Google has just announced that it is intro­duc­ing a +1 fea­ture that users will see as a small but­ton next to a Google search result and ad. When clicked, the “+1” will be shared with every­one in the user’s social net­work. The data will also be used in aggre­gate to improve search results for every­one. These fea­tures have been explained in detail here and here.

Google and SoLoMo

SoLoMo” has been used by many lead­ing inter­net ana­lysts to describe the con­ver­gence of social, local and media appli­ca­tions on the Inter­net. Google appears to be fol­low­ing the same path. Google inte­grated with Twit­ter a while ago to show hot trend­ing top­ics as part of the search results. It has also pri­or­i­tized local search and intro­duced sev­eral inno­va­tions and fea­tures in the past year. Google’s aggres­sive push on mobile adver­tis­ing and the Android plat­form has given it a com­mand­ing 97% adver­tis­ing spend share in the mobile space. The incor­po­ra­tion of the +1 but­ton is the log­i­cal next step in their SoLoMo con­ver­gence. This will have an impact in two key areas:

#1 The core search product

Google’s algo­rithms rank search results based on an inferred cal­cu­la­tion of pref­er­ences. In other words, based on your activ­ity and con­nec­tion to other pages, it gleans if a page is use­ful or not. While this approach has been remark­ably suc­cess­ful, it is lim­ited by the indi­rect­ness of the approach, i.e. the surfer is not telling you that he likes the page, but shows sev­eral signs that he likes it. +1 will give Google a direct answer from the user and is a strong and direct sig­nal of intent and can only help their search rank­ings. It will also help Google to pro­vide surfers with highly cus­tomized search and ad results, which will ben­e­fit both the user and the advertiser.

#2 Rich demo­graphic infor­ma­tion to advertisers

Until now, it was only the “like” but­ton on Face­book that pro­vided rich pref­er­ence data at vol­ume to adver­tis­ers. How­ever, +1s will enable Google to tie in pref­er­ence infor­ma­tion with demo­graphic data that it gets from the Google pro­file page. Google’s pref­er­ence infor­ma­tion has the poten­tial to be even more use­ful to adver­tis­ers as Google searches are intent-driven vs. Face­book “likes”, which are more awareness-centric. In other words, Face­book data, on aver­age tells you who is INTERESTED in your prod­uct or ser­vice, while Google data tells you who is intent on BUYING it.

This fea­ture also promises to take offer and ad copy test­ing to a new level. One should be able to find out how many con­sumers like an offer or a price via the num­ber of +1s. Like the “like” but­ton, this promises to take mar­ket research to a whole new level.

Our take

At a first glance, the +1 but­ton promises to do just what the “like” but­ton does. While it will enable users to share infor­ma­tion across their social graph, it will also give both Google and adver­tis­ers rich intent infor­ma­tion that will help them cre­ate bet­ter more tar­geted adver­tis­ing cam­paigns. Yet many ques­tions remain. For one, peo­ple like to share con­tent such as videos, news and arti­cles. Will peo­ple share organic search results or a text ad? Sec­ond, adver­tis­ers can remar­ket to users who have “liked” some­thing. Will one be able to do the same with +1s? Finally, but most impor­tantly, is the ques­tion of social graph. Face­book has a social graph and Google does not. Google’s attempts to cre­ate one have failed so far. The cru­cial chicken and egg ques­tion is whether Google has enough social graph data to make +1 inter­est­ing for con­sumers and whether the fea­ture can pro­vide enough incen­tive for users to develop their Google social graph. On this front, Face­book has a dis­tinct and def­i­nite advan­tage at this stage.

The com­ing months promise to be very inter­est­ing. Google and Face­book are becom­ing the biggest rivals in the Inter­net world. Google is attempt­ing to attract not just intent-driven users, but also users who want to spend time social­iz­ing on the inter­net. Face­book is doing the exact oppo­site. Face­book does not have a search prod­uct, yet one can’t help but antic­i­pate that there will be one in time. Bing is also in the fray, try­ing to gar­ner mar­ket share from Google with its many inno­va­tions. All inno­va­tions in social, local, mobile and search are aim­ing towards a more rel­e­vant user expe­ri­ence. This is a big net pos­i­tive for con­sumers as it means that the Inter­net is becom­ing a more rel­e­vant and inter­est­ing place. Adver­tis­ers ben­e­fit too as they now have unprece­dented access to rich demo­graphic data that is both action­able and measureable.

Dr. Sid­dharth Shah
Sr. Direc­tor, Busi­ness Analytics