Making Sense of Google+ and the +1 Button

Aug 09, 2011 2:12 AM  By

It’s no secret that the folks at Google are usually hard at work on new ideas. But until recently they focused on getting the math right with their search algorithms, leaving the socializing to mere humans.

During the past few years, something remarkable has happened. Facebook has begun to slowly encroach on Google’s territory, and Google has stood up and taken notice.

Facebook has not only become one of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, but also the hub for consumer’s online activity. This has made the social network a formidable new force for driving traffic to sites across the web, challenging Google’s dominance. Whereas Google’s specialty has always been its algorithms and its ability to crunch mountains of data, the search engine giant has now seen that people are just as influenced by their online friends and connections as they are by anonymously generated search results.

Now with its new social network – Google+ – and the +1 buttons popping up all over the Web, Google is entering the social game in a massive way. With both of these new products, Google is giving people everywhere the ability to recommend content and benefit from recommendations made by people they know and trust.

What does all this mean for you? Most important, it points to a change in the way that consumers are coming to your site – they are increasingly relying on links and recommendations posted by friends instead of solely on search results.

The good news is that the fundamentals of ecommerce haven’t changed. More traffic – especially more traffic to product pages – translates to more profit. So with some testing and experimentation, you can begin using this trend to your advantage. And luckily for you, the +1 button gives you an easy way to do this.

By incorporating the +1 button, you’re lowering the barriers for the kind of word-of-mouth buzz that elevates brand awareness. The beauty of +1 is that it pushes that buzz beyond the borders of your site, enabling your customers to share their experiences, purchases and recommendations to their entire network. By embracing the social feedback offered by +1 and the Like button, you spread your brand’s presence around the Web alongside authentic customer reactions.

Social recommendations can ultimately drive greater traffic to your website. The numbers we see in our own social commerce network support this. We’ve found (http://www.powerreviews.com/infographic-facebook.php) that 70% of reviews appearing in a Facebook news feed receive likes or comments from friends, and each shared review drives nine clicks back to the retailer’s website.

But while Facebook users tend to react on Facebook first, Google searchers expect to leave Google and click through to the most relevant site. You, the retailer, have a chance to benefit from that. This greater engagement can only be good for your brand, whether it takes place on Facebook, Google, your website – or all three simultaneously.

Want more evidence that this is one trend you should get ahead of? According to Google, Bing and SEO experts, “social signals” like links from Facebook , Twitter and +1 are starting to play a significant role in the ranking algorithms of search engines.

One could even argue that +1 is the most important social signal, as it’s the only one that’s native to a search engine experience (try it for yourself: compare search results while logged into Google, vs. anonymously.)

The key is to set yourself up for future success by getting in early and experimenting – the barriers to entry are low and the opportunities are huge. The early days of Facebook provide a powerful example of just how important it is to get ahead of these trends and establish a presence on the sites your customers are already spending their time on. Brands such as Amazon.com were among the first to start experimenting with Facebook Like and Facebook Connect. This put them way ahead of the curve by the time everyone else was rushing to establish a presence on the site.

It’s true that in many ways, social is still in its infancy. That said, the mere fact that an entity as big as Google is joining the party is evidence of how quickly this phenomenon is going to accelerate.

Google is a formidable new entrant, and we fully expect its Google+ and the +1 button to give Facebook a run for its money. We think it’s a great development for ecommerce, and we’re eager to see what’s in store.

Nadim Hossain is vice president of marketing for social commerce solution provider PowerReviews.