By now you’ve heard of it. You may have seen it appear in Google’s organic search results for something you looked for just this past week. There’s even a chance you’ve already incorporated the functionality into your own website. It’s Google’s new “+1” feature; their answer to Facebook’s mini popularity contest known as the “Like” button and, to a lesser degree, the chirpy “retweet” function on Twitter. But more important than elevating one source of valuable content over another is the need to purge the system of the annoying Link Farms and Domain-Parking sites that always seem to find their way into our search results. What we need is a Google “-1” button!
It’s hard to argue; Google does “search” really well. The speedy aggregation of relevant content is nothing short of amazing. A relatively long-tail search for “Exotic sailing destinations in the South Pacific” yields over 5 million links in 0.23 seconds. The algorithmic ballet performs magically, delivering more websites than Captain Cook himself could have clicked through in a lifetime. Google’s plan is to make sure the most relevant and useful sites rise to the top, and who better to judge than you?
But without a way to “vote down” and keep out these electronic Charlatans of our time, we’ll still wind up wasting valuable time sifting through truly useless content that goes against the utilitarian spirit of the internet.
There are other issues as well. For all the potential benefits and enhanced relevancy a feature like the “+1” button can bring to search results, there is always the concern for people trying to “game” the system. Even before its launch, you can bet your empirical data that Black Hats were already feverishly plotting ways they could use this to either artificially increase the rankings of some less-deserving pages or even to attack the results of competing sites.
Whether or not Google agrees and adds the “-1” element to the button remains to be seen. The hope is that Google will keep the “+1” influence in perspective. It’s not a bad concept and in Google’s desire to build more of a social community around search, it has potential benefits. Still, time on site, pages per visit, and even returning traffic are better indicators of a useful search result and are much less subject to artificial influences.