Google Like: From SMX West to Google Labs

I’ve mentioned before that the Danny Sullivan – Matt Cutts conversations are my favorite parts of search conferences. In this case, it was also a chance to watch a potentially significant search & social feature get hatched.

Matt had used the forum to announce the launch of Google’s “block this site” feature on their search results page. (They had launched it in Chrome a few weeks earlier). Somebody asked why they only ask for negative signals and not positive signals, and Danny followed through:

Danny Sullivan: Can we have a PageRank This button? They’ll make [Facebook's] Like buttons like yesterday’s Oldsmobile.

Matt Cutts: That’s good feedback.

Danny: We could have suggested anchor text.

Matt: I’ll take that back.

Disa Johnson (from the audience, sitting right behind me): Google Toolbar used to have a smiley button.

Danny: Yeah, you mentioned that at the first conference you spoke at.

Matt: Google toolbar used to have Happy & Frowny buttons. My wife drew them.

Well, it’s only 3 weeks later, and Google just announced +1, which Danny Sullivan called Google’s Answer To The Facebook Like Button.

No word on whether or not Matt’s wife drew the icon.

Go to the Google Experiments page to turn it on.

[The above transcript is from my notes, but if you're interested in more from that session see Barry Schwartz's SMX Live: Ask the Search Engines

Also see more great moments from SMX West.]

Update: Danny referred to this post in his write-up of +1

“Earlier this month, I joked that I wanted Google to launch a “PageRank This” button for web sites. The new +1 button is kind of like that, though it has been in development well before my joke.”

So a few thoughts for Danny:

  1. Thanx for the link!
  2. Anchor text “joked.” Really? I guess it’s better than “the.”
  3. Yeah, you were joking with Matt, especially calling it a PageRank This button and asking to be able to add anchor text. But the wider context was serious, surrounding the “why only negative signals” question, Disa bringing up the old smiley button, and Matt saying he’d take the idea back to Google engineers.
  4. Now why point out that the idea was in the works at Google Labs before the SMX session? Who lets the facts get in the way of a good story? I thought you considered yourself a journalist!