Google recently released an important addition to its search engine, a social layer called +1. What should advertisers know about this new feature?
What Is Google +1?
On March 30, Google released an important addition to its search engine, called +1. +1 is a social layer to be added on top of the search results to make them more relevant. It is also a shot over Facebook’s bow, as the +1 button is expected to compete with Facebook’s “Like” button.
The +1 button gives Google users the ability to recommend both organic and sponsored search results to their contacts across many Google services, such as Gmail and Buzz. Although no other social networks are currently supported, Google is expected to incorporate those connections in the near future.
In addition to appearing in search results, the +1 buttons will be made available for individual web pages, similar to the way Facebook’s “Like” button works today. While no details have been provided at this time, it is reasonable to expect data from these +1 buttons across the web to feed back into the search results.
Why The +1 Button?
Over the last several years Google has experienced a notable number of setbacks in its social media strategy. The company’s attempt to remake email with Google Wave ended in disappointment. An ill-conceived social network, Google Buzz, has been beset by low adoption rates and a number of legal challenges.
At the same time, the Facebook “Like” button adoption has skyrocketed, and with it, the company’s insight into the behavior and social connections of millions of its users. There have been persistent rumors circulating about Facebook building its own search engine on top of the Like button ecosystem.
Google is striking back with a service that is much closer to its core competency than Wave or Buzz. The Mountain View giant knows search and it seems that the company finally realizes that any new social media offers will have to be built on top of its strong search foundation.
The +1 Button & AdWords
According to Google, within the next several weeks, all US advertisers will see the +1 buttons added to their ads. Currently, there is no way to opt-out of this feature. The names of connections that recommend the ad will be listed below the creative. Advertisers will not be charged when users click a +1 button. Google also promises to share +1 button data for both organic and paid search results.
Potential Impact of The +1 Button
- While it is too early to know what the exact impact the new button will have on the performance of the sponsored ads on Google, here are a few things advertisers should consider:
While the quality of search results is paramount to Google, the company will never do anything to jeopardize its major source of revenue.
Remember how Google Instant Search was supposed to change everything about the search behavior of its users? After hundreds of articles full of dire predictions, the impact of the new feature ended up being negligible. While a drastic step for Google, +1 is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on AdWords advertisers.
- If there is any impact, it will probably be most pronounced with the click-through rates.
It is a rule of thumb that anything that helps an ad standout will have a positive impact on CTR. For example, Google claims that the Google Checkout icon lifted CTR by 10%. The +1 button is different in that every advertiser will display one. It’s the engagement with the ad and the advertiser’s website that will make all the difference. Google visitors, viewing a search results page, would see the names of their connections that have +1’d an ad appear right under it, grabbing their attention.
- +1’d ads will likely make more of a difference for generic terms, where brand affiliation is weaker. For queries that have a branded term, the searcher has a much better idea of what he or she is searching for and tends to look for the listing of the company website first.
- Both the creatives and the landing pages will have to be built with the Google +1 social layer in mind. Just like with other aspects of social media marketing, website visitors will have to be engaged enough to +1 the content, which would most likely translate back into more exposure for the ads on the search result pages.
Google +1 button is just another step in the path to convergence of search and social. Social media will continue to gain in importance as a quality signal for search results. For AdWords advertisers, these changes mean that writing an ad copy and building a list of keywords might not be enough. As a campaign’s performance becomes more and more dependent on the channels and signals outside search, a comprehensive strategy that incorporates search, social media and content development will have to be developed in order to succeed.
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