By now, we’ve all seen the Google +1 buttons pop up all over the web, and hey, some of us have even clicked a few.  Some might have gone as far as to install the buttons on our websites.

But I bet all of us have the same question on our minds: What can be done with Google+1 to improve rankings and see more traffic? I’ll get to that. But first, it’s important to understand this change.

Evolution of Google

When Google first launched, everyone saw the same results for a search term.  For example, if I wanted to find a poker website and I searched for “poker,” I’d see the same results as you would.  Aside from the regular Google Dance updates when new links and content changes would be taken into account, the results were stable for everyone.
Then it changed.

Personalized search came into effect. In other words, if I clicked on a particular result when I searched for something the first time, the next time I did that same exact search, I would see that website’s ranking higher in the results.  This was great: it meant that I could quickly find things that interested me.

With Google Caffeine, things changed again:  Rather than taking weeks for a change in content or a new link to impact rankings, it was now almost immediate.  As soon as Google knew about a link or an altered web page, it would incorporate it into its ranking algorithm.  This was also a great feature because it meant that users could get results for things that were fresh and important now.

However, in the last couple of years, there’s been a paradigm shift in the way we find and share information with each other.  Rather than the web being made up of a collection of individuals, we are now connected through social networks.  We “like” content in Facebook and we re-tweet links that interest us – all based on the theory that if I found something interesting, so will my friends and followers.  Because of these actions, there is a vast social graph that can be mined for demographic insight.

Through our search behaviour, as well as user behaviour online, Google tracks enormous amounts of data about our individual interests, and can aggregate this data across populations to determine interests in people who are similar to each other.

Google+1 is an extension of that social sharing culture.

How Google+ Works

When we +1 something publicly, we tell Google that this is relevant to us, as well as to those who are similar to us.

If you have a Google profile (or a Google Plus Account), and you are logged in, you can see who has given a +1 vote to a website. These get a boost in the rankings to make them more visible.

Plus, you can also see higher listings for websites that people who are similar to you have given a +1 to. Their assumption is that if someone similar to you likes a website within a particular slice of search, you will too.  You can’t see the +1 votes of people you don’t know, but you can benefit from them in aggregate.

Benefiting from Google+

In most cases, if you’re running a poker or casino affiliate website, you have a set of users who are broadly similar to each other. And these users have a network of online friends who share similar interests.

Simply having a +1 button on your website is not enough to get people to click it.  As affiliates, we are experts at driving conversion because our businesses depend on it.  We need to apply the same effort towards encouraging users to +1 our websites as we do on getting a new user to sign up for our programs.

How? The same way as you would when you ask the question, “How do I convince a user to trust my affiliate programs?” You ask yourself, “How do I convince a user to recommend me to a friend?”

One way to do that is by offering informative content, as well as having a well-designed and easy-to-use website. But you also need to make the content easy to share.  Don’t hide your +1 button away at the bottom of the page where no one will see it.  Give it prominence. Draw the attention of a user to it and make a call-to-action for it.

The more people within a social group you can get to +1 your website, the more people will see your website’s rankings move up in the main Google Search results — and the more traffic you will get from relevant, interested users.

Don’t Succumb to Temptation

There are already services that will provide you with +1 votes for free.  Don’t bother with them.  Lots of votes from bots or click farms will not benefit you because they won’t be from qualified people. In fact, they’ll affect the algorithm in a negative way, and bring you further away from your targeted customer. In other words, these services might be a quick hit at first but ultimately they’ll be a total waste of money.

About the Author

James Lowery is the Head of SEO and Affiliates at Latitude Group, a leading digital marketing agency based in the UK.

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