It’s becoming more and more difficult to lie in Google AdWords advertising, and social media is to blame.
Let me start to explain this through a hypothetical. Imagine you are the advertising manager for Jif, the peanut butter brand. Jif’s brand slogan is “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif.” It’s a brilliant slogan – after all, what mom would dare serve just any peanut butter to their precious children?
Until five years ago, Jif could advertise this slogan across the Internet without fear of any actual choosy mothers disputing their claim.
For example, they could have created an ad on Google that showed whenever someone typed in “peanut butter” that looked something like this:
Choosy Mothers Choose Jif
Nine Out of Ten Moms Feed
Their Kids Jif. Shouldn’t You?
One of the great things about buying advertising on Google was that anyone could show up #1 – if they had catchy-enough advertising and the money to bid to the top of the auction. In the offline world, only the biggest brands can buy prime real estate on Rodeo Drive or Chicago’s Miracle Mile. On AdWords, you could run your business out of your aunt’s basement and show up ahead of Walmart on major search queries.
This is changing, however, and fast.
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Google’s Path to Social Integration into AdWords
Over the last five years, Google has made a conscious decision to incorporate “user sentiment” into the “Ad Rank” algorithm that they use to determine which ads show up on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In other words “social” is creeping into Google Adwords.
These days, if Jif really isn’t the choice of choosy mothers, there’s a decent chance Google can expose this fallacy to its users.
Phase One: Inferred Sentiment
The first foray into this sentiment analysis came with the introduction of “Quality Score” back in 2006. Quality Score is a murky combination of factors that determine whether your advertisement, landing page, and business model are “good” for Google visitors. This is partially determined by algorithms (for example, the click-through rate (CTR) of your ads is a heavy influencer of Quality Score (QS), partially determined by manual review of Web sites by Google employees, and partially determined by consumer interaction with your site.
Recently, Google announced that the weight given to landing page relevance and usability would be increased in determining an ad’s Quality Score. One of the factors that strongly influences your landing page relevancy score in AdWords is the “bounce rate” – the percentage of people that see your landing page and leave your site in less than a second. In other words, if consumers “speak with their mice” and click away from your site, Google will make it harder for you to advertise on AdWords.
A few years later, Google announced something called “merchant ratings” in AdWords. These ratings come from sites like Epinions or BizRate and allow advertisers with great user reviews to advertise this fact in their AdWords ads, as shown by an Amazon ad:
Because only advertisers with four out of five stars or better are allowed to run these merchant rating ads, advertisers with bad customer service are effectively punished by not getting stars next to their ads (lower CTR, high cost per click, or CPC).
Phase Two: Actual Sentiment
Google has now started to move from aggregated sentiment analysis (bounce rate, user ratings, click through rate) to using your personal and social sentiment to help determine which ads to show you.
There are basically three ways that Google currently does this.
1. Google’s Cookie
First, Google actually gives users the ability to edit/correct the personal information stored in the cookie Google has about you.
Simply go to: Google Ads settings page and Google will tell you what it knows about you, and it gives you the option of changing it if you like.
Here’s what they think about me: [screen shot]
It’s actually pretty accurate, with the one exception that I definitely do not like baseball!
2. Google is Watching and Measuring Your Search History
Next, Google uses your actual search history to determine what ads to show to you.
This is most apparent on the Google Display Network, where you are likely retargeted to no end after visiting an advertiser’s web site.
In search, Google uses “session-based ads” to show ads to you for products that are totally unrelated to your current search, but might have been something you searched on in recent memory.
3. Google+ is Now in Adwords
The last, and perhaps most significant innovation, is the integration of Google Plus into AdWords.
Just as Facebook encourages “social actions” (Bob Smith and 8 other friends like Coke) in their ads, Google now offers the same concept, called “social extensions.”
If you +1 a brand’s Google Plus page, your friends will see your name/picture right below the brand’s ad.
Is Social a Game-changing Addition to AdWords?
First, it creates a huge incentive for advertisers to capture +1s for their Google Plus brand pages, just as these advertisers now spend money capturing likes on Facebook. If advertisers previously didn’t care much about their Google Plus pages, they might very well now.
Perhaps more importantly, however, it makes it all the more difficult for brands that don’t deliver on their promises to continue to effectively advertise on AdWords. Imagine if you did a search for “peanut butter” on Google and four out of five ads had social extensions that showed pictures of people you knew who were vouching for these brands. One didn’t. What are the odds that you would click on the one brand without any social endorsements?
Most of us know the “United Breaks Guitars” story – one angry consumer posting a complaint video to YouTube about United Airlines that got 2.5 million views (and got him a new guitar). Social extensions on Google – and for that matter, social actions on Facebook – are the opposite of the consumer complaint. Delight consumers, and you are likely to get more business – and pay less for each click – via AdWords.
Putting it all Together
Put this all together, and you have an AdWords ecosystem where it is quickly becoming impossible to escape bad customer service or terrible products.
Google is increasingly rewarding advertisers who do the following:
- Create landing pages that people like
- Get good reviews on sites like Epinions
- Have ads which your friends are willing to recommend.
To put it another way, if you want to sell peanut butter by claiming that you are the choice of choosy mothers, these days you’d better have an army of mothers willing to vouch for you!