

By selecting a narrow cross section of the global audience by one or all of the above variables, an advertiser can see significant improvement in their ROI when compared with search or conventional marketing.

This is where Google Plus enters the scene. In May Google released a limited Beta of their new social network, to approximately 10 Million users. Google Plus, similar to Facebook, allows users to create profiles, enter personal details, connect with friends and join a global community online. The Google +1 button is the equivalent of Facebook’s Like button – allowing users to show their approval of an idea, concept, website or product and broadcast this to their network.

It’s not a new concept that Google uses a number of user specific factors to influence their search results. These have historically included the user’s location, past search history, bounce rate from certain sites, browser setting and a host of other signals to indicate whether or not a search result is likely to fit the user’s specific requirements or reason for search.

While not officially announced as yet, the Google +1 button will affect the manner in which search results are returned to users. The very nature of a social network suggests that people who are connected will share similar likes, beliefs and ideas, and consequently are likely to be interested in the same websites, resources and search results.

It follows then, that the connections of a user who have historically +1ed any given search result will have these sites promoted up the list of future search results due to perceived validity and relevance of that result.

So, when will this new ranking factor, or as Google now refers to them signal, start influencing search results?

That’s a tough question, and it’s likely only to be once the Google Plus and +1 button programs reach a critical mass. That is where the number of +1s reaches a volume and velocity that indicates considerable adoption by the searching public.

You can already see the impact of +1 within your own search results, i.e. complete a search; navigate to page 3 of the results and +1 a single result Google returned. Now complete the same search again, it’s likely that the result you +1ed will be elevated within the new set of results. This is exactly the same behaviour we expect to see once Google brings +1 and Plus into full swing.

We expect that this will become a ranking factor around the end of the year, likely in time for Christmas shopping season.

What can you do to gain the maximum benefit from +1?

At present the +1 signal is only being used to influence a user’s personal search results, but this is likely to change late this year so it’s time to get started on a strategy to make the most of this opportunity. This way when Google flicks the switch you will receive all the benefits of being +1ed and you will surge ahead of your competitors within specific market segments.

By now your web developer or SEO firm should have already contacted you offering +1 integration; it’s a good idea to get Facebook Like done at the same time. If not, get in touch with the team that manages your website and request them to place the +1 button prominently on your site. The button is pretty funky and modern and is not likely to do any damage to your branding or design. Make sure you are communicating with your clients, visitors and connections to ensure they +1 your site. The earlier you start work the sooner you will see results.

Rich is head of SEO Perth for Zen Net Solutions, who are a leading Online Marketing Strategy agency.

About the author


Rich McPharlin


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  • I like Google + the most. If +1 works, it will not only improve search quality, but also make ads more engaging. This may potentially improve Google’s ads, and eventually may turn into a core social product that can expand in new directions.

    Online Business Virtual Assistant

  • Hi.

    Being late on the market of most every change, I only recently noticed the +1 offer from Google. I kind of passed over it without concern. Thanks to this article, I am now aware of the importance of following up on the +1 concept.

    Appreciate the well written information.


  • I have the +1 button on all my websites and its working great. What I would like to know is it the only people in your google network that can see it. Defo gives you a shove up google.
    Nina Blanchard

  • I agree with everything the article says and we will be integrating the +1 button on our own site this weel.

    We are actually partnered with an excellent firm now that offers great deals on +1 and social media integrations.

  • I have put the plus one button on all of my websites but I doubt it will ever have any say in real SERP results. Plus ones can be manipulated so easily that I doubt Google would ever use that as a real ranking factor. There are so many business that have popped up where you can buy plus ones, there are people on Fiverr selling plus ones, and there are already networks you can join that are designed to trade plus ones. I did a little SEO experiment on a few of my sites and so far from my testing (far from scientific!) Google is not taking them into consideration yet for normal SERP results. Right now only people in your network can see your plus ones. I actually chose not to share mine though because Google does give you the option in your Google Plus dashboard.

  • @Nicole, you make good points. There are locations where one can buy +1’s in bulk for your website (I have seen as many as 50,000 +1’s on offer). In the end the majority of Ssignals and factors that Google utilise can be beaten, misrepresented or spoofed.

    What you may have missed, and the real point of the post, is that the +1 will only be used as a ranking factor for connected people, and not globally – ie. is a user based factor and not an authority factor. In order for the +1 spamming to have an effect people making subsequent searches would need to be connected to multiple Google+ accounts.

    @Simon, Great point. I hope SiteProNews takes on your suggestion and allows page level +1ing.

    Rich – @RichMcPharlin

  • I totally agree with Nicole. Its easy to manipulate that. However, there might be some tiny bit signal on that part but NOT big.

  • I’ve already created a site so I can spy on other website’s +1 ratings. There is no doubt that many websites are in for a big loss in more traffic due to Google’s tinkering with the algorithms in more major ways, than their usual minor ways. It’s interesting to see some major players starting to climb the +1 ladder already. Check out my link if you want to see for yourself.

  • It will really be interesting to see if or how the +1 button will impact search results as more people get on Google+.

  • I don’t see Google using this as a major factor when ranking sites, except only for your personalized results. I think it will be after it gets an installed base, and they see how spammers are trying to “game” +1s before they come up with how much the button will influence SERPs. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to include it on your site, as it can’t hurt your rankings.

  • Lionel Bachmann,

    You must understand that Google wants to bring search to be more personalized. They’ve already started on that path with location being a factor in search. So if a page is relevant and some of your friends have +1’d it or it has been +1’d a lot in general it could rank higher than a page that actually has the information you were looking for as soon as Google adds the +1 factor as a ranking signal. They’re creating information overload by trying to throw everything that could be possibly relevant, even if it’s for video, pictures, blogs, social networking conversations, all into search. Instead of Google giving us buttons to search different types of sites for our queries, they should give us filters so we can decide if we want to include or omit certain types of sites into our search.

  • Social search will be a useful way for searchers to see answers and pages that are recommended by friends without being logged into a social media platform, just like with Facebook. Google has been experimenting with social search for a few years, but with the launch of the +1 button, explicit recommendations from people you know and trust are at the forefront of the user experience.

  • I thinks Google plus is most effective for SEE rather then facebook or twitter.
    when someone click on +1 your keywords ranking will be gained i tried this.

  • The more number of followers – The more effective it is. The question is how far is your link profile is getting diverse and how many number of shares it has.

    – Fero