Google +1 Effect on PPC

Tracy Earles
VP of Marketing & Business Development

Bryan Connally recently wrote a blog post on Google’s new social recommendation tool, +1. In particular, he addressed whether your site should implement +1. While his analysis was fairly broad (i.e. should your site participate or not), I’d like to take a narrower look at +1’s effect on pay-per-click advertising with Adwords.

Google presumes, and we agree, that users will be more likely to click on ads that others within their social circle have recommended by previously clicking on the +1 button. Therefore, Adwords advertisers should care about +1 and its effects. Given that there is no way to opt out of the program, they should also take the necessary actions to maximize its value.

Adwords advertisers should recognize that the +1 recommendation is attached to the landing page, not the ad. Clicking on the +1 button next to the ad will subsequently show that recommendation anytime Google serves that landing page URL in a paid or organic search result.

If users are more likely to click on ads with +1 recommendations, then +1 will have an indirect effect on quality score, by improving clickthrough rate. Given the potential for abusing +1, and the importance of quality score within Adwords, we believe Google will limit the impact on quality score of the +1 effect on CTR. How will they do that? It’s too soon to tell, and we may never know for sure.

Some search marketers even believe that +1’s social signal will be strong enough to have a positive effect on landing page conversion. While we believe that may be possible, we’ll wait to see evidence in the data.

Adwords ads may not request users to click on +1 in their ad copy. According to Google Adword’s creative guidelines:

“Your ads may not direct users to click on Google +1 buttons. Your ads and landing page should not imply or directly promote offers, prizes, monies, monetary equivalents, services or deals in exchange for +1 clicks. Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.”

However, firms could certainly promote +1 in other media, particularly word of month. Just ask.

In addition, firms can place a +1 button on their website so visitors can recommend directly from the page they’re viewing. In fact, site operators should consider adding a +1 button to all relevant pages of their site, and all of their PPC landing pages, to maximize the likelihood of capturing recommendations. As Bryan pointed out, there is no “-1’ or negative action, so there is little risk in doing so.

When a user clicks on the +1 button next to an ad, the advertiser is not charged; it’s a free action. Although Google has stated that they will start reporting +1 actions in the Adwords interface [under Dimensions tab, Free Clicks selection], we have not yet seen evidence that it is active.

Conclusion: Let the data be your guide

At Parallel Path, we’re big believers in testing. We’ll test the +1 button on a few landing pages and see if it drives improved CTR. If it proves to be valuable, we will recommend that Adwords advertisers take the time to place +1 buttons on every landing page to take advantage of the ‘compulsory’ +1 program.

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