Earlier this year Google introduced the +1 Button for Google Plus and 3rd party website to implement. It is their answer to the controversial Facebook Like button which is now firmly entrenched across the net. It behaves in a similar way allowing users to indicate that they found something engaging or useful. Of interest to search marketers and SEO’s is that +1’s are shown in organic results and ads. A page with more +1’s can improve ranking and click throughs both algorithmically and because of Social Proof.
Back in March when +1’s were first introduced into organic search and ads they only applied to single page/ ads, meaning that it was unlikely those advertising across many niches/ product lines would be able to build up a significant number. Further hampering reach, they only appeared when a user had a connection to another user through Google Plus.
This week though they added Business Pages to Google Plus. These pages are very similar to Facebook Pages. They are another place for businesses to build up a social presence and connect with customers. The big difference though is that through social extensions you can connect all your ads to a single Google Plus business page and the +1’s gained through this page will be shown across all your ads. The other big change is the distinction between personal and basic annotations. Before only the personal annotations, where an ad would show +1’s if they were from a users connections applied. Now basic annotations will give a count of the total number of users that have +1’d your page.
Building a following on Google Plus is potentially far more rewarding if you primarily rely on search marketing for new customers rather than social presence/ community building and the curation that goes with it. This is especially true of smaller Affiliate Marketing operations who just don’t have the resources to make a big impact in social media.
Will this have a big impact on click through rates and get your ads standing out? I think that the social proof of knowing that others have visited a site/ business page and found it to be useful is a big deal. There are so many scammy or just low quality pages on the net that users are always going to be wary of new small operations and any promises that they make. Displaying trusted badges from popular shopping networks has been shown to dramatically increase conversions as the user trust the shopping network and by proxy trusts your site as part of that network. This should provide a similar effect when it comes to a user deciding what ad or organic result, if any, they wish to click on.
All this just provides the framework though, in order to leverage it your going to need to build up a decent number of +1′s, this involves ideally having a web site that people are happy enough with to want to recommend to others, and once they do decide this, an easy way for them to do so. This is where a yet to be released badge from Google will come into play. I think from the choices of badge available the only badge will really be effective as is the which includes the +1 button (shown below). Asking your users to click through to Google Plus or add you to their circles is asking a lot and will lower the amount of +1 recommendations you can collect. Once this badge is available I would put it in prominent places and encouraging people to use it or add to their circles to say up to date on your latest offers. It also requires users to have a Google Plus account, numbers will vary depending on your nice but it is growing fast.
Google has also added segmentation for both personal and basic social annotations so you will easily be able to see the impact the extensions are having on your Adwords metrics.
Unfortunately currently not all users may be able to get the social extensions as it currently requires a verified page (“If you haven’t already verified with Google that your Page actually belongs to you, you’ll need to complete this step first. If you skip this step, you’ll be able to link a Page to your campaign, but your ads will not include this feature until this step is completed.” [http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1645035]) and Google states “Since this is primarily a security mechanism, there’s no way to apply for a verification badge. If we think you or your page might benefit from a badge, we’ll reach out to manually verify you.” [http://www.google.com/support/plus/bin/answer.py?hl=en&p=plus_page_verification&answer=1620074] Hopefully this restrictive use won’t prevail for long and we can all start experimenting with incorporating social signal into search ads.