08/18/11 Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers

What is Google Plus really about? Sure, it’s a social network — a good
one,
and it’s adding millions of users fast — but some folks, like fellow
Forbeser Paul Tassi
, are skeptical about its chances of luring people away
from the addiction that is Facebook. What we should keep in mind though is that
Plus is a product from Google, a word that is synonymous with search.

There’s already been some speculation about the impact that “+1″s — Google’s
version of Facebook “Likes” — will have on search. For example, we know we’ll be
able to see what our friends have publicly recommended when we do searches. But
a meeting with Google ad folks earlier this week made me realize that it’s going
to be even bigger than that. Google is encouraging web publishers to start
adding +1 buttons to their pages, and the message in this meeting was clear,
‘Put a Plus One button on your pages or your search traffic will suffer.’

Google plans to incorporate these recommendations universally into everyone’s
searches. Though recommendations from contacts in your Google circles will be
weighted more heavily, the number of “+1″s overall will now be a factor in
search whether you’re part of Plus or not. I got pulled into a Forbes products
meeting with Google ad team folks earlier this week to provide a journalist’s
perspective on plans to add yet another sharing button to parts of our site. The
Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in
search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’
was the answer. “So if Forbes doesn’t put +1 buttons on its pages, it will
suffer in search rankings?” I asked. Google guy says he wouldn’t phrase it that
way, but basically yes.

I checked in with the Google press folks for
confirmation. “Google will study the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that
influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results,” says a
spokesperson. “The purpose of any ranking signal is to improve overall search
quality. For +1’s and other social ranking signals, as with any new ranking
signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals are related
to quality.”

Some traffic scammers are already onto this. Alexis Madrigal at The
Atlantic
reports that SEO shops are already offering bushels of +1 votes for
$9.99 a pop.

There are other benefits to having Plus One buttons on your pages: augmenting
Google analytics reports. Due to the specificity of the data in people’s Google
Plus profiles, Google will be able to offer website owners more interesting data
about the folks that have given them Plus One love — including gender, age and
location. So here at Forbes, we would know the breakdown on the people who are
really enthusiastic about our stuff — men vs. women, the young’uns vs. the
wizened ones, the urbanites vs. the rurals… Yay! More tracking!

There are going to be lots of benefits to this. For example, I just gave Kelebek
Hotel
— a cave hotel that I loved in Cappadocia, Turkey — a +1. Should I
miss a Facebook status update from a friend going to Turkey in the future asking
for recommendations, this is a built in back-up, so that this hotel will rise up
in the search results should they Google “Cappadocia hotels.” That’s pretty
cool. And I can do that even though Kelebek doesn’t have a +1 on its page, since
these buttons are also available from the main Google search page. But when it
comes to news sites, people are more likely to +1 a story after they’ve read the
article rather than straight from search, meaning that if news sites don’t get
the +1 button on their pages, they may be punished in search by competitors who
have.

* Ed. note: I changed headline to from “dies” to “suffers”
shortly after publishing, as it will survive despite being harmed.

Forbes – Kashmir Hill

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