As with any topic concerning Google, a mountain of speculation surrounds that “+1” button on Google+ and how to respond to the universal conclusion that +1s help improve search rankings. Countless articles and blog posts on the web conjecture about how +1s are factored into Google’s new Hummingbird search algorithm and just how much the link-building that is created with +1s help with SEO.
At Blink;Tech, we make it a priority to stay on top of the latest developments in SEO and Internet search, and like everyone else, we too like to dive into the nuts and bolts of it all to understand how it works so we can better serve our clients. But we also know that algorithms and response strategies change constantly, and sometimes it is better to back off and look at the bigger picture. Basically at some point you stop asking “how?” and start asking that far more critical question: “Why?”
With that in mind, let’s explore why Google wants us to use that +1 button so badly that they would allow it to have such a positive impact on search results. Knowing Google’s motivation, and possibly their fears, is like having a crystal ball — we’ll get a glimpse into the future of search.
In a previous blog post we looked at the Facebook search bar and explored the differences between traditional keyword search and the newer semantic/graph type of search that utilizes social media connections. We made the fairly obvious conclusion that when you look at the relationship between Facebook (semantic search) and Bing (keyword search), the two are partnering up to take on Google — the undisputed master of keyword search.
Social Media Meets Internet Search
The strategy here is easy to understand. Facebook has basically cornered the market on graph search data — those connections between you and the people, places, business, events, and things that you like. Bing is the next-largest search engine after Google. The partnership between Facebook and Bing means that they are ahead of the game when combining these search types. And this mixture of semantic and keyword search is the future of the web. Think of it as social media meets Internet search.
“By showing social content on the search page, Bing gives you more than just a search box and a list of links. You get a human perspective, expert answers, and a comprehensive point of view that you won’t see elsewhere.” – From Bing.com
Bing is working hard to encourage users to connect their Bing account with Facebook. They are even offering a rewards program with gift cards in return for making that connection. Integrating Facebook (more specifically, the “likes”) into Bing’s search results makes Bing a dangerous threat to Google — probably the biggest Google has ever faced, considering that Facebook has over one billion users providing semantic search data.
So what about that +1 button? Well, think of a “+1” as you would a Facebook “like.” Without these mechanisms to establish connections, Facebook and Google+ are basically static pages of information, not much different than any other web page to a search engine. Connections make social media what it is, and those same connections power semantic search. Google needs people to use that +1 button to collect the connections that will power their own version of semantic search and, for now, they are going to quietly reward those who encourage their followers to use it with a noticeable bump in search rankings.
So a subtle but profoundly transformational war is taking place right now in Internet search, and Google needs that +1 button to be pushed if they’re going to stay on top.
The real winner here, however, will be anyone who pays attention and takes advantage of this battle of titans to fortify their position in both social media and search rankings. And it’s all going to be about that +1 button.