Google Plus, search engine optimization, website innovation

How Google’s +1 Button Will Change Search

28 Comments 11 July 2011

In late March, Google announced the arrival of its version of the “Like” button, the +1 button, and the world waited to find out what that would really mean. With the launch of Google Plus, it’s pretty clear that “+1” and Google Plus (Google’s brand new social network) are Google’s play for social graph domination. While Google Plus has been all the rage this week, one overlooked point is how the +1 button will change the way we search, interact with search results, and use the web in the future.

Google holds about 64% of the total search market. Though Google lost some market share last year to Bing, this should change with the use of Google’s +1 button. In fact, a recent study of 10,000 of the web’s largest sites found a 33% surge in the number of sites adopting +1 in the last few weeks.


What is the +1 button?

In it’s simplest form, it is a button for individuals to publicly share what content they enjoy on the web. As explained by Google:

“+1’ing is a public action. Anyone on the web can potentially see that you’ve +1’d content when they’re searching on Google or viewing content you’ve +1’d. For this reason, you should only +1 pages when you’re comfortable sharing your recommendation with the world.

Your +1’s may appear to anyone who sees the pages you’ve +1’d. However, we’ll try to display your +1’s to people (specifically those in your social connections) who would find them most useful. Similarly, the +1’s you see will typically be from people in your social connections.”

Google has moved big-time into the social search market

Google’s +1 button works, in theory, similarly to Facebook’s Like button. When you are logged into Google, you will see what others have “plussed” around the web. If you are logged in and searching for content using Google search, you will see what content your friends on Google have plussed. If a friend has plussed a piece of content on another site, his or her name will will show up next to that specific website in search returns. Within Google’s search returns itself you can +1 any search return by clicking on the +1 button next to or below a certain return (faded until you place the cursor over it). Additionally, the total number of +1s on a website will appear next to Google ads for that site.

Simply put, Google is showing you how your friends are using the web.



At this time, it’s not possible to see who, specifically, has plussed content on the web while on someone’s site. I’m sure a +1 button is already in development that will include the faces and names of friends who have plussed the content. However, for now, it’s just a plain button that shows the number of +1s of each piece of content.

When someone has plussed content, it appears within the “+1” tab on his or her Google profile.


Google really does know all your friends

Your “social connections” include anyone in your Gmail or Google talk chat list, people in your Google Plus Circles, people in your Google Reader, Google Buzz, and Google Contacts. It’s not hard to see how easily this list can expand to include your YouTube friends (Google owns YouTube), those with whom you’ve shared your Picasa album (yep, Google owns Picasa), your Google voice contacts, anyone in a Google group with you, anyone you’ve shared a Google document with…etc. In other words, Google is poised to be just as big a player in social search returns as Facebook. Possibly even bigger. Google handles 1 billion searches daily.


How will +1 affect website search and rank?

It’s clear that Google will factor the +1 into its algorithm of search results. According to Google’s +1 FAQ:

“+1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”

No doubt Google’s +1 button will affect search ranking.

I also think it’s only a matter of time before Google begins searching Google Plus public comments and returning them as real time search results. For example, when you search “Boston Red Sox,” Google would include what your friends are saying publicly about the Red Sox on Google Plus within the search results. You’d even see which of your friends are talking about the Sox’s fabulous season this year. This seems ever more likely since Google dropped real time search July 4th when its agreement to show Twitter in real time search expired, just a few days after Google launched Google Plus. “Search by what your friends are saying now” is just a few iterations away.

Taken a step further, what you “plus” on the web will ultimately affect what you will see within Google search, what all of your connections will see, and how the world may perceive you.

What are you thoughts on the +1 button?



Your Comments

28 Comments so far

  1. Joe Waters says:

    Very helpful. Thanks, Debra. I’m just digging into Google + and you made a good case for why I should keep going!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Glad it was helpful, Joe. Look forward to seeing you on Google Plus,
    and your+1s as you see fit…

    Debra Askanase
    Community Organizer 2.0
    Social media strategy and communication
    twitter: @askdebra

    Let’s talk! Schedule a time:


  2. David Egyes says:

    Very good explanation, Debra, thanks!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    You’re welcome – I’m sure I’ll see you +1ing around the web :)


  3. David Egyes says:

    Explains well what that +1 function in Google+ is all about. Thanks, Debra!


  4. This is happening folks. Social Media Optimization (SMO) and social search will play a huge factor on how we get our information. That’s why I think Google+ is going to be a major player in social media networking. We are heavily influenced by our friends and their recommendations. Thanks Debra! #doSMOgood


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    I totally agree with your assessment of the role of the Google+ social network in social media networking. Thinking about Google+ is what inspired this blog post, as I began to realize exactly where Google is heading with social media optimization and social search.


  5. hust0058 says:

    It’s a small world. It’ll be a very small world when we get more robust, personalized search results based on our “social graph” and preferences. Frankly, that’s a good thing. A more personalized experience. Unless Google decides to use their powers for Evil.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Andy, I think it’s good and bad. Good in that the personalized search results are tailored (generally) to what we want to know, and from friends we might trust that are recommending content. However, I’m quite concerned about the narrowing of what will be shown in search results, and the fact that our searches won’t actually be showing us everything, once they are hyper-personalized based on our social graphs. So, I think the +1 is good and bad, and we very well could be limiting our own knowledge, or expanding it based on what friends are sharing with us…


  6. Anonymous says:

    I can see how this would be beneficial to a website’s SEO. I guess it goes back to a principle for web content developers to “make content shareable.” The initial reasoning was to give people an easy way to spread it around on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now it’s a way for people to share content via their friends’ and their own search results.

    It certainly is an interesting new dimension. I think we’re going to see an addition to the service offerings of internet marketing companies: SEO/SEM/+1ing!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    The new reality of “make shareable content” just became even more important, right?


  7. Imagine a world where the “hidden language” of SEO competition is replaced by a simple formula that is actually really good at weeding out weather you are active on all your platforms and engaging an audience. WOW what a place!


  8. Hi Debra,

    I just set up my Plus One account today.

    I’ve seen too many blog posts giving Google props to ignore it any longer 😉

    So far, so good. I like the circles feature. It helps you divy up your friends, somewhat similar to twitter lists but in a more seamless manner. 

    Thanks for sharing your insight.



    Debra Askanase Reply:

    You’re welcome. This post is primarily concerned with the Google+ button and its effects; one of them may be the rising prominence of the Google Plus platform. Enjoy Google Plus!


  9. says:

    Nice content. I believe quality of service and UI navigation if really makes useful surely will change social network search by G+. Thanks


  10. I have +1 on my tee site now, and I am confident it’s going to eventually push relevant traffic to my site


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Let’s hope it can!


  11. Anonymous says:

    I was really on the fence about putting another share button on my site until Google+ rolled out. While Google+ is still an experimental place for experimental people, the Google juice the +1 button gives will be delicious (how’s that for mixed metaphors/service integration). Anyone got the scoop on when Google+ will be in Hootsuite?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    I’ve been wondering when Google+ will be added to all the client management tools, in fact. I’m waiting for it to be added to Tweetdeck as well.

    Love the mixed metaphor – good one!


  12. Sappi says:

    I like to add plus 1 button to my website. Will Google plus 1 clicks from my website bring to search engine result if they have same URL?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Not sure what you mean, exactly. Google hasn’t said how they will calculate the effects of the +1 button yet, but I anticipate it probably will boost returns due to the social nature of the button. However, keep in mind it is most relevant within a person’s social network.


  13. Ari Herzog says:

    If I +1 something, it’s moot to you unless you’re connected to me. Moreover just because someone +1s something doesn’t mean its position in the search engine results page is relevant to your search.

    How will it change search again?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ari, your point is mostly correct. It is most relevant amongst your network of connected friends. However, as Google themselves mention in the quote box above, the +1s will be one factor that will affect overall search ranking.


  14. I have to admit that the idea of organising people into groups I find very compelling. Right at the moment I don’t share my facebook page with business contacts. I suspect many others have the same issues that a facebook page is about your social life and you quite possibly don’t want to mix that with your business life. I think there may be a cultural aspect to this as well. In the US I think there is less of a divide between private and business life, here in the UK I think we tend to have a firmer divide. Whether that’s a good or bad thing who’s to say but it does impact how we view applications like Facebook from a business standpoint. I’m going to be signing up for a Google+ account because I think this is a bold experiment from Google and I’m fascinated to see how it turns out. Best regards,



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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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