There is no doubt that Google has a dominant position when it comes to search (in the western world at least). And because of this, in recent years, the main threat to Google hasn’t been from other search engines but increasingly from social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
There are numerous examples of the steps Google has taken to get a piece of this action. Whether it’s including Twitter results in searches, launching its own network in Google Buzz or even attempting to buy Twitter, Google is determined to fight back against Facebook’s social domination.
All this makes it doubly interesting to see the launch last night of Google +1 an equivalent to the Facebook “Like” button. Google calls it a ‘public seal of approval’. You can imagine what Facebook will be calling it…
The +1 button will initially sit alongside search rankings, allowing users (if logged in) to give credit to specific sites or pages. This data is then recorded in their Google profile and shared with connections in Google Contacts.
So, at the moment, the feature is interesting if a little ‘me too’. The feature is only available on Google.com and is in open beta. You can activate it here.
What does the future hold?
But it’s what Google could potentially do with +1 that is particularly interesting to marketers.
There are rumours that Google is set to launch a new social network next month called Google Circles and +1 could possibly be a key part of this.
And I’d expect Google to quickly rollout +1 to allow companies to include buttons on their websites and blogs. This gives marketers the same expanded range of possibilities and potential that Facebook Likes recently brought into the game.
Changing the rules of the game
What about search? At the moment, +1 won’t affect organic or paid rankings, but you’ve got to question whether this will change in the future. The idea of ‘social search’ – i.e. search results that are affected by members of your social circle – is certainly one to watch for 2011, with Bing already including elements of this in its Facebook tie up.
One thing you can be sure of is that Google won’t implement anything that will allow search results to be gamed. So if this does happen, you can bet there will be stringent rules, regulations and checks in place.
We’ll keep an eye on all these developments so that you don’t have to! But, in the meantime, what are your initial thoughts? Is Google +1 one to watch or another Buzz?