It’s difficult to gauge the potential impact of Google’s new +1 initiative on marketers because of one somewhat mysterious factor: consumer behavior. When compared to Facebook, with its “Like” button, Google likely has relatively few users who’ve bothered to set up profiles. And, if a consumer doesn’t have a profile, using +1 isn’t an option unless they set one up — which is a lot of trouble to go through to express your approval about a search listing or, in the future, a website.
Let me recap how +1 works for advertisers. All ads (unless you opt out) will show a greyscale +1 button beside them, allowing consumers to +1 the ad, indicating approval of the brand, the offer, the copy — something about the ad. When someone +1s your ad, the colored button then appears publicly with the number of +1s, along with text that tells the user whether one of their friends has +1ed the ad. Google says this improves click-through rates, though it isn’t being used as a ranking signal itself yet. Ads can also get +1s when users click on the button in their organic search results and that URL is later used for an ad. Google will provide reporting in AdWords for all of that activity associated with ads.
Consumers Are The Great Unknown
So, consumer behavior — how many people are out there +1ing — is key to the impact this may have.
Harrison Magun, senior VP for paid media and analytics solutions at Covario, which manages campaigns from large consumer electronics players, shared a few thoughts with me about the unknown consumer aspect: “+1 is only valuable to the extent that a logged-in Google user sees an ad that one of their Google “contacts” endorsed with a ‘+1.’ Since Google lacks the obvious social network functionality of Facebook or LinkedIn, it is unclear how many Google users leverage Google’s ability to store contacts, via Gmail or Chat. If users are not logged in and/or don’t have a lot of Gmail/Chat contacts,then they will only see aggregated +1’s, which ostensibly would be less impactful than personalized recommendations.”
Intent Data From Google
Still, some marketers are hopeful about the advantages this may bring, especially when it comes to consumer data. After all, the +1 button will allow Google to capture user preference behavior — which is higher on the sales funnel and fundamentally different from the intent data it captures now with searches. Eventually, Google could potentially tie that into demographic data from the profiles, providing advertisers with even more information about their potential customers. To be clear, that last part is just an advertiser hope for the future, as Google hasn’t said it would provide that demographic data. Yet even as it stands right now, some are excited about the extra data about consumer intent that they’ll get with the new feature.
“This feature… promises to take offer and ad copy testing to a new level,” Siddharth Shah, senior director of business analytics at Efficient Frontier, wrote in a blog post. “One should be able to find out how many consumers like an offer or a price via the number of +1s. Like the ‘like’ button, this promises to take market research to a whole new level.”
Other advertisers express more of “wait-and-see” attitude, wondering if +1 data will eventually be used to rank organic or advertising results.
“Unless +1s are used in quality score calculations, I don’t see advertisers obsessing about them,” Kevin Lee, CEO of Did-It told me. “If they start to count towards quality score, or organic relevance or if it becomes clear that getting plussed is having a viral social media impact over and above the paid and organic search listings, then clearly advertisers and search marketers will be far more interested.”