Is Google’s +1 “Pretty Cool”?

As you’ve probably heard, Google has officially released the +1 button for websites. It rolled out to a smaller audience in March within search results and ads and continues to be seen by a larger English-language search audience on +1 shows up next to the title of a search result in Google and going forward this button will also be popping up on websites. Google has partnered with sites including Mashable, The Huffington Post, Nordstrom, The Washington Post, Best Buy, and TechCrunch where you’ll see +1 buttons in the near future.

According to Google, the +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out”. In other words, it means that you like it, but as we know the word like is practically owned by Facebook. Google would never come out and say it, but the +1 is their attempt at competing with the Facebook “Like” button. It’s a public vote or stamp of approval of website content. The goal of the +1 button is to help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the “best stuff” when they search.

Is the +1 going to take off, or go the way of previous failed attempts at social media by Google? Here are a few things that may hamper the success of the +1 button:

Public Google account needed
In order to +1 things, you need to be signed into a public Google profile. Not everybody has a Google/Gmail/Gchat account, and they certainly won’t set one up just to +1 things. Some people rely only on their school or work provided email or kept their AOL email account from when they first got their dial up AOL service in 1997. Even those that do have Google accounts aren’t always signed in to them every time that they conduct a search.

Lack of Knowledge
Sure, those of us in the internet marketing and blogging world know what +1 is because we keep up with industry trends and Google has been telling us about it now for a few months. But has the average internet user ever heard of it? Probably not. It’s going to take some time and they are going to need to be educated. Facebook users quickly understood what it meant to “like” something because it became part of social media culture. +1’ing is less intuitive.

Slow to adopt
Again, those of us “in the know” might be quick to try any new Google feature and get it onto our website or blog as fast as we can, but what about others? How many websites will actually be featuring a +1 button in the next few weeks or months? You might see +1 next to the title of a website in a search result, but are you really going to go back to the search results page to +1 it if you think “this is pretty cool”? Probably not. In addition, it’s likely that a site that you frequent is bookmarked or known from memory and you skip the search altogether, giving you no opportunity to +1 it if the button is not installed on the site.

Google has failed at social attempts in the past, but I’d never underestimate Google. They are a smart bunch. Are you going to jump into +1 land with both feet, or see how this plays out first? What are your thoughts on +1 and what it means for search?

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