When Google first launched the +1 feature, it had fairly limited utility. Users, if inclined to return to the search results, needed to back track to it. If the page content is what they wanted, there would be no reason to use the back button, returning to the search results. And, conversely if they did go back it would more than likely be because the content was not what they needed. So, as long as it was limited to the search page itself, there was little impact.
Tuesday night, things began to change. We heard that Google is going to release the Google +1 button for websites. This is not just another social button. Facebook’s Like or Twitter’s Follow affect only those who click it, and maybe one level beyond… if that tier happens to be interested in the same content. Google’s +1 button has the potential to affect everyone who searches for content related to your site. We are not just talking about tangential connections through Fans and Followers. We are talking about people who are actively seeking you or your products & services.
We know the tendency is for everyone to direct web masters to throw the Google +1 button on the site when it is released. But, given the potential impact of this particular social button, it deserves far more thought and consideration.
Keep in mind that it is not a substitute for Search Engine Optimization, SEO. If Google does not index your content and associated it with user queries, the +1 button is not going to be of much use. +1 will help well indexed sites, but it is not going to get your page indexed by itself. While in depth SEO is an important part of search engine marketing, if you don’t have even a baseline SEO program, you should start there. Ensure that the foundational domain and on-page elements are in place. As part of this, the +1 button may provide some lift.
Leveraging the potential power of the Google +1 button requires a more concerted review to ensure the content of the page is truly relevant to the queries which are driving traffic. There are two areas to be reviewed.
One, organic search results need to be tight. While Google’s algorithms may align your content to a query, you need to review this directly. The question is not about what Google “thinks” (no, I am not dismissing that) but it is about what users do. For a quick overview, take a look at the on site analytics. What is the abandon rate and the time on page? Are users quickly navigating off the landing page and “hunting” around the site for content? These are all things that you should review for basic SEO development. But, it becomes even more important with Google’s +1. Why? If users click an organic link, but have to navigate to find what they need, then the likelihood of them ‘voting’ for your content is slim; they’ll be too distracted and perhaps frustrated. The +1 button highlights the need for good on site and click path analysis to ensure users get to what they need quickly.
Two, be sure your paid search landing pages are tightly aligned with the ad groups. Yes, this is a basic PPC practice, but it is often not practiced. The more the users’ experiences align with expectations, the more likely they are to click the +1 button. So, review ad groups, ensuring the keywords and ad copy are aligned. Then go to the respective landing pages. Are they also aligned? If not, make the necessary changes.
Three, understand and set up your analytics to accommodate the use of the Google +1 button. Google is going to set up various means of tracking the +1 button metrics; Google Analytics, Web Master and perhaps Ad Words. Tracking and understanding the metrics of +1 is not only important for the immediate impact, but for the future implications. Keep in mind that all the data is going back to Google and being used in some fashion to affect search. If you don’t know the metrics behind your +1 implementation, then you can not make the necessary optimizations to ensure best possible results.
A final thought: Everything I mentioned is old. We are talking about the continuation, or for some, the implementation of best practices. For those who have been diligent in their SEO, paid search practices, and analytics this is likely a simple addition. You should have a place holder in the upcoming releases for Google +1 implementation when it is ready. If the status of the foundational elements is unsure, check on those first before implementing +1, using the time between now and the release of the button to get your site and practices ready.