Google+ and +1

If you’ve added Google +1 icons to your pages to – as Google puts it – “help your site stand out,” you’re doing Google a big favor. By helping those of your current site visitors who haven’t yet engaged in “plussing” behavior to start doing so, you’re helping build Google’s position as more than a search engine (i.e., a social media platform).

With Google+ and +1, Google is trying to out-Facebook Facebook, using the power of the SERP and Display Network advertising to convince us (the advertisers) to do the social media user expansion work for them. Amazingly, it will probably work, because Google gives us something back when we give Google the opportunity to offer our site visitors plus functionality. When someone “plusses” a page on our site, both our ads and our organic results will be enhanced for those specific, socially connected searches where our site would be a fit.

Recently this plus-personalization has spread beyond the SERP to include any graphical advertising we run on the Google Display Network. Users can now “plus one” display advertising.

Facebook got it right with the “Sponsored Stories” option, which further incentivized businesses to advertise their Facebook pages, doing much of Facebook’s marketing for it. How many billions of ad impressions do you think are out there with a Facebook call to action? So many that it’s nearly impossible to quantify. Every Sirius/XM station, most broadcast stations, newspapers, magazines, major brands, and even the local diner down the street all are looking for “likes” and thereby providing billions of dollars of free advertising to Facebook. Heck, a traffic ticket lawyer even offered me a $25 discount if I “liked” him prior to engaging him to contest a cellphone ticket I got while driving.

All of this makes perfect sense for Facebook. After all, once a business has convinced a customer or prospect to “like” their page, the advertiser can then use Sponsored Stories advertising to get onto the user’s page, even if the advertiser’s EdgeRank isn’t powerful enough to propel their page updates into the view of the “liker.” Plus, if the “liker” now engages with your brand presence on Facebook via a checking or other activity, you now have access to that person’s friends, who can see a Sponsored Stories ad, which includes that person’s brand-related activity.

Google+ and Facebook Sponsored Stories both increase the yield and perceived relevance of advertising. Let’s look at the kinds of advertisers who may benefit most from Google+ and Facebook Sponsored Stories.

  1. Large advertisers with strong brands and offline media spend. The larger the advertiser, the stronger the brand is likely to be. The additional media resources at the disposal of the large advertiser will increase the likelihood that there is a large pool of users willing to “like” or “plus” the brand.
  2. Advertisers with passionate customers. The more passionate the customer base, the more likely the consumer is to interact. It’s going to be easier for even a boring automobile brand to get users excited than a window cleaner.
  3. Advertisers who are “cool” or inspirational. Apple certainly has a passionate customer base and it has the added benefit of being “cool.”
  4. Advertisers with a significant social media following. I don’t have hard data to support this hypothesis, but I believe that heavy users of one form of social media are more likely to be open to engaging in social media activities inside another network. So all those “likes” can finally be useful in perhaps driving Google +1s as well.
  5. Advertisers with repeat customers and good CRM systems. Advertisers with repeat customers have significant incremental opportunities to encourage +1 activity and can simultaneously benefit from the increased visibility of the +1s in the SERP when there is a hit in the social graph.
  6. Advertisers where the consumption or purchase of the product or service is inherently social.
  7. Advertisers where the pre-purchase behavior of searchers would benefit from social advocacy or an influencer’s point of view. I may not care about what my friends think about an upcoming purchase of a laser printer, but I may care a lot about what they like-plus when it comes to movies, services, restaurants, or travel.

Google plussing behavior hasn’t reached the tipping point yet in terms of causing the average searcher to see lots of +1s in their SERP. However, if heavy Google searchers also happen to be those with larger active social networks, then it may not take long before the +1s have a material impact on your campaigns. Perhaps you should start looking at your +1 and “like” strategies today.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.