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What About Google -1?

This guest post is by Sriram Reddy of

Allen: Billy, Why are you looking so gloomy? Did your Twitter follower count halve overnight? Hehe…

Billy: No, I just had such a cheesy experience Googling for material for Prof. Dwyer’s assignment. There was an unusual amount of spam in the search results. I had such a hard time scanning through all those search results, but I finally found what I was really looking for.

I wish there was a way I could shield others in the Internet community from visiting some of those sites I just visited—trust me, they were a sham. If only there was a way I could bury some of those results in Google’s SERPs. Tough luck that Google doesn’t give me an option to discourage my friends from clicking through such results. Black-hat SEOs slowly seem to be getting the better of Google search.

Allen: Ahh, I agree Google’s hasn’t wiped out spam completely, but don’t you worry: Google’s Panda algorithm is quite efficient in dealing with spammers. Even better, the recently launched Google +1 button is definitely going to add the human factor that Google’s page rank algorithm so gravely needs. It’s a huge step towards removing spam.

Billy: Hmm, yeah I must admit I love the idea of +1’ing something. It makes me feel more in control. I can’t help but think of large outfits that are going to abuse the +1 by recommending their members to +1 their own site through personal profiles.

While the +1 button will guide SERPs in the right direction, I wish Google would introduce a -1 button too, to neutralize the effect of gaming the +1 button by some publishers. The first thing I would do if Google released a -1 button, is -1 all the spammers on my research for Prof. Dwyer’s assignment. Trust me, I am so disheartened with my searches today.

Allen: Whoa! A Google -1 button! Don’t you think we have enough social buttons to deal with already?

Billy: I firmly believe that if you had a bad encounter with a search result, then you need to tip off your friends and the world about it, so that they don’t need to make the same mistake you made—if they choose to go by your recommendation, that is.

You know what else I would love to see on a Google -1 button? Wen people -1 something, it would be good to see their -1 displayed publicly across Google’s search results as annotations on the content they -1’ed—just like the +1s show up in results.

Let’s take the example of the assignment that Prof. Dwyer gave us today. Everyone in the class will be searching for the same information on Google, and we will definitely all be coming across websites that are spam. If I wasn’t satisfied with a search result, I could simply click the -1 button. It would then show up on my friends’ search results that Billy -1’ed this. How cool would that be?! Since I had not liked the link, I’m sure most in our class wouldn’t waste their time on it.

Allen: Ah, that reminds me, I’d better finish up with Prof. Dwyer’s assignment soon, or I’ll be looking at my second grounding in a week.

Billy: Bah! For commonly searched terms the results by and large aren’t too bad. But for niche terms, I’ve noticed that I have to spend quite some time searching through affiliate links and aimless blogs before I find what I want.

I’ve heard that one third of all search queries are first-time searches. Since Google is still improving its search algorithm for first-time queries, it would be their advantage to use the help of people like us to vote out spam. This makes a strong case for a Google -1 button.

Allen: Maybe you’re pressing the Panic button a little too soon here. A -1 button would be worse than unleashing a fire-breathing dragon.

It would open up websites to social attacks. Organizations will go berserk -1ing their rivals out of competition. This would have much more serious consequences than organizations just gaming the +1 button. This would be abused far more than the +1. No wonder Facebook hasn’t rolled out a Dislike option!

Billy: I’m not sure if I would be too worried about publishers -1ing their rivals. Google is smart enough to handle such a situation. I’m sure it’s not out of their reach.

Just the way a +1ers identity will be tagged to his +1 recommendation, -1s could also be tagged to people’s profiles as well. An algorithm from Google to give higher relevance to -1s from certain profiles than others which have had a history of gaming buttons would definitely turn the tables in Google’s favor.

Also, if a publisher has made a brand for himself online, even if a rival manages to mass -1 his content, how can we discount the publisher’s followers? They wouldn’t want their favorite brand to be mass -1ed, would they? They wouldn’t hesitate to +1 to salvage their favorite brand.

Reddit, Digg, and Google’s very own Youtube work on similar models. They pull the best content to the top of the pile through a mixture of positive and negative feedback, and they are pretty competent at it. We know Google’s capable of taking this to the next level.

Allen: You are making sense, but I’m sure there are many companies out there that wouldn’t be comfortable with such a model. Especially small publishers.

Billy: Yeah, there might be some resistance initially, but a -1 button will really do wonders for the Web. Imagine a universe where there is no spam at all in Google’s search results. What won’t we do to see a day like that!

Most importantly, Google would be empowering people to choose what they want to see. If Google’s given me the option to decide what’s useful for my friends and the Web, then it should definitely give me an option to decide what’s bad as well.

Allen: Hmm.. You are making sense now … but I’m still not so sure yet. Anyway, it’s getting late, I gotta go. Catch’ya tomorrow.

…While the Google -1 button is still an idea that most of us fancy, this conversation between Billy and Allen was an attempt at seriously contemplating the Google -1 button.

Who are Allen and Billy? Allen and Billy (and Prof. Dwyer) are characters that landed from my imagination, as I needed two characters through which I could put forth my views and counterviews on the Google -1 button.

What do you think about the idea of a -1 button? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Sriram Reddy writes lock stock and barrel about sharpening blogging skills at Follow him on Twitter.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  • I have been wondering what is taking this so long. A facebook dislike button would also be nice…

    • Ya, this is something that they can definitely try out. But again, it will be a little tricky for Google to plug the loop holes.

      I have written a continuation of Allen and Billy’s conversation in my latest post –
      What About Google -1? – Part 2

    • I found a lot of people talking about that Facebook dislike button. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t have it. But rest assured some freelance programmer is gonna find a way to Cook up a quick site and have some Facebook related topic on it with a bunch of ads on there and make a lot of $ gUapeY $ from talking about:

      “Why Facebook does not have a dislike button yet”

      On their website. When Facebook finally releases the dislike button, you can reminisce back on this blog reply I made to you, and say “I told you so”… LOL :-)

  • I think that’s a good idea. But again, I don’t know enough mechanics behind all these. The thought is good though, but you will always find somebody to sabotage it. For example if you have a great site and you do have a competitor perhaps equally great site – won’t they -1 you, so they get a better edge? Or something along those thoughts….

    • This is one thing that I too have my concerns about. Google would have to handle it tactfully.

      I’m glad you liked the post.

  • This actually reminds me of a similar request on Facebook – the idea of the dislike (or thumbs down) button for profile and status content.

    Personally I’m with you, instate the -1 button so that as “searches” we can pull better content forward for the next searcher. I can’t tell how many times I’ve tried searching for legitimate terms and ended up with a variety of p0rn sites. It’s borderline ridiculous.

    In the end, count me in. My vote is for the -1 button.

    • Yes Brandon, there are still a lot of content farms out there. What if I don’t like a site and want to bury it in Google SERPs.

      Count my vote in too. :)

  • It would surely cut down on the spam Sriram.

    It’s an idea in the right direction of solving coming up with useless search results.

    I just feel that there needs to be more ideas like the one you just proposed.

    I like the idea, a totally +1 it, I’m just not sold.

    What a thoughtful update though…just imagine…Google Precision, like Google AI.



    • Yea, at the end of the day, we all want a more precise search engine don’t we.
      If I don’t like a result I would simply click the -1 button and it will be showed on my friend’s search like ‘Sriram Reddy -1’d this’. Why not? If we can tell that a result is useful why we cant tell our friends that another result is useless.

  • Great post and the arguments are put forward in a nice way. I myself think that the -1 button will be a good development Google should roll it out.

    • Yea Faizan, when it comes to spotting spam, I believe that humans are more effective than computers. A Google -1 button might not only help Google in fighting spam but also make Google SERPs look better.

      I have written a continuation of Allen and Billy’s conversation in my latest post –
      What About Google -1? – Part 2

      I’m Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • I think google does not need to make the google button -1 because it can trigger a bad thing. example, many people would use the service to destroy the credibility of a site of their rivals.

    good idea to avoid spam sites is that we must mark the site and try not to visit again. we must tell our friends about it too.

    • Large publishers pulling down competition is one thing I too am skeptical about. There is scope for a -1 being abused far more than the +1.
      But I would love to see a -1 button anyway.

  • That’s an interesting concept, Sriram.

    Though, could that -1 button be used for foul play? What if sites drown their competitors site with -1 hits?
    Yes, this could also be happening with the +1 button, also.
    Apart from spam sites that deliver low quality results for your search queries, and there are some really bad spam sites out there, there is also the issue of the way results will be returned depending on the actual wording that is used(Typed in) for the query.

    There is so much data out there, so many webpages covering such a wide variety of topics. Depending on which words being used and in which order, when typing out a search query, you can get a bit of a variation in results.

    • Yeah Daniel, it’s up to Google to empower users to vote down such spam.

  • I am not sure if Google -1 is needed. There are spam pages I agree but it is never the case that spam pages actually push the good pages out of search results. I also agree Google Search is not as good as it used to be but a -1 button will be gamed further by spammers.

    • Yeah, interestingly, the -1 button could be gamed more by spammers.
      But how is google evaluating individual +1’s? Does it give more emphasis to a +1 from a user with a rich internet history over a user who is associated more with spam sites? Can the same concept be used while evaluating -1’s?

  • I think a -1 button would be a bad idea if used in the same way as the current +1 button. No matter how good your intentions, as long as people are able to create accounts anonymously this will be abused and simply used to try to push down the competition. In the same way that blog comment spammers are evolving their methods to get around being penalized in the rankings the methods of abuse will evolve and genuine sites will be penalized.

    In my opinion, the notion that you can eliminate spam from the index entirely is a bit naïve. As long as there is profit to be made, there will be people willing to try and get a slice of it through nefarious means. Just saying Google is smart enough to tell the difference between real and abusive use won’t stack up. Yes, they will probably figure it out eventually but by that time the damage may have already been done.

    • Martin, you made a very valid point when you mentioned that people will always try unorthodox ways to get to the top of SERPs, and that’s the very reason why Google has introduced a +1 button to help deserving sites get their due.

      There is already valid speculation that large organizations will game the +1 button to their advantage by asking their employees to personally +1 their site. How should Google be handling that? I’m sure Google would have already considered of such a scenario before rolling out the +1 button. If Google is confident of handling +1 gaming, I’m sure it can deploy the same strategy for managing gaming of a -1 button as well. As you rightly said, they will figure it out eventually. Do read the second part of this post on my blog where I have a few more points to make.

      Looking forward to your ideas on these points.

  • I like your creativity in this post. I like the idea of a Google -1 button too because there is nothing worse than trying to do a search and getting nothing but “cheesy” spam sites.

    • I’m glad you liked the post Justin. I hope you enjoyed it’s sequel as well.

  • I don’t agree that Digg and Reddit do a good job of floating good content to the top.

    There are people who pay contractors on Fiverr, and other similar sites, to manipulate those systems by voting for or against content. While the articles on those sites aren’t spam, I’ve seen poor quality articles at or near the top while better quality articles (better written, more detailed, well researched) languish much further down the results.

    And what would happen if Google sent a searcher to a page that was not relevant to their search, but was not spam? The searcher may -1 it because it wasn’t what they were looking for, thereby penalising a perfectly good page.

    As an example, I have a lot of articles on the Thesis Theme on my site. Occasionally I see people landing on one of them having searched for something that had to do with a thesis (a position paper) rather than Thesis the theme.

    If those people started -1’ing those articles just because they were not what they were looking for, my pages are going to be unfairly penalised.



    • This is an interesting perspective you have put forward. Food for thought.

      On a lighter note, if Google does show up a good page irrelevant to the search results, it’s Google that will deserve a -1 :)

  • awesome post an explanation about twitter followers being halved, Google +1, and Google -1.I’m still skeptical, as I look forward to gaining a better understanding as time goes by about how that button works on websites.

    • Hi Drewry, I’m glad you liked this post as well as the posts at my blog.
      It will indeed be interesting to see how Google evolves it’s +1 button and makes it more fool-proof.

  • Joe

    I personally like the idea but only if it is 100% transparent. for example Coke would have to be able to easily see Pepsi is -1 them.

    • That’s a nice idea as well, although Google will have to end up identifying the association between Pepsi and the guy who -1’ed Coke; unless Pepsi has created a seperate ID for itself. But bringing in a level of transparency, in what ever way possible, will do a lot of good.

  • I like the way this post is written.. very different to what we are used to reading..

    Overall, I think the premise of Google +1 is in the brand itself. So making it Google -1 will not be a picked up by most. On the other hand, who know Google might come up with Google +2 ;-)

    • I’m Glad you liked my style of writing Shamelle.

      I too do not feel Google should replace the +1 button with a -1 button. My idea was only to recommend another Google button(minus one button) apart from the existing Google +1 button, so that people can vote out bad sites, as well as bad Google ads, as well as share their -1’ed disapprovals with their Google+ circles.

      Do read the second part of this post on my blog where I have addressed most of these other points.

      On a lighter note, a Google +2 doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

    • if Google +2 were to come out, it would be mind-boggling to see what features come along with it :-)

  • The only problem with a -1 button is spammers would use it to bring down legit sites. The only solution is continually changing the algorithms used by Google to filter for new spamming techniques. Not perfect, but it does an ok job.

    • Ya, Google will definitely have to come up with a concrete algorithm if they even start considering the idea of a -1 button. What I have talked about in my post here is more of a proposal, than a complete fool proof plan. I might start getting hate mails from a certain Mark Zuckerberg, if I over do my proposal into a project plan for a -1 button. He might even create an exclusive dislike button only for a certain Sriram Reddy’s facebook profile.Thats me, if you were wondering who he is ;)

      On a serious note, yes, you are dead right, Google will have to come up with a good algorithm for a -1. But as our friend Billy rightly put it above, “a -1 button will really do wonders for the Web”

      Do read the second part of this post on my blog where I have a few more points to make.

  • I agree with Martin. Unfortunately we live in a greedy selfish world and you (and Google and the Bot) can always put more merit into someone “plussing” someone up then you when they put someone down.

    It’s a bad way to live…but that’s where we are at. I always put more stake when someone tells me something good as opposed to negative.

    -1 is a bad idea. +1 was a great idea. As an example: Let’s say I don’t like Darren. I’m in the Army. I could get all of my kids, friends, family and fellow Soldier’s email addresses, create 15 accounts per and minus the heck out of this site because I’m jealous, malicious, bad, or he’s competition.

    It is worth more to Google if I said, “you know what…this guy ain’t so bad!”

    Great post though and very “conversation” provoking. Surprised there aren’t more comments.

  • I don’t know about you guys, but even if they did come out with a -1 button, I’m not putting it on my web site!!

  • I thin we are already dealing with enough buttons already and a -1 button would be only a pain. Its simple that if you like something just simply +1 it an if not don’t bother, but the idea of degrading it would only cause more harm and as in the conversation in the post rivals would be more focused on clicking -1 to eliminate it from search results and one day a website would have -15 rating while the other it would be +20, how’s that to handle? At least with a single option its somewhat on the natural ratings.

  • Thanks for the interesting article and discussion. It sounds like there are quite a few cons to the -1.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

    • I’m glad you liked the article. I have posted a sequel which addresses a few additional cons of the google -1 button at my blog. I would be interested to know what you feel about it.

  • Google -1 is not that feasible as +1, because this will start hate competition and people will look down to competitors with such practice and -1 can bring destructive competition. For now it is good: +1 u like , dont +1 its okay.

  • I agree with others here that it would be abused I would rather that we just had a +1 button in which the more +1’s a site gets the higher up it goes in the ranks. It would be to easy for -1 to be abused an ruin some very good sites reputation and you would then miss out on some very good content.

    Its hard enough in the online world to get your site in a good position and recognised by google the more things we create to rank sites, will start to make it almost impossible for simple business sites out there to rank and be found by customers, as bloggers we look at it from one end, but from working on some small businesses websites to get them ranked and noticed it becoming harder for them to get their sites found

  • Very interesting post,Goggle have done well over the years and its good that they keep coming up with options for their users.

  • Google does have the feature to remove search results from a domain if you click on a link and go right back to the SERP page. I think it says something like “Not helpful? remove from search results”.

    No doubt Google is using this data in their algo as well.

  • Thank you. I hope you enjoyed reading the sequel of this post too, back in my blog.

  • Hmmm, Reddit, Digg, and Youtube may already have a “-1” button – but (at least in the case of Reddit and Digg) they’re not very effective.

    Regular posters to those sites know that individuals and “gangs” regularly down vote their “competitors” submissions in order for theirs to rise higher.

    If you get a viral outbreak of Diggs you can rise above it. But for bread and butter stuff it’s mob rule on those sites – with mob being an organised group of people with their own agenda.


  • Only carrot may not work. You may need a stick also. Carrot & stick is the best policy, though the combination percentage may differ. It may be a good idea to include -1 vote. Today, 0 count is the lowest. But, many pages are new and even though they may be excellent, they may still carry 0 count. On the other hand, older pages (or pages from bigger sites) will always attract some +1 votes from at least some people even if the web page is useless. It is here that -1 vote will be useful to broaden the horizon to say +100 to -100 votes for a web page.

    • You are dead right Ashok. If a page had a rating like say +100 and -100, it would give a broader perspective to people on the general feeling on the webpage.

  • And so, let’s say Billy comes across a great site for his project. And he knows that everyone else in his class is looking for the same info . . . but he wants to keep this great site all to himself (you know, the kid who checked out ALL the library books on the topic the class was assigned, back in the pre-internet days). So he hits -1 so no one else will look at it — he hopes.

    • If you are a close friend of Billy, and you know that he is always up to such antics, then you would surely click on the link he -1’ed. Especially the link he -1’ed. :)

  • Sriram,
    First of kudos for writing this post. I liked the way you presented the idea. Believe me, this idea definitely has something in it. Who knows, tomorrow something similar Google might think and come up with some solid algorithm to come close to humans when it comes to spotting a spam.

    Great post.

    • Thanks Naveen, I’m glad you liked it. I went through your blog and found it to be interesting.

  • Such a great idea. Google’s probably already working on it. Most people rather praise than put down.
    Both critique has its place. Giving user more option also has pro and cons.Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • Google +1 is a monumental failure and will be gone within a year just like the wonderful google buzz and you people are pondering a google – button…hilarious.

    • No harm in pondering Grant. Mark Zuckerberg once pondered over a social network.
      But I somehow am a fan of the +1, I like the fact that people have a say over search results.

  • I enjoyed reading this post. I am not sure about this +1 thing but in the future it will be an important part in SEO…

    greetings from Germany

  • There is a Chrome plugin for putting a -1 on Google+ which I think is okay in that context. But I disagree that it’s a good idea to have this in SERPs. It could cause a lot of damage, and I think Google is smart enough to realise that there are livelihoods at stake.

    It’s not a good idea to assume Google’s engine is smart enough to handle disputes and witch hunts.

    If you don’t like a site or don’t think it’s worthy of a +1, then don’t give it a +1. A site without any +1s is enough to keep me on my guard.