When I started building sites again (I started again in 2007 having had a few sites around 1999), Google search traffic was the traffic source to be going after. While there were of course other traffic sources for certain verticals (slashdot, digg, reddit e.t.c.), if you weren’t at or near the top in the Google SERPs, you were nowhere.
Fast forward to today and with the rise and rise of twitter and facebook, while organic Google traffic is for many sites still the main or a very large source of traffic, there are also social alternatives that can bring a great deal of traffic.
At the end of March Google announced the +1 button, a button similar to twitter’s tweet button and Facebook’s like button. Only a few months later Larry Page announced on the Google Q2 earnings call that users are already clicking the +1 buttons 2.3 billion times a day.
The +1 button is in itself an interesting proposition, being a sort of meta social network even before the release of the google plus social network proper.
It draws on your social graph from Gmail and Talk contacts, Reader and Buzz followings and of course now Google+ circles. Drawing from that graph, it shows next to search results your contacts have “+1′d”.
While Facebook and Twitter shares can deliver a viral (but usually) short term traffic boost, +1 can create a long-lasting increase in traffic to the +1′d page (by way of increased click through rate from the SERP).
Google’s result pages have been getting busier over the last couple of years, but +1′s and the experimental authorship initiative –  will create a competitively advantageous highlighting effect to certain results.
This is of course without mentioning the potential for Google using the +1 data in its search ranking algorithms. Google has already been using Facebook like and share data and presumably until the end of the twitter data deal it was/is using tweet data as ‘social proof’ too. The folks over at SEOmoz have carried some excellent testing to determine just how much of an influence this data has on rankings.
Luckily for you, the Google+1 button is also one of the easiest buttons to add to your pages. While Facebook requires you to add various XML namespaces and open graph tags (including specifying the page URL) to your document head, the Google+1 button crawls this data automatically.
As an experiment, I’ve just finished adding the +1 button in a prominent area on Arsenal News, a well established site relevant to this article only in that it currently gets a significant proportion of its visitors from twitter. I’m going to be adding the button to most (if not all) of my sites soon, but I will watch this one in particular with interest, to see if the addition changes the traffic mix at all.