Why Google +1 will fail

Google today released a new product called the +1 button. It follows on the heels of other, less mainstream search developments, such as the personal SERPS block list Chrome extension and Google Search Wiki, and is essentially a Facebook like button for search.

To see the +1 buttons (Google natural and paid search is affected) you need to be logged in to a Google account. If you still cannot see them then opt in to the +1 Experiment. If you still cannot see them then tough/ wait.

Essentially if you like a web page then click the +1 button. You will see summaries of whom and how many +1d sites as you surf (that’s if Google thinks you are connected to those individuals).  


Regardless of the marketing activity Google is putting behind this initiative +1 will fail (definition of fail: It will not be used by the mainstream user) and here’s why:

a/ Brin and Page are misguided if they think the vast majority of people will click on a site link, check the site out and then go back to the listing to +1 it OR love the meta description so much that they then and there click on the +1 button. Now I’m clearly being facetious by stating this as Google is far from stupid. It knows people return to websites hence they might +1 the site at a later date and they are in the process of rolling out +1 like buttons for sites to imbed on their site. Let’s just hope for Google’s sake that +1 buttons are adopted by the mainstream and sit next to Twitter tweet and Facebook Like buttons.

b/ There is no instant gratification from telling a search engine robot what I like. My friends may eventually be helped by the advice but it is far removed from uploading/exchanging information to Twitter, Facebook et al.  

c/ Do the majority of people really care about this type of personalised search? Do the majority of people even understand it? Google will definitely be hitting a certain demographic with this product and it is undoubtedly not the mainstream hence all feedback is skewed.  

d/ Users have to be logged in to a Google account hence a much reduced target market. Also for people who have multiple Google accounts access it could be rather awkward liking personal interest sites on one of our clients accounts!

e/ Spam could also be an issue in so far as people +1 sites for the sole purpose of raising its profile in the SERPS (search engine results pages). To be fair I’m sure Google will figure out a way around this as Google will probably not only introduce weight to +1 likes dependent on the user ‘importance’ but can also surely discern the difference between someone who has been using a Google account for years from one that was set up last week to simply game the SERPS.

f/ Network integration is also a current Achilles’ heel. So far +1 will only integrate with Gmail, Google talk chat list, Google contacts and people you follow on Google reader and Google buzz. What’s missing is twitter, flickr, quora, etc integration. To be fair I’m sure this integration will come with time but could Google miss the customer experience/ expectation boat and people desert the product before Google has time to plug its integration shortcomings?   

Essentially the main reason +1 will fail is the very reason it exists – social search conversation. Social conversation without direct interaction ‘reward’ is not social at all.

Paul Morris Disclaimer: But that’s not it for me. This still marks another hats off moment for Google innovation. Google continues to forge ahead with social search and I’m sure they will quickly figure out social/ search integration and in so doing take its algorithm to the next level.