Google has cycled through a number of attempts to make search results more relevant when you are signed in with a Google account. They tried stars similar to the ones used to designate an email message as important in Gmail. Eliminating a specific result from the results you see on the page was another path to personalizing results. They even tried a search wiki concept where you could add notes about a specific result. While I tested all of these features, none of them really made sense. I don’t know about your search habits, but when I go to Google to search for something, my goal is to find what I’m looking for and get the heck out of there.
Search behavior like mine doesn’t lend itself to spending lots of time annotating search results. My gesture of interest in an article typically extends no further than the fact I actually clicked on the result. When Google first announced their new Google +1 effort, I was equally dubious, because it encouraged clicking a button (like the one pictured below) in order to vote for the quality of a particular result.
In concept this is great, but you can’t reallly know an article is worthwhile until you’ve read it. So here again, Google is trying to get you to interact with a page on Google.com you’d rather leave to arrive at your final destination. Fortunately, Google wised up and made +1 something you can easily use.
Now instead of only offering the +1 button next to a search result, website owners can place a button on their page, similar to the Facebook Like button, so that you can vote for relevant articles. You can see an example Google +1 button to the right, with the actual live button for this article immediately following the text. If you read something here on JakeLudington.com or anywhere else online, you can click the +1 button no the page and let Google know you liked what you read.
The simple act of clicking +1 isn’t what really makes the button worthwhile. It’s the future shaping of search results that makes using Google +1 matter to you as a seeker of information. If the same page comes up in a future search, you will be able to see that you previously found the article useful, which makes it easier to see at-a-glance which results will quickly get you what you need. A second component to this requires a bit more work – Google also lets you see which of your friends have clicked +1 on any given result, so you can further filter your search by trusting (or not) that your friends have already discovered something useful. I say this requires a bit more work, because you need to actually friend people with your Google profile, either by adding them to your chat or friending their profile.
While it’s not clear how Google will use Google +1 to shape search results over time, it seems likely that articles with more votes from people would trend toward appearing higher in the search results. While the wisdom of crowds isn’t always beneficial, in this case, it seems that more people saying a search result is useful should help push some of the junk further down the page, making it easier to find information you can actually use.
I added the Google +1 button to most pages on JakeLudington.com. If you find something useful while you are here, I’d encourage you to +1 the page, both to make it easier to find if you search for something similar in the future and because you might help your friends in their search for information too. If you ever want to review the things you clicked +1 on, simply go to your Google Profile page and review the list.