Google’s +1 A Potential Boon To Paid Search Marketers

For an in-depth overview of Google’s new +1 extension of social search, see Danny Sullivan’s Meet +1: Google’s Answer To The Facebook Like Button. In addition, Matt McGee has written How To Get Google +1 Buttons For Your Website for publishers interested in adding the new button.

Danny’s article briefly discusses how +1 will be used in conjunction with AdWords. I was able to speak to Google this afternoon about paid search and +1 and get a bit more detail.

+1 Ads Should See a CTR Lift

According to Christian Oestlien, Google’s Group Product Manager for Ads, +1 will appear on all Google search ads by default. However advertisers will be able to opt out by submitting this form.

Oestlien told me that early tests showed there was a lift for ads that featured +1 annotations. He anticipates that advertisers will be pleased with how it affects their response rates and CTRs. He added that early anecdotal feedback on the program from advertisers was positive. (We’ll have more on advertiser reaction later.)

As Danny pointed out in his article a user “plus-ing” (endorsing) an ad will not count as a click to the advertiser. (In my conversation with Google I took pains to avoid referring to this as “liking” an ad or search result.)

Organic +1′s Will Also Show Up in Ads

What’s also interesting is that users don’t need to specifically endorse ads for their pluses appear on ads. Google’s Oestlien said that there’s a common infrastructure for social search/+1 on both the organic and paid sides. As a result user pluses in organic SERPs or on publisher sites away from Google will impact their appearance in paid search ads.

Here’s a concrete example: say I’m looking for places to stay in Lake Tahoe California for a family ski vacation. I visit a Marriott hotel site as part of my research and decide I like the hotel (so to speak). I then decide to click the +1 button on that Marriott page. If Marriott later incorporates the same URL in its paid search ad for Tahoe vacations my +1 will appear on that ad together with my name and avatar.

Here’s my (not Google’s) mock up of what it would look like potentially:

As a fundamental matter, as a consumer-user, I must first have a Google Profile to participate in +1. If not, I’ll be asked to sign up and alerted that my pluses are public and so on.

To digress for a moment, there are three consumer experiences around +1:

  1. No Google account or not signed in
  2. Google account, signed in, but no Google Profile
  3. Google Profile holder

Those with Google Profiles can “plus” things; everyone else cannot. The next level down, Google account holders who are signed in will see all the +1′s and personalized “recommendations” even though they cannot add their own pluses without a Google Profile. It will look very much like Social Search does today. Finally, those not signed in or without a Google account will see aggregated +1 data but no personalized information: e.g., 10 users +1′d this (page or ad).

Like Facebook but Different

If all this sounds very much like Facebook Likes it’s only because it is. The big difference is that Google owns paid search advertising. And, as mentioned, these +1 annotations have the potential to provide a boost to AdWords campaigns.

Once that’s well understood we should see publishers trying to get users to “plus” their pages and coordinate that activity with paid search campaigns. In the future Google intends to cluster URLs so that the +1′d URL and the AdWords URL don’t have to be identical for +1′s to appear in the ad.

Publishers could also try and game the system. We may see efforts to solicit +1′s as we now do with Likes: “Like us on Facebook and receive an additional $2 off your purchase.” Accordingly: “+1 us and receive benefit X or Y.”

Google Profile Adoption Challenge

Because publishers and webmasters will quickly realize the potential AdWords and organic benefits of +1 they will adopt the button. The bigger challenge for Google is on the consumer side.

Facebook had a massive installed base of users before the “Like” button was rolled out. Google will need to create that base as it rolls +1 out by getting people to sign up for Google Profiles.

Pluses will be counted as one of the signals that Google eventually uses to determine organic rankings. It’s less clear whether pluses will impact ads quality and paid rankings.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: +1 | Google: AdWords | Google: Social Search | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Tom

    Total flop!

    I have multiple Gmails, Buzz, Google Accounts… and therefore profiles. While you can only sign-up for the +1 in Google Labs under Search Experiment with one profile. The one I used I’m never on. Switch it to the Google Account I’m always on… I don’t have a Google Profile for that Google Account because Google won’t allow me to set one up.

    Google pretty much screwed themselves on this one. This flop is going to surpass Buzz. Yet another example of Google jumping into the pool before making sure there’s some water in it!

  • Greg Sterling

    I agree that the Profile requirement will need to be relaxed in order for them to get widespread participation in this

  • E.I.

    I too have the Profile issue, our MCC account was never designed for a profile, I think a registered profile is asking too much for your average user. (Who’s not in search)
    The one thing that’s missing is the social interaction! (Which is why Facebook is king)

    If I was Google and to prevent spammers from gaming the system, (Which they will)
    is for the searcher to lock out profiles from the +1 rating if they are spammers, So if you were accidentally added to a spammers (social list, friend list?). You can mark that user as a +1 spammer!.

    If Google detects a pattern of +1 spamming then Google adjusts the influence of that user accordingly on the network.


  • MXD


    Two problems, both seen on Digg

    (1) Effective link spammers don’t just spam away until they are banned or downvoted into oblivion. They behave properly 90% of the time, making it very difficult to distinguish them from normal people who just have “a chip on their shoulder” about one issue.

    (2) Allowing users to mark others as spammers is also easily gamed. Create a new account and pretend to be friendly with your enemies, behave properly for a while, then report your enemies as spammers or worse; repeat until your enemies get banned.

  • JVRudnick

    What I wonder – and will track too – is how long till I get those spammy offshore emails offering to help my rank better by clicking on my sites +1 buttons from sites that pitch just this kind of click fraud….

    sigh….makes me want to go and see if “” is taken, eh!?



  • Andrew Goodman

    Will +1′s affect ad quality and rank? I sincerely hope not. The last thing advertisers and agencies need is another gameable layer that would require them to enlist the services of a gaggle of fake plus-one’ers, just to keep up with the Joneses. Which it feels like Google is trying to do, with this thing that is a lot like the “like” button… but isn’t.

  • Paul Morris

    Greg – nice post however i still think Google +1 will fail as essentially social conversation without direct interaction is not social at all. View the details of my thoughts at –

  • nielsencl

    There is nothing good about this option IMO. The main problem I have is I don’t want people clicking on ads because someone “liked” it. I only want them to click on an ad if they have a real interest in what is offered. Click fraud is bad enough without encouraging the curious to click. “Gee, I wonder why Bob likes this, is he losing his hair too?”

    By the way, I tried the “opt-out” page when this farce was first announced. I discovered that you CANNOT opt-out. To opt-out requires that you uncheck a checkbox, but then you discover that the checkbox is a REQUIRED filed and you cannot submit the form with it unchecked! I just tried it again today and it still does the same thing, despite my informing out Google Rep about it the day I discovered the problem.

    By the way, the above comment has no connection with my frustration at Google Adsense with closing my publisher account after 8 years. I was given no reason and my appeal was denied. As a loyal non-fraud publisher, I can tell you that it can happen to ANYONE, so have a back up plan in place to monetize your sites. I did’t and I am still losing money because ot if.

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