Last week was a busy one for Google, and summer vacationing Webmasters may have missed the global release of +1 buttons to Google search sites, as well as the introduction of the Google+ project.
Both are key elements to Google’s social networking initiative, designed to compete directly with Facebook by making it easier for users to connect with friends and colleagues online. The +1 button aims to bring recommendations from friends and trusted contacts into actual Google searches – potentially giving it similar weight for marketers as the Facebook Like button.
Google may make up for being late to the party by providing the kinds of analytics that marketers have been yearning for in the social space. Late last week, the company released a number of reports within Google Webmaster Tools that will show website owners the actual value that +1 buttons are bringing to their sites.
The +1 metrics in Google Webmaster Tools will show how the button affects traffic in the following ways:
• The Search Impact report gives an idea of how +1’s affect organic search traffic. Webmasters can find out if clickthrough rates change when personalized recommendations help their content stand out. You can do this by comparing clicks and impressions on search results with and without +1 annotations. Google will only show statistics on clickthrough rate changes when there are enough impressions for a meaningful comparison.
• The Activity report shows how many times pages have been +1’d, from buttons both on your own site and on other pages (such as Google search).
• The Audience report shows aggregate geographic and demographic information about the Google users who’ve +1’d your pages. To protect privacy, Google will only show audience information when a significant number of users have +1’d pages from your site.
The +1 Metrics menu on the side of the page can be used to view reports. Sites that have not yet been verified on Google Webmaster Tools can get access here.
• The Social Engagement report shows how site behavior changes for visits that include clicks on +1 buttons or other social actions. This allows site owners to determine whether people who +1 their pages during a visit are likely to spend more time on their sites than people who don’t.
• The Social Actions report tracks the number of social actions (+1 clicks, Tweets, etc) taken on a site, all in one place.
• The Social Pages report compares the pages on a site to see which are driving the highest the number of social actions.
When adding +1 buttons to a site, Google will automatically enable Social Plugin Tracking for +1. Site owners can enable tracking for other social plugins in a few steps.