Why Google +1 is Irrelevant

By | September 14, 2011

Google’s latest attempt at getting users involved in its search rankings has SEO experts in a frenzy. This year Google has implemented updates that focus on content and other basics of SEO, but Google +1 is a little different. Google +1 is Google’s latest attempt at incorporating a social aspect of its popular Google Search. I suspect this is in response to the gaming of Google’s Algo with massive backlink strategies and content farms and the fact that social sites are becoming so popular. Last year Facebook overtook Google as the most visited site on the internet. Facebook has since teamed up with Bing in what appears to be an attempt to overthrow Google’s search and web dominance completely.

This isn’t Google’s first attempt at trying to get users to interact with the Google search. There’s no need to harp on Google’s previous failed attempts, but it’s worth mentioning that they’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. The problem with the previous attempts was getting users to actually participate. I think its possible that Google’s arrogance gets in the way of its progress. When you put a bunch of brilliant nerds in a room and ask them to plan out web domination they’re going to think like nerds! That’s what they are! So, Google, you can’t just add a social feature into the search and expect everyone to participate. First of all, Google controls about 55% of searchers on the web. That’s quite a dominant figure overall, but it also means that nearly 1/2 of the population isn’t going to be participating in Google +1. If we are extremely generous to Google we might estimate that 30% of its users are interested in Google +1 and use it regularly and effectively. This leaves us with a mere 16.5% of the population helping Google with its new social experiment. If we were able to ignore the assumed characteristics of these web searchers participating in Google’s +1 program it might be useful information for Google to extrapolate and factor into rankings of pages that participants “like” with the Google +1. After all, it’s obvious what Google wants to do – have its users tell it what sites are best instead of relying on algos that can be gamed. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the characteristics of these users involved with Google +1 are most likely tech-savvy, young, intellectual types. You might argue, “Well, what better people should be telling us what sites are relevant?” My rebuttal: if we only take the opinion of computer nerds into account the rankings will be severely flawed. We will end up with Harry Potter, Lord of The Ring, World of Warcraft, and Star Trek on every result for every keyword imaginable. Abandoning the opinion of “regular people” in favor of tech savvy searchers only gives Google one aspect of what searchers want – relevant results. Because there is little data coming from only a specific demographic of searchers (nerds), Google +1 is irrelevant at this time.

I can’t blame Google for trying. It’s a beautiful concept in theory and I want it to work. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work in the wild until Google can convince everyone to participate.

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