imageThere can be little argument that Facebook is the global leader when it comes to owning the social graph of online interpersonal connections.  It’s also no secret that Bing now uses Facebook ‘like’ data as a ranking factor for search results.  However Google has had some disputes with Facebook, and for one reason or another – do not currently use Facebook ‘likes’ as a ranking factor.


In fact, Google have in the past made it clear that they want to build their own social graph and use that to improve search results.  The announcement made by Google yesterday may well be a real boost for building their own social graph, and a blow for the Facebook ‘Like’ button (which has been around for about 1 year now).

What is +1?

Fundamentally it is a similar concept to the now familiar Facebook Like and Twitter Tweet buttons.  It enables users to easily, with 1 click (assuming they are signed in with a Google account) vote their support for a particular webpage. 

For now, the button is only available for SOME users and only within the Google search results list…

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Voting for a particular page can be done with a single click on the +1 icon next to the page title. 

Users will then be shown pages which have been voted up by their social network (based on a Google account connected to others by Gmail, Google Reader and other services)…

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Eventually Google +1 will also be available to add on to websites (as the Facebook ‘like’ and Twitter ‘tweet’ buttons are today)…

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This video provides a nice summary of +1…

 

So what?

Facebook and Twitter buttons are already widely adopted, so will  people bother to add another (Google ‘+1’) button to their sites?

In short – YES.  At least I believe so.

Google have actually been quite clever here.  They have used their greatest asset (search) and targeted a desire of every single website manager in the world (to increase traffic from Google). 

Yes it’s true that +1 is ANOTHER voting button on top of the already widely adopted implementations from Twitter, Facebook and others.  Yes it’s true that for website users to use the +1 button they will need to sign up for ANOTHER account, on top of their Facebook and Twitter accounts.  But Google +1 does offer something unique which website owners do not get with the Facebook and Twitter buttons…

From launch, it is clear that use of the +1 button will enhance Google search results by highlighting pages which have been voted by a users social network.  However, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Google will at some point start to use those votes as ranking signals as well.  +1 votes will most likely become a necessary factor for website managers to monitor for improving their Google referrals (as Facebook ‘likes’ are becoming for Bing.com referrals today).

In fact, perhaps +1 will at some point replace PageRank?!  Even if it doesn’t I suspect that the ‘fear’ of it will prompt many site owners to adopt the Google +1 button as soon as they can.