Google +1: NOT the internet marketing messiah

Ian Lurie

In the last few weeks, Google’s been hyping their new +1 voting feature. Click the little +1 and tell everyone you liked a particular search result.

Then they announced the +1 button. Click that and tell your network about a page you like, right from that page. You don’t have to be on Note that I even have it on this post, over on the right >>

But now, the internet marketing world has gone insane. Even more insane than usual. I’m starting to get messages like this one:

plus one whoring

I’ve also seen notes in forums: “I’ll trade +1 votes”, sell votes for cash, blah blah blah. Even worse, I’m seeing headlines like “Google +1 changes the game”.

Everyone’s treating Google +1 like huge news. The hype around +1 is now officially greater than the hype around the Panda Update:

Panda plus one trend

Seriously? People that excited about this? Um. It’s a button. That you click. To vote on a page.

It’s not a magic ‘get me to the top’ button.

It’s a social media voting button. It’s Google’s Facebook Like, only not as good, because Google can’t hit anything approaching the critical mass of Facebook. Or even Twitter, for that matter.

Think like Google for a second

Come on, people. SEO and internet marketing require a brain. Just for a second, think like Google. Would they create a button that so profoundly impacts rankings? Something so easy to game that you can spam a few Twitter followers into voting for you and bam, up you go in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Pages)?


They might use +1 as a check against algorithmic results.

They’ll use it to suggest other content to you in personalized results (if you’re logged in).

They’ll certainly use it as a signal for spammy sites—if you acquire 10 +1 votes for a page full of dreck one day, and 10000 votes for the same dreck the next, they’re going to take a careful look at your site.

And I bet they’ll use it as a long-term signal of overall site quality: Consistent +1 votes, in natural patterns, across an entire site might imply quality. But you’ll still need all the other signals in place. This is not a game changer.

Yet a lot of ‘SEOs’ and ‘marketers’ (deliberately in quotes) seem to think this is the next Sekrit Formoola Fer Rankings Sukssess.

Are they all dumb?

Actually, let me reorder that sentence: They are all dumb, if they think that they’re going to +1-spam their way to higher rankings.

Yes, it’s interesting…

Is Google +1 interesting? Hell yes, it’s interesting. It’s Google’s 3rd or 4th attempt to break into social media. It may eclipse such previous successes as Google Buzz and Sidewiki. It may become a beacon of greatness outshining even Google Wave.


In all seriousness, it’s well worth putting a +1 button on your site. Why not get the votes? Lots of people have Google accounts. Lots of people will click that little button if given the chance. And it could help, a little, with your search results. It’ll certainly help with your social profile, if this latest social media venture by Google actually succeeds.

Yes, I’m going to have a +1 button on my site. I like it, and the votes mean something. I’m not saying you should ignore +1. Just give it the attention it deserves. No more. No less.

…but don’t fall victim to shiny thing syndrome

The buzz over Google +1 is one of the worst cases of shiny thing syndrome I’ve seen. If you want to help your business, sharpen your SEO skills or otherwise succeed online, you’ve got higher priorities:

  1. Google Panda, which is still rolling out, still largely a mystery and represents one of the biggest algorithm shakeups in years;
  2. All of those canonicalization problems on your site;
  3. The dozens of broken inlinks you’ve got;
  4. Your 200-link navigation that sucks away authority from every page on your site;
  5. The 500kb, 250×250-pixel image that slows your site to a crawl;
  6. Twitter’s integrated follow functionality;
  7. Facebook’s continued efforts to improve their search functionality—they’re about as successful as Google’s continued efforts to break into social media;
  8. The real, measurable impact of established social media on SEO.

Or, you could even think about ways to come up with content people actually want to see. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the +1 hype. Treat it as one more small tool.

Not a jackhammer. Or a Marketing Messiah.

Other stuff

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. *applause*
    Well said! Everyone’s drooling over the shiny new tool, and even more over new toys for +1. How many +1 analytics solutions launched in the first 12 hours of the button? And how many people rushed to get their analytics in place, get the button, write about it, promote the +1 button as the big answer we’ve all been waiting for? Way too many! I agree completely with your conclusion. Google’s given us this new tool, why not use it? Install it on your site, get your setup the way you like it, then move on to dealing with bigger SEO issues that will actually have an impact.

  2. Very much online with my thoughts…..
    I think it’s just a week buzz then it’ll settle. Every one is understanding in the reference of facebook like button, which cannot compete fb anyways…
    It may be very good for the website button but will do blunder on Google Search

  3. Hey Ian,
    Slap me if I am a bit off base here but I think that the real purpose of the #1 button is to give the person who likes something MORE personalized results. So, if it improves rank for anyone, it most likely is only going to further affect that person’s search results. That’s why it cracks me up to see people talk about helping each other by clicking those blasted buttons.

  4. @Leo definitely not off-base. The +1 button is about social interaction – reminding yourself, and showing friends, pages you like. That’s it. Until we see strong evidence to the contrary, you can gain a hell of a lot more leverage in the rankings, AND in marketing, by focusing on the basics.

  5. Hi Ian
    I really enjoy your sarcastic style and couldn’t agree more with all the valid points you make.
    There seems to be another subtle (or not so) change that is the “graduation” of social results to the top of SERPs, until June the first they rarely appeared and at the bottom.
    You also forgot that the hearth’s tilt has slightly shifted due to the +1 button 🙂
    “Comment disclosure” I have quoted/linked to you on my latest post. But you probably know that already. Ping

  6. OMGWTFBBQ its a button! That I can click!!! From GoOgLe!!!1one!!
    Seriously though, I’m not sure how corralling people into a half-formed social network through Google will really be a “game-changer” like Facebook’s Like button was/is for sharing. Of course I’ll be bringing up +1 to my managers to add to our sites but that’s mainly because if we don’t we may miss out and because people will expect that anyone who is up-to-date on “teh intarwebs” will have a +1. Without it we could start looking like a dinosaur instead of a tech-savvy site in the eyes of the populace.

  7. I was going to send you a message to +1 my site, but then I thought to myself “Self, don’t be lame. Ian would just make fun of you for doing that.” So I didn’t do it.
    But it doesn’t seem like everyone had the same thought process as myself. 😉
    Love your take on this. Honestly, I am predicting that Google will have to shut it down in a month or so for privacy issues or something (Buzz repeat).
    Keep writing!

  8. Ughhh – sick of reading about the Google +1 button as the next big thing…
    #1 – Google’s not *that* dumb, and they’re not going to base their rankings on something that can be that easily manipulated.
    #2 – Remember when Google used to be a leader? The +1 button is just another attempt for Google to get in on something that Facebook beat them too.
    At best, it’s going to be something we read about for a few months before it gets canned like all their other failed attempts…

  9. @David Good thinking. I DO think that +1 has one advantage over Buzz – Google is pushing it out to their other platforms (Android, Places, etc.) faster. That could give it enough oomph to survive. But a Facebook beater? I don’t think so.

  10. I agree with you 100%. I don’t get all the hype about it. I’ll add it because it’s all that Google has right now and hey, if it makes me stand out why not?
    But is this some kind of mega-amazing-game-changer? Uh, no it isn’t. Until they’re able to really tie it in with Facebook and Twitter it isn’t really all that useful. I don’t know of anyone that really uses their Google Account as a social platform.
    I wonder if people are confusing “+1” with meaning the more votes you get the more you’ll move “up 1.” It’s just making personalized search more confusing for those that just don’t get it.

  11. Google have been pretty clear in saying that this is no going to have a massive bearing if any on SEO at the start. THey would have known very well that people were going to try and game the system from day one so am sure they have every safe guard possible in place. The big problem with this is although an interesting feature I’m not 100% sure if it is going to work in the long term because I just don’t have much of an incentive to click on it at the moment. If they do something smart through Google profiles possibly but to be honest I think this is a race that the like button has pretty much sewn up.

  12. I am constantly fascinated by the shiny new toy syndrome, the instant fix. There are tools out there you can use, some more helpful than others, but all of the hype is crazy.
    Take a minute and think about how many things can change things in an instant. I can’t think of any whether it is building traffic to your site or trying to lose weight. It is a process that requires effort and the proper utilization of tools.
    Nice post!

  13. looks like Google run out of new algorithms of measuring site importance based on content and backlinks optimization, so they just will alow people to manipulate it directly by clicking the button 🙂

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