Google is doing it’s usual job of gathering usage data but now you can actively take part and vote for a web page and make a recommendation.
Now rather than make a ‘guestimate’ as to whether a site is providing value, based on a user actions Google is asking you to clarify and indicate exactly how useful a site is.
In the last couple of days Google have opened up the +1 feature worldwide on their search sites. This was previously only available if you lived in the States.
If you think of the Facebook ‘Like’ button it’s similar but with a potentially huge impact on search rankings.
Google’s New ‘+ Project’
The ‘+1′ feature is part of a larger project named, imaginatively ‘+ Project‘, no prizes for imagination. The aim of the ‘+ Project’ is to make it easier to share and bring users closer together. So in basic terms this is Google’s nth attempt at taking on Facebook with a twist.
The Project is currently by invitation only but you can head on over to the site to learn about the features such as +Circles, +Sparks, +Huddle and +Mobile.
You may have noticed a change in the Google search interface over the last few days. The change is more than cosmetic as it introduces a number of new features.
Chief amongst them from an SEO point of view the new ‘+1′ link.
Each search result now has a small icon to the right a ‘+1′ in a small pastel shade box. Hover over an you get a small animation of a rainbow like effect in the usual Google colours. The idea is that if you click on the icon you vote for the result and the site in turn.
But it’s not that simple, a window will pop up were you will be asked to create a profile and have the option to let Google ‘Use my information to personalise content and ads across the web.’
Clicking on the ‘Create profile and +1′ button closes the window with no indication of what just happened. I think Google slipped up here as it leaves the user hanging. You can find your new profile if you are signed in to your Google account by clicking on your name at the top right in the new black bar and selecting ‘view profile’. You will see a column heading for all your ‘+1′ choices.
Click on the column head and you get a typical search engine like listing of your selections along with a graphic from the site.
The next time you click on the ‘+1′ in the search results the icon will turn a solid blue and there’s no popup to deal with.
Learning From The Past And The Present
Google already personalises your search results by tracking your searches if you are signed in to your Google account. Search results and Ads are tailored for you based on your past search and click history. If you want to see natural results then you need to sign out of your account.
With the introduction of the new’+1′ you get to vote for the sites in your result listings. Google Buzz offered the same opportunity previously. However Buzz has been sidelined and is no longer available in the search results, essentially it fell a little flat and wasn’t used by most web visitors.
However with the new ‘+ Project’ and the ‘+1′ feature Google have clearly learned from the Buzz shortcomings and are rolling out something much more substantial.
Another SEO Hurdle
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is essentially about reverse engineering the Google algorithm and tweaking your site and SEM(Search Engine Marketing) to gain the best rankings results for your chosen keywords.
When I started online, before there was even a Google, adding the right title and meta keywords and descriptions to a page was enough to get a No. 1 listing. This changed in the early naught’s and has continued to change at gathering pace in the years since.
With the option for users to vote for the rankings your site could be pushed out of the rankings. Previously a bounce back by a user from a site was used as an indicator, and it still is, that the site the user had just visited wasn’t what they were looking for or didn’t provide the right content.
*Sidebar a Bounce is when a user visits a site but quickly leaves by clicking back to the search results, hence the term Bounce.
Now the user can actively take part in this ‘scoring’ system by voting for their favourite or most useful sites.
As a site owner you can view the impact ‘+1 ‘ is having on your rankings by visiting Google Analytics and viewing the new ‘Search Impact Report’ in there.
But It’s Premptive?
Another flaw, and a pretty big one, I see here is that unlike the Facebook ‘Like’ button which appears on the site giving you the option to view the site and make a judgement the ‘+1′ option is presented before you view the site. Who realistically in mid flow of doing their usual searching is going to find what they were looking for and then think to click back to the search results and add the site to their profile.
Most people wont and I think this will skew the ‘+1′ results.
However you can add the ‘+1′ button to your site quiet easily. This is directly taking on the Facebook ‘Like’ button with the number that ‘+1′d (plus one’d, ‘Liked’ makes so much more sense) displayed alongside the icon.
Whether this gets picked up by the Net masses or fades away like many of the recent Google initiatives one thing is true, Google will continue to rank your site better if your site provides useful, user friendly content and a simple easy to navigate interface.
One underlying truism that I’ve always adhered to as it worked and continues to work is that providing good content makes you feel better, increases your traffic and boosts your rankings.
With Web users getting more and more options to vote on these factors it’s time to clean up your act or loose out.
Why not try the new ‘+1′ button out now and click it up at the very top right and leave your comments below.