Google + 1 = Fail

Two Reasons that +1 Will End Up Next to Buzz in the Google Social Media Graveyard

Note: This is the opinion of Highly Relevant, an Internet Marketing Company in Los Angeles.

Anytime Google launches a new service, the Internet is alive with speculation on how it will affect SEO and the Internet in general.

I want to be the first to predict that the new “+1” feature will be another failure for Google in the “social space” because of two fundamental problems:

Problem #1: Launch Strategy

The first issue is the launch strategy.  Since the “+1” button for websites will not be available for several “months not weeks”, users are left to “+1” content in search results.

I cannot remember a time when I thought to myself, “That is a fantastic Meta description. I like this site already!”  Do they really expect me to return to the search results after making that decision to show my approval?

I don’t think so.  Something else interesting has already popped up on Twitter or another one of my social networks, and I am on my way over there.

People do not have that kind of Internet attention span.  In the months that it takes to get the +1 button out to webmasters, the Google social “haters” (apparently myself included) will be piling on about another colossal social failure by Google, making the release of the button much less significant.

In the meantime, every SEO in the world will be creating hundreds of Google accounts and “+1-ing” all of their clients.  (In fact, that might be a good short-term business opportunity.  Is there part of the algorithm that accounts for reciprocal “+1-ing”?)

Problem #2: The Fundamental Reason Google Cannot Do Social

The second reason that +1 is doomed to fail is that, fundamentally, Google cannot do social.  From their blog post announcing the new feature…

“When you do a search, you may now see a +1 from your slalom-skiing aunt next to the result for a lodge in the area.  Or if you’re looking for a new pasta recipe, we’ll show you +1’s from your culinary genius college roommate.”

The problem is that I’m not connected to my slalom-skiing aunt or my culinary genius college roommate on Gmail.  I’m connected to them on Facebook.

Email is not “social” anymore.  It is for business.  The people that I am connected to on Gmail are my co-workers and clients, and they do not necessarily provide the same value of “liking” information that my friends on Facebook would.

Conclusion: Time to Let It Go

Look guys, Apple couldn’t even pull it off.  The new “social” is not going to come from a corporation.  It will come from a bunch of college kids eating Ramen with the audacity to turn down the millions that you, Facebook, Myspace, and everyone else will throw at them simply because they are crazy enough to believe that they can change the world.

Until then, Google, you need to keep working on Facebook to get a similar deal as Bing, and keep working on cars that drive themselves.  That’s what we really want from you.  (Just please let me know next time you are in LA.  The human drivers around here are scary enough.)

Too harsh on launch day?  Maybe.  I am ready to eat my words, but I have history on my side.

18 thoughts on “Google + 1 = Fail

  1. Very good points both. It seems like a marketing faux pas to have effectively pre-announced the site button in order to add some useless clutter to SERP.

    On the second point, you’re right unless Google has other ways to identify individuals on facebook, Google and the networks between us. On reflection, that is plausible.

    Let’s say Google don’t have direct access to Fred’s network on facebook, or explicit confirmation of his cross network identities (i.e. that Fred on facebook is FDR@gmail.com).

    A clever algorithm can probably make a pretty good stab at this from public search data.

    Hmm, know anyone who specialises in clever algorithms for running over search data?

    Over ten years ago I used to work with software that tried to do this kind of stuff on much poorer quality data (largely free text). It was impressive then, but the data we have since created makes it far far easier. Hell, I keep being tempted to write some myself and others surely have (cf. HBGary’s WikiLeaks fiasco)

    I don’t know if there are any legal obstacles to doing this, but the technical problem seems likely to have been solved – and if you think about it – are Google really stupid enough to think they can do this just with gmail network data? Maybe. Maybe not.

    I still don’t understand why they have pre-announced this so far ahead though. The cock-up theory stands proudest ;-)

    Mark (in London)
    Quality Web Hosting for Freelancer, Practitioner, Therapist and Small Business

  2. Nicely put. As cool as the +1s are, it really does just seem like another layer of nonsense that will ultimately be gamed by the gamers, and ignored by typical Internet users.

    I’m not against Google having a social output, I just think that they need to fully develop pieces of the concept before pushing it out into public view. Examples I use are: Google Profiles, Google Buzz, Google Piscasa.

    These 3 products seem to be something that would be well on a social network, but in the Google World, they are 3 separate services which offer “bridges” to connect the Empire but they don’t quite Unite the empire. Until Google finds a way to bring it all together, any efforts moving forward (from a social site) will be weak pillars, easily knocked down.

  3. I gotta say you’re wrong on both counts. Rolling out +1 in search results before there is a +1 button available to install on web pages is a brilliant marketing maneuver. Google knew what it was doing here.

    Think about it. If they had rolled out the site button then you’re point #2 would likely be right on. Nobody wants yet another social button or another way to “vote” or “like” or “tweet” content. Sigh, we’ve had enough. But Google is showing us this is about search results, NOT about broadcasting your preferences. Not in the traditional way at least.

    By targeting the search results first, people see this as not another “like” or “vote” platform, but something that will add to the personalization of search results and quite possibly deliver better results. Or at least better signals for results we might like.

    I agree with you that +1 a meta description and title is stupid. In fact, it’s absurd that someone will +1 a site they haven’t been to. That’s not the point. The point is, what is essentially a bait and switch (though we know the switch is coming.) We’re being shown the result of what +1ing will do and given a chance to fiddle, before they roll out the most important feature: a new site button.

    Google is the master at anticipation. Make us want the site buttons long before they are available. We know what +1ing will do, now we want a way to work them into our sites.

    Do you think for a second that Google couldn’t roll those out the site buttons now? Or at the very least, wait another few days to roll it all out together? Yes, they could, but they didn’t want to. Because they know they don’t want this to be seen as a copycat. They want this to be something viewed as different. While the process of voting for pages won’t be, the end result very well result in a different set of search results than what we are used to.

    • Naturally, I have to disagree with you.

      I will start the paragraph about Google being the masters of anticipation. If you meant to write Apple, I completely agree with you. I do not think that Google, especially the search component, is sexy enough to be highly anticipated. Sure those of us reading this blog are intrigued, but for most of us, that’s just because it’s our job to follow and understand these things. I would bet the majority of the American public has no idea that this happened. This point, however, is completely subjective, so we can agree to disagree.

      I’m curious what you mean by a “bait and switch”. I just don’t understand the reference. Why would you launch a service without “the most important feature”? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of launching the service?

      What I am having the most trouble understanding is how a user is supposed to “+1″ a site. If I search for something and I enjoy the page that Google recommends, am I supposed to redo the search, so that I can “+1″ the site? Am I supposed to hit “back” and until I return to the search results? If I am back at the search results, I probably didn’t find what I was looking for. Maybe, a “-1″ button is more appropriate here?

      I do, however, agree with you about the fact that there are already plenty of ways to “vote” or “like” or “tweet” content and I don’t think that people are on the edge of their seats waiting for another.

      What I think is happening is every black hat SEO in the world is creating Google accounts for the sole purpose of “+1-ing” all their sites. By the time the button arrives on sites for the people that are actually enjoying the content, the data will already be corrupt from months of people abusing the system.

      The last point is the name. “+1″ is as annoying to type as it is to say. Can you “+1″ my site? No, but I’ll “like” it.

  4. No one I know even has a google acount! Few of YOUR friends have google accounts. It’s so easy to get registered for a facebook account! It’s a bit more annoying to register for a google account. with facebook you can have as little or as much privacy as you choose. with google, i don’t think i get a choice.

    • An important related point to this is that even when Google releases the +1 button for sites, why would a regular visitor actually use it? There’s a reason to use Facebook and Twitter buttons because people who have accounts on those have friends/followers who will see their activity. There’s a possibility for feedback there. A lot of people don’t have Google accounts, and almost no one actually uses their Google Profile, so if you +1 something…nothing happens. No one will see it, no one will ask you about it, no one will connect with you because you have similar interests. All you’re doing is giving Google more information about your browsing habits.

  5. “What I am having the most trouble understanding is how a user is supposed to “+1″ a site. If I search for something and I enjoy the page that Google recommends, am I supposed to redo the search, so that I can “+1″ the site? Am I supposed to hit “back” and until I return to the search results? If I am back at the search results, I probably didn’t find what I was looking for. Maybe, a “-1″ button is more appropriate here? ”

    I agree, this is what is ridiculous. But that’s the bait and switch. (I’m using that phrase loosely.) Google is really just throwing out another way to “like” something, but they are using the search results as the carrot. In fact, its the ONLY thing right now so all of use searchers get used to it being about search results NOT about forcing us into another way to like a page. If they did the latter, no one would care. But by rolling it out this way, our entire perception of what this really is has changed.

    I’m with you on the the whole “+1″ name thing. Not really well thought out.

    BTW: When I say Google is the master of anticipation, I was mainly referring to their way of rolling out things in beta and “invite only”. This has helped quite a number of their products succeed.

  6. I’m with you, Floyd. This is a bomb, not da bomb. For the reasons you said, and because, frankly, I can’t see my non-SEO friends even understanding what it’s about. What, they will say, I’m supposed to Like it and Plus it? They already like their like buttons. Enough.

    And I am with you on the premature announcement point … sure the tech world takes notice, but the rest? We’ll see …

  7. agreed with your point about large corporations not being able to do social media well…. I can’t see anything they can create that will be able to compete with the level of relevant, online social interactivity that facebook offers.. not in the west and not anytime soon anyway….

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  12. Why can’t Google and others stick to their core business and work on improving that instead of jumping on everyone elses bandwagon. + 1 = -1 The button is badly designed aswell…

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