There are new social forces upon online businesses today. The simple click-to-sale model we used to know is a thing of the past. Several new trends in paid search can be used to connect with savvy online customers and can maximize revenue and leads for online businesses. Each new trend is an opportunity to explore tactical ways to integrate social connections into your current pay-per-click (PPC) advertising strategy.
Online social connections are the new influencers. More and more consumers are turning to social connections on the web to get input when making buying decisions. These personal endorsers are the new word-of-mouth recommendations you used to get from friends while having a cup of coffee face-to-face.
Several studies have been done that support ratings and reviews as key considerations in the purchasing process for many products. Consider Google seller ratings appearing in AdWords ads on Google.com. This shows the number of stars a consumer has rated a product. Google Product Search seller ratings consist of an aggregate ratings score with snippets of customer reviews from third-party sites and Google Checkout. Advertisers are automatically opted in to showing seller ratings if criteria are met:
- At least 30 unique reviews
- Four stars or above on Google Product Search
- Do not need to have a Google Merchant Center account for ads to be eligible for seller ratings
Now, many ratings, reviews, and endorsements are recognized as coming from connections online. A more recent addition to PPC ads is the Google+ social extensions appearing in ads. By default, all ads have a +1 button, although the button only appears in the ad on a mouse-over if no endorsements have occurred. Searchers can click the +1 button to recommend this page. +1’s for an ad are actually for that ad’s landing page and appear to friends and contacts. All +1’s from your Google+ page are also applied to AdWords ads. This functionality allows for a larger social web presence for ads and the Google+ page. The +1 button also rolled out on display ads and text ads on mobile last fall.
To the shopper, the ad is shown with an annotation about who has +1’d the ad. Two types of annotations are shown, basic and personal, with endorsement statistics once the ads are +1’d. For example, you would see:
- Personal: “Bob and 28 other people +1’d this.”
- If Bob is in one of your circles, it shows he has +1’d your landing page or Google+ page.
- Basic: “300 people +1’d this.”
- This shows how many people across the web have +1’d your landing page or Google+ page who are not in your own circles.
Since the +1 annotations can show that you know who has +1’d the ads, this makes the ads more personally relevant. This may also increase overall ad performance. The ability to +1 an ad can also be found in product ads and even organic product listings from merchant feeds. Ad performance statistics containing annotations can be found in the AdWords ad management platform.
One of my recent posts on ClickZ covers +1’s in ads more comprehensively.
A trend to watch closely in this area is Pinterest. It is now the third most popular social networking site in the U.S. With 8.7 million unique visitors in March, it is worth a look or test in your online marketing strategy. E-commerce leaders like Amazon and eBay have added Pinterest buttons to their websites and product pages. As with all successful social networking sites, a solid revenue model will eventually be put in place and we’d be crazy not to think that will involve some advertising opportunities to online sellers. It has been noted that Pinterest may try affiliate links or ads in the future.
Anna Maria Virzi authored a great post on Pinterest and its potential for e-commerce.
As the world of selling products and services online continues to evolve, advertisers will need to think about how to incorporate this into their marketing plans. It will be key to keep advertising initiatives integrated with their general social networking presence.
There is of course a lot of discussion about content and what does and doesn't work online. Is long-form the key? Does short-form content have a role to play? Are there other factors at play?
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