A recent article on Wired.com on Google’s +1 button caught our attention. The lead paragraph states this: “Google is making plans to turn its +1 button into a crowdsourcing tool that helps it re-order search results and fight web spam.” That’s a pretty loaded statement and, as you might expect, it has given the conspiracy theorists who think Google is trying to take over the digital universe lots of ammunition.
Whether or not you believe Google’s G+ social network will take over the social media space — the jury’s still out for us on its ultimate success, it’s clear Google thinks enough of the power of its social network to begin considering not only adding it into its search ranking algorithm but giving it a fair amount of clout. In essence, the +1 button, which has been around since March 2011 has been growing in capability. At first, if someone clicked the button on a website, their profile pic would appear next to the url if a friend searched on results that included that url. Now, the button can be used to post stories to friends and followers on Google+ similar to Facebook’s Like button. Here’s where +1 and Like are different, +1 is owned by the world’s dominant search engine and by weaving it into search results it could, in fact, skew how your university’s information appears in search results.
Google, sensitive to the way netizens might take this news, has tried to downplay the potential significance, as the Wired article states. However, one has only to look at Google’s track record to know that there is likely some grain of truth in the conspiracy theorists’ rants. In fact, Forbes recently published a story entitled “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages or Your Search Traffic Suffers” that it later pulled from its site (the link is to the raventools.com site where the content of the article was captured) after Google sent the editors a memo indicating that the writer had overstated Google’s intent. We’re not here to argue Google’s intent, but rather alert you to the potential ramifications of NOT putting a +1 button on your web pages.
What the long term outcome of this move by Google will be is still up in the air. As is the ultimate clout of G+ itself. However, in the short term, it can’t hurt to put a +1 button on your university’s web pages. It could, however, hurt if you don’t put a +1 button on your pages. Which, for the sake of argument, is a round about way of saying….put a +1 button on your web pages…and a Like button too!!!!