Google Plus One

After several months of anticipation, Google released its new social networking feature 'Google Plus One' (or Google+1) in what, at least superficially, appears to be an attempt to compete with Facebook's wildly popular 'Like' feature. This could have a wide-ranging impact on online search as well as online marketing for a few reasons. The first is that it escalates the very public fracas between Facebook and Google to cull more and more user data for eventual use in more targeted advertising and marketing campaigns for their paying clients.

Until now, Google and Facebook have largely operated in separate spheres; Google revolutionized search engine marketing with AdWords, PageRank, and Analytics, while Facebook has shown the importance of recommendations and testimonials from friends as a powerful tool for learning about virtually any demographic or individual's behaviors and desires.

Google has recognized this encroaching competition for some time, and Plus One is their bold attempt to not only compete but turn the tide in their favor. While Facebook partnered with Microsoft last year to offer user data and ?Likes? for improving search results for Bing, Google is now trying to create one monolithic tool for combining the already proven strength of their search algorithm with personalized user feedback to even more finely tune search results and advertising.

Google search engineer Matt Cutts has said recently that the PlusOne feature won't initially be added to the search algorithm as it will take at least several months before the data is sufficient to draw any conclusions on how to integrate it. But make no mistake, one of the main reasons for introducing such a tool is for helping weed out spam and content farms and raising the rankings of more relevant, popular sites. If Google is the web's police, then Plus One turns all of us into the neighborhood watch.

As for paid search, the ability to give a text ad +1 gives both Google and online marketers more finely tuned data and feedback on their advertising. This will have an obvious impact on how PPC ads are developed and marketed because the accumulation of +1s will be desirable for ranking and word of mouth. The click through rates and general responses in testing has been very positive, and because of this, most companies will want to opt-in to including Plus One on their paid search. Sites can also opt-in to include Plus One on their actual pages, and when a user gives a +1 here, it will be included onto the paid ad on the relevant search engine results.

Plus One could be a game changer for online marketing and viral advertising. Some have been less than enthusiastic about the initial roll-out (like the requirement that to use it, one has to be signed into their Google account). And while the critics may eventually be somewhat right, Google will be probably be content with having some modicum of success in the social network sphere, especially after the PR bungle and widespread antipathy surrounding Buzz.

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