This morning Google announced a social bombshell, a new service called +1 that competes directly with the Facebook like button as a signal for determining what content is most relevant to an individual.
Fortunately for Google, it has the world’s largest search engine to integrate this product with immediately, giving publishers a significant reason to implement +1 within their sites. Google accounts for more than 50 percent of incoming traffic on most sites, while Facebook is currently running a distant second in referring traffic (more then 10 percent of our own traffic comes from Facebook). For now, the new product is being offered as an experimental service, although there’s no doubt the company plans on making it a widespread feature.
How important social is to the world of search is still debatable, but we’ve long argued that it’s a critical component, since liking, tweeting, and now +1ing (what a horrible name by the way) may have much lower friction than placing a hyperlink on the web. Possibly more significant is the fact that Google’s own advertisements will now include the +1 button, making AdWords just as social as many of Facebook’s own advertising products. Take a look at the screenshots of the two ads below.
It’s pretty clear that Google wants to become a whole lot more social and in order to get there, they’re going to take a page directly out of Facebook’s playbook. The only unanswered question is whether or not publishers will begin placing the Google +1 button within their own sites. Also important is how aggressive Google will be in building a publisher relations team which works with online publications to implement the experimental feature. If Google wants to get into “social” this is definitely a great step.
However, with so many previous failures in the social world (example: Buzz), what makes this product any different? With Google’s major influence, there’s no doubt that they will be able to get any online publication on the phone in a heartbeat. The only question now is how fast the search company can move. With no add-on for publishers available yet, it’s clear that Google has a long way to go before they put a serious dent in the massive lead that Facebook already has when it comes to measuring consumers’ interest in content around the web.