Why Google’s +1 Needs an On Page Component

Last week Google announced a new addition to the search engine results page: the +1 button. While there was a huge amount of press surrounding the launch, after playing with it for a few days, I don’t think it’s going to work unless it has an on page component … soon.

Let”s talk about what Google got right. The button is easy to use, unlike sidewiki or the privacy invading Google buzz. They also mimicked the Facebook link button closely enough that the average user will get the concept pretty readily. The “your friends also liked this” functionality also closely mimics Facebook. If you think this wasn’t intentional, you are a bit naive.

Facebook Friends

Google +1 Friends

That said, what Google got wrong was the omission of a button on the landing page. At the time this post was written, there is no button that publishers can put on their website pages. You can only get on the mailing list to be notified when one becomes available. IMHO this is a huge mistake.

For the like button to “work” as it currently stands, one of two things have to happen:

  • A user has to do the same or similar searches often and click the +1 button before clicking the SERP listing
  • The user clicks the SERP listing and loves it so much, they go back and click the +1 button

IMHO neither of these scenarios seems very likely, and it shows that Google really doesn’t understand how or why customers really use social media. Businesses “think” people “like” them out of a sense of loyalty; while that may be true for some, many are just looking for “sales”, “discounts” or “promo codes”. Let’s be honest–the most likely reason that someone would fan Williams Sonoma on Facebook is to get a discount and to see new recipes. There are hundreds of other little reasons, but those two are the biggest “value adds” to the end user. No one REALLY wants to be friends with a company.

If Google really wants people to use the +1 button, they are going to need to make it REALLY easy to use. They are also going to have to create some way for the customer to get something from using the +1 button. Without those two factors, the only reason people will use the +1 button is if a marketer incentivizes it with cash or free samples. The eggheads in the Google ivory tower may think people will work for free to make the world (and the Google index) a better place, but in the real world people will work harder on the things that bring more cash into their own lives, not into someone else’s.

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