Friday, January 13, 2012

Search Plus Your Ads: Google+ Pages and Users Offer Search Juice and Ad Juice

It's interesting how Google+ ties in to AdWords campagns and organic search results in Google Search. If you're an advertiser, you can get a +1 next to your AdWords ad in Google search results, but only if you've set up a Google+ Page for your business that links to the ad's Web site. In other words, feed Google+ and we'll feed you Google search juice when people click on the +1 link in your ads.

While I am sure that there may be some "don't be evil" blowback on this, I can see their point. If you're a spammer or low-grade advertiser, setting up a Page in Google+ that you don't bother to maintain to attract an audience degrades the value of Google+ and won't likely improve the value of search results - or the value of a click-through.

If you do a good job of maintaining a Page, then it's more likely that people in your social network with a common interest will have given a +1 to their ad, and therefore you're more likely to see someone's personal endorsement with the ad, as well as content from Google+ associated with the ad in organic search results and people associated with the advertiser from Google+ in the Search-Plus-Your--World version of Google search results.

To get a quick feel of what this combination looks like, try searching for "Rackspace" - if you're following me you'll see my +1 of the Rackspace ad at the top of the search results and some content form me in the organic search results, as well as people on Google+ who work at/with Rackspace - including, of course, Robert Scoble.

Click on the Personal Results link at the top and you'll see not only people's Google+ posts about your ad-keyed search result but also Web content that people in Google+ have posted or shared on the Web that relates to the search term. It's like a People-centric version of PageRank, if you will.

This all related to what Google terms "Zero Moment of Truth" marketing - trying to being together the most personally influential resources when people are using Google search to research a purchase or a company. Our own research here at Shore as well as many other studies show that trusted peers are the greatest influencers in purchasing decisions.

So SPYW is trying to curate both Google+ content and Web content that relates to that more personal view of decision-making - and, since it's what people value most in decision-making, making it a default view. This transforms the nature of an AdWords link. Instead of clicking into that ad link blind, it's now surrounded with content from trusted peers and links to people associated with that advertiser.

In a a world in which a brand is ultimately a trusted relationship, this "circle of trust" then invites someone to click on that ad link with a whole different set of motivators that are both emotional and rational. Instead of the ad having to be the emotional trigger to click on it out of greed or fear, there is an element of trust and emotional bonding that acts as an ultimately more powerful motivator to make the person more willing to move into a transaction frame of mind with the advertiser on a social and financial level.

While there are somewhat similar things that happen with Facebook ads and pages, there is nowhere near the layering of sophisticated motivations for influential engagement that you find in this SPYW engagement model. It will take more active engagement from advertisers to make it work, mind you, but that's probably not a bad thing.

And clearly to make it work most effectively it should include more social signals from other major social networks. That, of course, will require the cooperation of those networks, which, given that they're chasing the same ad dollars, may not happen any time soon. It will also take people providing an authoritative map of how their Google+ profiles map to their other social media profiles, so that there can be a good correlation of content that's really relevant to a person's network.

So this is the beginning of a new era in search - an era that recognizes that the Web has become The Second Web, a Web of people, places and things, contextualized most effectively by the people, places and things whose influence we trust the most. Google+ profiles are tokens for the people in this new world of search that link us to their content both in Google and on the Web; our mobile sharing of content and locations via Google+ helps to provide the places quotient for search, and Google+ Pages provide the things tokens.

Yes, Google did just reinvent search for a whole new world of marketing, but they had to, given the shifting nature of the Web becoming a world that lives in the Web. All of the information that people want to access on the Web will still be there to access. But rather than to try to eliminate the Web in a walled garden like Facebook or provide mostly mass-media oriented social signals that Twitter provides, this approach from Google enables the Web to be contextualized in a Web of relationships as never before. 

Assuming that the evil quotient remains low, that could be a good thing, and, if other social signals can be added, even better. But it will be a tricky road to travel in proving that so. For now, it's an interesting and welcome improvement.