Google +1 Buttons for Websites – How does Google +1 affect Search Results?

This week Google launched their +1 button for websites. Like the +1 button that was launched for organic search results earlier this year, the +1 button for websites allows users to place a recommendation for web pages they like. Recommendations will be visible on the webpage, in search results, and on users’ Google profiles. Additionally, +1 recommendations will be used as a signal to help determine search rankings.

To add the +1 button to your website, Google have set up a code generator that allows you to customise the size and language of the button. Whilst the button is available in 40 languages, it will currently only appear in English-language search results.

Additionally, Google have recommended the use of the rel=”canonical” tag where multiple URLs show the same content. This makes it easier for Google to display the total +1 recommendations for that content in search results rather than just the recommendations for one URL.

How does the Google +1 button affect search results?

An obvious competitor to the widely-used Facebook ‘like’ button, the Google +1 button has the added facet of having a potential effect on your website’s rankings in Google search results. In their +1 FAQ, Google have stated that:

Adding the +1 button to your pages lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of Google search results.

When a signed-in Google user is searching, your Google search result snippet may be annotated with the names of the user’s connections who’ve +1’d your page. If none of a user’s connections has +1’d your page, your snippet may display the aggregate number of +1’s your page has received.

The appearance of the +1 recommendations in organic search results will then likely affect click-through rates, with more people clicking through to sites that are highly recommended. But that is not all, Google have also stated that the +1 data itself will be one of the signals used to determine organic rankings:

[+1 data] can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we’ll be starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.

More so than other social buttons such as the Facebook ‘like’ or Twitter buttons, Google +1 is set to affect search traffic in a big way. If it takes off and is embraced by users, then this could be a major step in the evolution towards social search, and an important tool for webmasters.

Setting up Google Analytics for Google +1

Google have already stated to various sources that they are working on adapting Analytics to provide data on the +1 button. According to Search Engine Land, this is likely to include information on:

  • Geography: webmasters will learn where +1 activity is happening
  • Demographics: Google will share the age/gender of who’s clicking +1 on content when it knows that information
  • Content: +1s will be reported on a URL-by-URL basis
  • Search impact: webmasters will be able to see +1 impressions, clicks and click-thru rates

Tracking search impact will likely be the most important factor to Webmasters and it will be interesting to be able to track the correlation between user interaction and search traffic. For Webmasters who are keen to see which types of users click the +1 button, Yoast have provided a handy how-to guide on setting up Event tracking for your +1 button.

Is the Google +1 button worth having?

It is hard to say how the usage of the button will take off. But for now, it looks like a major step in Google’s move towards social search and one that shouldn’t be ignored. Given the potential for improving your search traffic if you add the button (or for losing out if you don’t), it makes sense to give it a go. Many major sites already have installed it, and it looks like it will soon become a part of the online landscape.


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