The +1 Button Is Like A Button You Push For A Treat — Without The Treat

You people confuse me.

Ten days ago we put Google’s +1 Button on TechCrunch — because why not? We try basically all these new buttons/counters/commenting systems much to the dismay of our precious page load speed (we know, we know, it sucks — fix coming). Some of these buttons are great and make a lot of sense. The Tweet Button, the Like Button, even Facebook’s new Send button. But I just don’t get the +1 Button. At all.

Well, let me rephrase that slightly. I understand the concept behind the +1 Button — it’s a smart one. You get people to click it and it improves the page’s search ranking for logged-in Google users with social connections (and eventually maybe all results). At least I think that’s how it works. But I have a hard time believing that all of you actually clicking on the button really get why you’re doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you’re clicking on it! I am too on some of our stories. But I can’t help but get the feeling that it’s a bit like a cruel experiment we’re running. We put up a button, you click on it because it’s there, expecting you’ll get a treat. But there is no treat.

If the +1 Button is serving me up better results, I’m just not seeing it. And yes, I know the button push also populates your Google profile with a feed of our shared stories. But let’s be honest, no one is looking at those.

We’re definitely not seeing any noticeable bump in pageviews coming from Google as a result of the button. Maybe that will slowly change over time, but I’m not convinced. The rate at which people are clicking on the button appears to be dropping each day. And soon it may be just like the *gulp* Buzz button.

Google needs to figure this out quickly. When you push a button, you need to get a treat. People will click for a while out of pure novelty and curiousness. But that only lasts so long. Without anything noticeable happening (like a share on Twitter, or a comment on Facebook), people will just ignore the button altogether. All over the web.

I will give this to Google, the +1 Button definitely follows the Internet Self-Reference Law. That is, the stories that get the most +1s are the ones about Google — just like the stories that get the most diggs are about Digg, the stories that get the most retweets are about Twitter, the stories that get the most Likes are about Facebook, and any story you write about Techmeme always gets on Techmeme.

And while we’re on the subject, it occurs to me that the +1 name doesn’t even really make sense. “+1” to me implies that you’re agreeing with something someone else said or did. But that’s not what the +1 Button is. Instead, it’s like you’re the person initially saying/doing something. Or you’re +1ing the initial person who +1’d something — but who are they +1ing?

+1 is hard to say, hard to write, and hard to understand. But hey, don’t let me stop you from clicking that button, Desmond.