Marketers have long known that word-of-mouth is a powerful force in shaping consumer opinion and action, and Google is now hoping to use that force to improve user engagement with search results and ads. The +1 button will be visible to anyone signed in with a Google account. If searchers come across a search result or ad that they like or find useful, they can +1 the item to recommend it, which will be visible to anyone in their social circle. The idea behind this is that consumers will be more likely to trust the opinion of their friends, and therefore more likely to click on those links.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

It is no surprise that Google has implemented this new feature on its major moneymaker, pay-per-click advertising. What is surprising is how little direct effect the button has on a campaign from the manager’s perspective. The +1 button will appear by each ad, along with a notice if anyone within the viewer’s social circle has recommended it, but the advertiser will not be able to see within AdWords how many people total have +1’d their ad, at least not at this time. Google has also stated that they will not be using the +1 count to determine an ad’s quality score. With no direct effect on price or placement, it seems that the button’s greatest use for advertisers will be as a signal of credibility.

Organic Search Results

Google has confirmed that this new feature will be used as part of its ranking algorithm for organic search results. Although it will be only one factor of many, the number of recommendations a page receives through the +1 button will be considered as a possible indication of that page’s relevancy. Users will also be more likely to find items recommended by their friends at the top of their search results.

Website owners can track the number of +1s their site has received, as well as Tweets and Facebook likes, in the newly updated Google Analytics released on Thursday, June 30. This information will help webmasters assess the success of their social campaign, as well as determine any correlations between sharing and traffic, sharing and goal completions, etc.

It remains to be seen how the +1 button will fare compared to its Facebook counterpart. Adoption to this point has been slow, though things could pick up with the release of Google’s new social endeavor, Google+, which makes heavy use of this feature. One potential problem is that search users, having left behind the search results page after finding what they were looking for, are unlikely to return simply to click a button. To avoid letting visitors slip away without recommending their site, webmasters can add a +1 button to the site itself, which will share data with the button on the search results page.