Today’s blog post deals with the subject of Google’s +1 button. For those of you who don’t know, the +1 button appears next to search results on the SERP. +1 is similar to “liking” a page on Facebook, it shares that with your friends. For example, if I’m searching for Chinese food in Boston, and my friend Jane Doe +1’d a local Chinese food restaurant, it would say next to that particular page on the SERP “Jane Doe +1’d this page.” Seems harmless, Google is making its search more of a social experience. Search engine marketing is now impacted by social media marketing.
Once Google essentially announced that the +1 button would influence search results, SEOs, myself included, began to wonder about the ethics of it. Search Engine Journal wrote an article questioning if the Google +1 Button is the End of “Don’t Be Evil?” which is Google’s unofficial corporate mission statement. Google also stated that the +1 button factors all +1s into the ranking, not just friends of the user, raising a red flag. Basically, if a site doesn’t have a +1 button on the site, it will hurt search results.
This isn’t the first time Google has been accused of ignoring its own mission statement, being evil. Yelp, the social networking and local search website, has been particularly unhappy with Google, since the proposed buyout talks between the two two years ago fell through. When Google released Google Places, Yelp believes that Google forced Yelp results further down on the SERP. There are plenty of other examples of Google pushing their own services high in the SERP: YouTube, Google Ads and Books are just a few.
This new impact that the +1 carries shows that Google is really pushing Google+. They definitely believe that the future of search is social. If the world’s biggest search engine can combine efforts with the world’s largest social network, the result would be tremendous power to Google. However, Google+ is far from becoming the world’s largest social network. I know it is too early to dismiss Google+, but the early results have not been favorable for Google’s social network.
It seems to me that this isn’t about Google providing the best search results, it is about Google having the most information about its users and how Google can leverage that. Our friends at SEO Book have always had a less than flattering view of Google. Read some of their blog posts to find out more. Could this be the end of “don’t be evil?” It of course depends on your definition of evil, but it seems a very enticing opportunity has presented itself in front of Google, and the Googlers may have a hard time resisting.