Well it looks like Google just can’t wait for the start of its Developer Conference tomorrow to begin sharing news. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any development of the company’s now ubiquitous “+1” button, but beginning soon, your +1s are going to get a whole lot more useful (and creepy?). Tonight, Google announced via the Google+ Developers Blog that it is rolling out a new feature in “platform review” — from now on, when users hover over a +1 button on your website, they will see recommendations for other related content on your site.
For example, if a user navigates to the Chrome Web Store to look at +1 recommendations on the Gmail app, they will be able to view not only related apps but recommendations from their friends as well. Of course, recommendations tend to be useless if they’re not relevant or topical, so Google says that its recommendations will “always refer to pages on the same domain or subdomain as the +1 button.”
This obviously has great appeal for site owners, as they have assurance that visitors will be seeing other content that’s native to their site, which will hopefully, in turn, encourage engagement and interaction with their site’s content. It’s another way to close that loop and bring an added level of stickiness.
For site owners that have already integrated the +1 button onto their websites, recommendations will begin appearing soon. But it’s not just for site owners … Google says that recommendations will be live across all buttons (for all users), regardless of whether or not they’re signed into Google+. +1 for that.
Recommendations will begin going live over the next few weeks, but for those who want an early test, Google asks that you sign up for the developer preview group and start offering your feedback. Google will be iterating quickly over the next few weeks and will be incorporating feedback into the new feature.
Whether or not users like the direction, Google search was always going to get more social. As we’ve said before, innately, people trust recommendations from their friends more than they do from strangers — or algorithms. The update to the +1 button makes sense as part of Google’s larger strategy to use Google+ as a way of authenticating and “socializing” search.
Google is a datavore and crawling and indexing sites as it does, it’s a quick leap for Google to begin serving recommendations from content on your site through the little positive conduit that is the +1 button. It encourages users to peruse through a site’s content (though it’s not totally clear how it’s prioritizing the content to serve, though I assume based on clicks/popularity) in a way that feels more personalized, meanwhile it gives site owners more incentive to add +1 buttons on their sites if they haven’t already, expanding Google’s already Big Brother-esque reach.
Part of Facebook weaving itself into the fabric of the Web was Facebook Connect and its “Like” button. Google has followed (and is following) suit, giving +1 a feature that “Likes” just don’t have. And with its hand firmly in control of the Search Lever, these are all moves meant to improve, personalize, and “socialize” the search experience. In turn, that presumably means higher authenticity of rankings, recommendations, and ownership, which means that Google real estate becomes more valuable to advertisers.
We may not like how it’s manifesting, but it certainly is interesting to watch Google unfolding its limbs.
For more, see Google’s blog post here.