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Our crafty friends at Google have found a way to compete with Facebook’s much loved ‘Like’ button – Introducing Google +1.

Google is making a huge push into social with +1, a similar feature to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button.

Starting next Wednesday, users can opt in to taking part of the +1 experiment. Essentially, the aim of +1 is to add a ‘public stamp of approval’ to search results. According to Google, using the +1 feature will result in your name becoming associated with a link, an ad, a search result or anything where you think “this is pretty cool” across the web.

Google does however face a steep uphill battle against Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Over 2 million sites and counting have the Facebook ‘Like’ button installed.

Ad experts seem to be split on whether Google’s +1 will take off, however if it does, it’s likely to further an existing move toward marketing transparency.

Voicing the most pessimistic view on +1 was David Hallerman, a senior analyst at eMarketer. He notes that search is more a utility than a social activity, making recommendations an odd fit. “It’s not a medium where people spend time,” Hallerman says. “It’s a tool that people use.”

But as DeepFocus CEO Ian Schafer suggests, +1 could make search more social, changing behaviors in the process. “When someone is searching for a piece of information about a product, a review, or insightful commentary, it is typically a very insular activity,” says Schafer. “But being able to place a ‘seal of approval’ next to a search result may have the effect of making a typically insular activity more collaborative – hopefully improving the ‘algorithm’ through the quality of your connections.”

If +1 gains popularity, there’s a strong possibility that businesses will begin trying to collect +1s the way they currently try to accumulate Facebook ‘Likes’. “It encourages that kind of behavior — the gamification of marketing,” says Josh Rose, executive vice president and digital creative director of ad agency Deutsch LA. “This will definitely play into those hands.”

If +1’s aren’t gamed too much, Rose and others see the new recommendation aspect of search as a positive force, holding brands and their advertising more accountable. Leonard points out that if the +1’s contribute to a marketer’s Quality Score, they will pay less for advertising than others with lower scores, giving consumers a new way to, in effect, vote on a brand. A large number of +1s could raise expectations about a product, Leonard says.

Overall, there is exciting times ahead with the movement into social search. Would you be more likely to click on results that your friends have recommended? Let us know your thoughts below.

You can view ‘Everything You Need To Know on Google’s +1 here.

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