Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Natural Search Specialist
It’s here. Google has thrown down the gauntlet to Facebook. The “+1” button is now appearing in Web sites and in Google search results pages. How can Webmasters make the most of this button?
Google recently held a webinar for developers on installing and using this button on their sites. If you didn’t have a chance to listen, here I’ll present some of the most significant items from the perspective of search engine optimization.
First things first: you can get the official code for the +1 button here:
Of primary interest was the revelation that yes, Google will be using +1 as another algorithmic signal to help rankings. It’s official; more +1s = higher ranks, so it’s in your interest to get this button on your site. It goes without saying that Google will have spam detection technology in place to help prevent misuse.
What the webinar stressed was that this is a new item, and, strange as it may seem to us professional SEOs, some people might not know what the +1 button does. For this reason, Google gave some advice on putting it up in your site in these, the days of early adoption:
This makes sense; the button is not going to work unless it gets wide adoption. Google stated it would be making their own efforts to spread the word about what +1 does, but putting this button in front of your site’s fans and explaining what it does will give your site’s fans the opportunity to help you.
It’s important to make the +1 button obvious and intuitive. I’ve seen this happen more than once with a site’s Facebook “Like” button that’s less than obvious: I’ve read an article on the web, and I liked the article, so I clicked the Facebook “Like” button I saw on the page. It’s only then that I find out the “Like” button I clicked is for liking the whole site, and not simply the article I just read. I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment, so I just close the application, and no one will know I liked that article. The lesson you should take away is to make it clear to your visitors what will happen when they click the +1 button.
Link:Canonical and the +1
The Google webinar also made it clear that the +1 button will work with the link:canonical tag. That is to say, suppose you’ve got products on your Web site that your visitors can sort in different ways, e.g. by alphabetical order, by price, etc. If all of these sorting options exist on different URLs, you’ll need to put up a +1 button on each of the URLs; in addition, each of the URLs should have a link:canonical tag that specifies a primary URL. This way, if any of the +1s get clicked on the duplicate pages, all of the value from the +1 button will go to the primary URL you specified.
Google Best Practices for +1
Google also shared some specific best practices for the magic button. For example, it said that the +1 button was intended for public, crawlable URLs. This being the case, don’t put the +1 button on account pages, private pages, or emails.
A Google +1 button will look like this in your page code:
If you want the +1 button to apply to content that’s on a different page, you can add an HREF attribute in the button code to identify the recipient of the +1. For example, if you want visitors to +1 the domain Examplesite.com, your button code would look like this:
Sharing = Caring
Google reiterated that you should put this +1 button near sharable content, such as product reviews, at the top of article pages, or near other sharing widgets. The keys to success with +1 are putting this button where people can find it, and making it obvious what it does.