Jonathan Saipe

Will Google’s Social Extensions Have The Right Impact?

22 November 2011,

Google +1 buttonLast week Google announced that it was giving AdWords customers the ability to connect their Googe+ Pages and AdWords accounts using “Social Extensions”.

By installing social extensions, all your +1′s from your Google+ Page, your AdWords ads, your website and search results will get added together and thus appear as a single total. It means that consumers will be able to view all of social recommendations outside of Google+.

Prior to the roll-out of social extensions, AdWords ads only showed +1′s when people had +1′ed the landing page relevant to that ad, which meant that there was significantly less likelihood that someone who viewed the ad also had a colleague or friend who recommended it.

So what’s the big deal?

With the failure of Google Buzz and the relatively recent launch of Google+, it’s no surprise that Google is pulling out all the stops to increase its “share of social”. We know that the power of social advocacy or recommendation plays a huge role in consumer decision making and Google is utilising all of its assets, particularly search and search advertising, to encourage this. In the long term, this will improve customer experience and encourage better value from advertisers.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me if Google eventually aggregates +1 data and uses it as part of its quality score algorithm as it knows that sentiment analysis is a critical factor to consider.

But in my view there’s another more political motive on Google’s part. Currently, Google+ has around 40 million users (according to Google!), something like 5% of Facebook’s user base. Whilst the demographic breakdown between both social channels is slightly different, Google still knows it has a huge task in building critical mass.

Given its massive dominance in the search marketing and online advertising space, Google wants to leverage this in favour of building critical mass around Google+. It wants to encourage AdWords customers to create Google+ pages as in the long term this will encourage better ad performance through positive social sentiment. And the by-product of this will be to increase Google+’s share of social.

Expert Opinions

We were interested to hear the views of industry experts and asked Greig Holbrook of Oban Multilingual and Matt D’Alton of Navigate Digital their opinions:

Greig Holbrook, Director of  Oban Multilingual says:

This is yet another recent example of Google shifting their focus to social metrics, try to improve the results they serve to their users. Social networks are now one of the first places that people go for recommendations on products and services, and as the Google blog post says: “71% of shoppers say that recommendations from friends and family impact their purchasing decisions”.

This aspect of their algorithm is becoming increasingly sophisticated and sentiment analysis is coming into play more and more, whereby Google can recognise good or bad reviews and rank sites accordingly.

It will be interesting now that they have started integrating +1’s and annotations into AdWords whether these good or bad reviews could begin to influence things like ad placement and quality score and leave those businesses with the worst service paying the most for their clicks.

Matt D’Alton, MD of Navigate Digital says:

In theory it all sounds like a great move from Google. It’s good for users:  rather than shoppers having to visit review sites before a potential purchase, social extensions will bring friends and family’s recommendations straight to the Google search results page.

It’s good for advertisers that have a) bothered to build a Google + page and b) have gained plenty of +1′s as this will help distinguish their ads and provide them with an extra element of credibility. Depending on the take up by advertisers there is also the potential for +1′s to influence the order in which ads are ranked.

Until now quality score in particular has been all about relevance, however friends and family recommendations could be seen as a more important factor, giving way to a different kind of quality score – “the people’s quality score”.

There is however one big ‘if’ – in order for this move to have any significant impact Google has a lot of catching up to do with Facebook. It wasn’t long ago that many offline ads contained a call to action to “search X” or “google Y” for consumers to find out more. This now seems to have been largely replaced with “visit our facebook page at facebook.com/brandname” as brands have learned the benefits of using Facebook pages to engage with their consumers.