How Google +1 Will Affect Paid Search

By now it's likely you have heard about Google's newest change towards making their services more social: Google +1. The idea is simple; your search results will become more relevant based on recommendations (indicated by "+1") from the people you know and trust.

Looking for a low fat cookie recipe that doesn't taste like cardboard? Well, your neighbor clicked "+1" on a recipe yesterday. Google will serve this result to you at a higher ranking than it normally might list simply because Google knows (or assumes) that you value your neighbor's opinion enough to integrate his or her input into your search results.

Looking for the best digital marketing consultancy to manage your paid search efforts? To your surprise, Amber Scott +1'd eBoost Consulting giving you a leg up on finding the best of the best in the digital marketing world.

... you get the idea!

It goes without saying that Google +1 will influence the behavior of organic searchers and, while it might sound scary to base your Google rankings on something as ephemeral as an opinion, we will be able to leverage this new feature to your advantage. Using Webmaster's Tools you will be able to track and analyze the impact of Google +1 which will assist you in making changes to your digital marketing strategy to optimize and ultimately find the right audience. You're able to see total +1's, click-through rates, and more. The Search Impact report shows you how +1's have affected your organic search traffic (versus paid search traffic).

The big question is how will this affect paid search? While experimenting with +1, it quickly came to my attention that if you +1 an organic landing page, any paid results with the same URL appearing on this same SERP also receive a +1. For those who have read my article Saving Money Through Increasing Quality Score, you are well aware that click-through rates (CTR) are one of the biggest factors in historical determining quality scores.

Consider these three factors:

  1. Increase CTR on organic results. In a recent study conducted in the beta of Google +1, a +1 was shown to increase click-through rates on organic search results by 18%.
  2. Visual changes in ads can increase CTR. For those who recall when Google Checkout logos were added to paid ads, the simple addition of this visual cue was considered one of the top ways to double an ads click-through rate.
  3. Tap into a new source of (previously skeptical) traffic. The audience that is currently skeptical of paid ads will have reason, a significant one at that, to click on paid ads when they have never once considered it before. This opens an entirely new source of traffic for paid ads.

The new +1 button allows you to increase click-through rates, thereby increasing rankings to provide an opportunity that cannot be ignored. Although they say ignorance is bliss, your campaign will quickly tell you otherwise if Google +1 should not be integrated into your digital marketing efforts. At the end of the day, it will impact your bottom line. Ads and pages that have more +1's will inevitably pay less than those who don't and will do so for clicks in higher positions.

What if Google wises up and reduces the ability for any possible shortcut to competitive advantage +1 has on results? What if Google makes modifications to its algorithm such that the strategy used before to leverage +1 no longer works? It's no sunk cost since historical click- through rates stay in your account for each impacted URL as long as the URL is in existence in your campaigns. Leverage what you know about Google +1 as soon as you can to make sure you make the most of this opportunity.

With that, remember that search results impacted by Google +1 will only affect Google users who are logged into their Google account. Of total Google traffic, only about 20% of users are logged in at any given time. If Google can't grow this percentage, the power and impact Google +1 will have on the search industry will be severely limited.

The advent of such a new feature offered within a suite of comprehensive and powerful products and services (Google hosts over 50 products and services!) can change an industry quickly. At the end of the day we can take advantage of what we know now by placing high quality individuals on the forefront of our digital marketing strategy to watch the tides change. This way, we will be able to evolve with inevitable changes to make sure we continually take advantage of +1 and any other change on the horizon.

Amber Scott, Consultant, eBoost Consulting

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