Google’s +1 – Success hinges on paradigm shift as far as social interactions are concerned

"…Google needs a major partnership (something akin to Bing's with Facebook and the inclusion of Facebook likes in the search engine results pages), or a major acquisition, to make social proof work in its search results. That's by no means out of the question…"

Google has announced the launch of +1. The new feature allows searchers, i.e. only those who already have a public Google Profile, to personalise search results and advertisements and recommend web pages to friends. However, leading search marketing specialist and technology firm Greenlight, points out some immediate shortcomings if Google is hoping to conquer the social sphere in a bid to bolster further its dominance in the search space. In Greenlight's view, unless Google can instigate some kind of paradigm shift as far as online social interactions are concerned - allowing it to reposition as first to market, Google has little option other than to buy Twitter. Creating its own copycat is unlikely to succeed. In the case of online advertising, +1 has potential to increase click through rates (CTRs) and reduce advertising costs. From an online marketing perspective, Greenlight points out that the speed at which Search and Social are converging means there is an immediate need for specialist teams and search and social marketing technologies to help bridge the divide, keeping up with the rapid pace of change.

Google needs a major partnership or acquisition to make social proof work in search results

According to Greenlight, Google's latest social feature, similar to Facebook's 'like' button will only work for Google if it can manage to import data from Facebook, Twitter and kin, into the individuals Google Profile thereby making Google, the gatekeeper of social interactions. Greenlight points out that there is probably a need for this as there are too many points of interaction - SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, Messenger, etc. However, Facebook has made it fairly clear it is unlikely to allow Google to access data it holds.

According to Adam Bunn, Director of SEO at Greenlight, fundamentally, Google as a brand fails to capture the imagination of many, and is seen as functional rather than recreational... a bit too 'serious'. "Google can't afford to limp in with this +1 approach, given its track history with failing at social. However, were Google to buy Twitter that would perhaps make Google more exciting on the social front and +1 suddenly more disruptive. Greenlight will be interested to see just how this will fit into some wider strategy."

+1 impact on Paid Search

Many online retailers now have a star rating listed below them based on online reviews of that product or retailer. This was Google's first step into integrating user feedback into paid ads. Although findings are limited, some advertisers have seen CTRs along with ads that stand out more on page.

With +1, the ability for users to recommend paid search ads to their friends will potentially increase CTRs and thus lower overall advertiser costs. Currently, every user now sees different ads based on their search history whether they are signed in or not, but this is now a step further into personalising the ads a user sees.

Search and Social gathering pace

Search and Social is gathering pace. Marketers need to understand search strategies are increasingly social strategies and vice versa. As well as having pay per click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO) in one shop, and teams with specialists in those respective disciplines, search and social marketing strategies and technologies themselves must evolve at a similar pace to bridge the divide.

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