How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid Search

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid SearchGiving something a +1 is the same as giving it your public stamp of approval, and sharing it with friends, contacts, and others. In almost all cases, Google's +1 is exactly like Facebook's 'Like' feature with one major difference; Google plans to use +1 to not only share different types of content, but also to improve the quality of their own search engine results.

How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid Search

For starters and because this idea is still relatively new, allow me to first explain what Google's +1 (pronounced "Plus One") is. According to Google:

"The +1 button is shorthand for 'this is pretty cool' or 'you should check this out."

The idea is simple, and one that most of us are already familiar with. Giving something a +1 is the same as giving it your public stamp of approval, and sharing it with friends, contacts, and others. In almost all cases, Google's +1 is exactly like Facebook's 'Like' feature with one major difference; Google plans to use +1 to not only share different types of content, but also to improve the quality of their own search engine results. And that folks is the genius of it all.

As you'll see from this example to follow, the +1 button sits just right of each listing's title. When a user is logged in, they will be able to click on the +1 button to show their approval of the listing being provided.

How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid Search

Users, while logged in, will also see which of the available listings have been +1'd by those within their social circle. These enhanced listings feature a photo and a name, as shown here:

How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid Search

Google, as well as consumers, understands that there is great value and relevance that is generated from a personal recommendation. In fact, that value grows exponentially when such an endorsement comes from a close friend, or someone within our social circle. For example, I consult my good friend Trey before I purchase any kind of home improvement tool. He's very knowledgeable on the topic and therefore I completely trust his opinion on such matters. As I am sure you do, I have "go-to people" for all sorts of things. Google's +1 feature is going to attempt to bridge the gap between a person's searches and their go-to people.

As both a search marketer and a Google search user, I absolutely love this idea. Seeing search results that have been endorsed by friends and colleagues (who have ultimately had the same question) seems like the next logical course for providing a quality search engine experience. Does it not?

Google +1 and Paid Search

Aside from Google's organic search listings and more to the point of this article, Google is also adding their +1 feature to sponsored listings. Similar to Google's organic listings, sponsored listings will feature the +1 button, as well as the photo and name of those that have +1'd it.

How Google's +1 Will Affect Paid Search

Here's a quick Q&A to help you to better understand how Google's +1 is affecting your Google AdWords Pay Per Click efforts:

Which advertisers and ads have +1 buttons?

All advertisers running sponsored text-ads have a +1 button next to their ad. At the time of this article, +1 buttons are only available on sponsored text-ads that appear within Google's search results. However, I've been doing this long enough to know that this is likely to change. I'd expect that before long we'll be seeing +1 buttons on display text-ads, display image ads, product listings ads, product extension ads, and media ads.

Can advertisers opt-out of the +1 program?

No, there is no way for an advertiser to remove the +1 button from their ad. The +1 button, as well as any additional personalization feature being shown in the search results, is dependent on each individual Google user and their settings.

Do clicks on an ad's +1 button count as a paid ad click?

No, absolutely not. Ad clicks and +1 button clicks are completely separate. However, I wouldn't be surprised if click-through-rates (CTR) and ad-spend increase due to users accidentally clicking an ad's link when trying to click the +1 button.

Do +1's effect an ads quality score?

No, it does not... at least not directly anyway. The way that Google measures Quality Score for your ads has not changed. However, because Quality Score is a direct result of an ad's performance in relation to that of other ads competing for the same query and position AND because +1 is likely to increase an ad's CTR, ads with +1's may see a boost.

Does changing an ad's destination URL result in a loss of +1's?

Yes. +1's are associated with an ad's individual URL. For this reason, if you change the destination URL +1s on your old URL will not be applied to the new URL. Also, because AdWords looks at the final destination URL and not the path in which a user arrives on a page, ads having tracking parameters will not interfere with +1's.

Can Advertisers see +1's stats?

While I haven't been able to personally confirm this, Google states, "Advertisers will be able to see stats about which ads are getting the most +1's". I imagine that these stats will be built into the Google AdWords interface some time soon if not already.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

Well, in my opinion, in a better place.

I know, as I'm sure Google knows, that just as relationships are nuanced, the way relationships affect paid search will be nuanced. What I mean to say is that not every social connection has equal weight, nor should it, and not every social connection is useful for the same information. Accounting for these types of differences will be +1's biggest challenge and quite frankly the key to its long-term success. However, as it sits today, I believe Google is on the right track for integrating social media into its search results.

Social media is founded on relationships. Relationships help us to discover new things, remove risk from our decisions, and affirm our choices. Paid search advertising is about satisfying intent as efficiently as possible. And, Google's new +1 feature on paid ads is the layer that integrates relationships with paid search.

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