AdWords+ | The Effect of Google+ on SEM and Social Advertising

How AdWords+ Can Work With Google+

I’ve been heavily testing Google+ over the past week, and it’s hard not to be impressed with the new social platform. Google+ is extremely slick, includes outstanding functionality, and I especially like the way that Circles enable you to silo connections to control privacy. I understand that Google+ is new, so it’s not really a fair comparison, but I found myself going to Twitter and Facebook less over the past week. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. I’m excited to see how Google+ will expand, and the opportunities are easy to see (gaming, local, business profiles, ecommerce, etc.) This is just the beginning of Google taking a serious jump into Social and it’s exciting for digital marketers.

As I’ve been going through Google+, I keep thinking about the business impact for Google (and its competitors). Since Google generates most of its revenue from the AdWords platform (~97%), I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about how AdWords could be incorporated into Google+. Let’s face it, ads are coming (and they should be coming). Google needs to show growth in the face of Social Media booming. And when Facebook has 700+ million members, Google needs to show how it will fight off the giant social network in the coming months and years. If Google could utilize and expand its already incredible advertising platform (AdWords) for Social, then it could potentially give its already strong revenue and profit numbers a serious bump. And by the way, that’s what Wall Street wants to see.

Facebook Ads and Google Social Ads
As many of you know, Facebook has approximately 700 million members. It monetizes its platform several ways, but its ads system is an important component. To reinforce how much Facebook ads has grown, it was recently reported that Facebook will overtake Yahoo in display advertising this year. That’s impressive, but here’s the deal. Facebook hasn’t connected Social with Search yet. Sure, Google hasn’t either, but it could connect the two much easier than Facebook could (since it controls the largest search engine in the world). And connecting Social with Search is incredibly important to advertisers.

With Google+, if Google can attract users at scale, which I believe it can do, then it has an opportunity to marry AdWords with Social in a way that Facebook can’t. AdWords already has a huge base of advertisers, as it has ~70% market share in Search in the U.S. (and I’ve seen this percentage higher with my own clients – across industries). You can bet that advertisers would love to reach more users via Google+, or more importantly, reaching the same users but with the ability to close the loop between Search and Social.

Closing The Loop Between Search and Social
Currently, you can reach users searching on Google, Bing, and Yahoo via AdWords and adCenter . You can also reach users on social networks via other platforms like Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc. Both Search and Social advertising can be very powerful, but there was a missing component. That missing component was the ability to track someone from Search and then target them on Facebook (the largest social network that attracts millions of users on a daily basis). Those people also spend a lot of time on Facebook. So, as an advertiser, the person that searches, visits a site, leaves and visits Facebook goes off the grid (from marketing perspective). The amazing thing about Google+ is that it will enable Google to connect Search and Social, and provide advertisers a closed-loop system. You can target users in Search, and follow them to Google+. Yes, you will be able to reach them when they go back to their friends and family to find recommendations or to share information.

This is an amazing opportunity for marketers. You can’t do that with Facebook now. You don’t know where they were before Facebook, and you certainly don’t know what they searched for on Google. But Google can do this, and many of you who focus on SEM already know the mechanism available for accomplishing this. AdWords provides the ability to leverage behavioral targeting across its Display Network. Using remarketing or interest-based targeting with Google+ can open up endless possibilities for advertisers. And as a paid search marketer, I’m darn excited about the opportunities this presents. My clients will be excited too. :) Let’s take a closer look at the opportunity.

Google+ Can Uniquely Close The Loop Between Search and Social
How Google+ Can Close The Loop Between Search and Social

AdWords+, The Behavioral Targeting Opportunity
For those of you familiar with AdWords, you already know how powerful of a platform it is. From paid search ads on to remarketing on the Display Network to the recently released interest-based targeting, AdWords is a killer advertising platform. Now with Google+, AdWords can finally connect with a Social Network the way that Google has wanted to for some time. Sure, Google had you in Search, but they lost you when you went to Facebook to share information. Now they can close the loop and follow you across Social borders.

They can “follow you” due to their advancements in behavioral targeting, mentioned earlier. I already run remarketing campaigns for my clients where I can cookie users on a website and present targeted ads to them as they travel the web (knowing the site or pages they visited). That’s powerful, but again, I lose them when they hit Facebook. They go off the grid. With Google+, if I could use remarketing to follow you from Search to {enter website here}, and then to Google+, then that provides an incredible opportunity for advertisers. And it’s one that digital marketers have been looking for…

But wait, AdWords+ wouldn’t have to stop there. Since Google controls both Google+ and Search, advertisers would be able to follow you from Social back to Search. For example, when someone leaves Google+ and performs more searches, advertisers can remarket to them again. To quickly recap, AdWords+ could track you from initial Search to website to Social (with Google+) and then back to Search. Again, this is incredible for marketers.

Remarketing Campaigns Could Easily Expand to Google+
Google Remarketing and Google+

More Behavioral Targeting
In addition, the recent interest-based targeting enables me to target a browser and not just provide ads based on contextual targeting. That lets me follow your browser as you travel the web, and Google+, based on your activity on the web. I can then present targeted advertising to you without worrying about the keywords you enter or the content that’s on the page. I just know the type of person you are and then present ads to you. Again, that’s powerful, but can be even more powerful when integrated with Google+.

Google+ Expands Display Network Inventory
Then of course, there’s good old contextual targeting via the Display Network, which can also be incredibly powerful when set up and used properly. Google+ will probably be part of the Display Network, like YouTube is, Gmail, Google Maps, etc. That’s unless it gets its own platform, which is possible. More on that soon. Using contextual targeting, advertisers can target types of content and present ads that relate to that content. So, if you post an update about fireworks on July 4th, I can present July 4th sale ads. Or, based on location targeting, I can present a coupon to my July 4th restaurant specials. If you post about your latest 5K run, I can present ads for the latest running sneakers from Nike. If you are reading an article about baby formula, I can run ads for baby bottles. You get the picture.

This is why I love helping clients with the Display Network. Contextual targeting can be extremely powerful. And with Google+, the amount of inventory across the Display Network can exponentially expand. And, Google will know even more about you, since you’ll be sharing incredible information on Google+ on a regular basis. Think about the types of information you share on Facebook, including updates about friends, family, kids, work, play, location, sports, restaurants, hobbies, etc. Now think about what you share with Google when you search, including queries about health, commerce, clothes, food, local, questions (across categories), etc. Let’s face it, you share a boatload of information when you search. Now combine the two, and you have Google+ advertising, or what I’m calling AdWords+.

Innovative Social Ads
Google+ inherently provides a wealth of opportunity for creating innovate ways to advertise. And with the incredible engineers at Google, you can expect new formats to enter the scene. With Circles, Hangouts, Huddles, Photos, Video, the Mobile App, etc., there are many ways Google can innovate. And again, with behavioral targeting, this could be a huge win for Google and advertisers. I’m excited to see what’s coming, and more excited to implement those innovations for my clients. It’s an exciting time to be in digital marketing.

Advertising+ Meet Privacy+
Can you see why this has incredible potential for Google? Can you also see why this has incredible potential for advertisers? But, can you also see why this presents some privacy challenges for the average person? The answer is “yes” to all three questions listed above… Google needs to be very careful on this front. There are already privacy concerns with Google and there are already privacy concerns with Facebook. Google+ can trigger privacy concerns that dwarf any that has come before it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

AdWords+ Can Mean Revenue+ for Google
Although it’s easy to get caught up in the impressive social platform Google has developed, we shouldn’t forget that Google is a business. It’s a business that needs to show growth, when Social is impacting Search, which is where Google makes 97% of its revenue, and where it has failed several times before. If Google+ gains traction, the revenue implications could be massive. If you’re a digital marketer, get ready for Paid Search Marketing with AdWords to turn into Paid Social Marketing with AdWords+.

Now let me go share this on Google+. :)