Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Using +1 switches to game Google's PPC

I'm just off a webinar Google ran about the +1 button. To be honest, I'm a little foggy as to whether the webinar was an open to all, including bloggers, or an NDA protected agency/advertiser brief. I'll get around the problem by not mentioning any of the points Google made explicitly and just blog about a series of random and entirely unrelated ideas I've had.

When you +1 an URL then that +1 recommendation will show up in organic or paid search. These +1s may not directly impact PPC's quality score but they're likely to impact CTR. I don't think Google will normalise that increase in the way they do for higher bid positions.

In other words, if your PPC ad is promoting a URL that's had lots of +1s then that PPC ad may have a better CTR than it would have had otherwise.

The thing about +1s is that they're persistant to a URL - even if the content of that URL changes.

Perhaps the title of this blog post is wrong. It's not about "gaming" the system. It's about understanding how it works. Let's run through a scenario.
  • You're in the business of selling mobile phones.
  • You know that sometime soon - soonish, Nokia will start to well Windows Phone 7 smartphones. There's a lot of interest on whether Nokia will make this strategy work. Bloggers are discussing this. People are socially engaged with this topic.
  • You create a fun, social, content rich page on URL www.example.com/nokia-wp7/, that has a funny cartoon and a wish list of 10 features you would want in the first Nokia WP7 devices.
  • This fun and social page gets shared around and picks up plenty of +1s.
  • A few months later Nokia releases their first clutch of Window Phone 7 devices
  • You dramatically change the content on your funny wish list page; you turn it into a shop shelf for the Nokia WP7 phones you want to sell.
  • You fire up a PPC campaign for that URL
  • Your Google PPCs are automatically enhanced with all those sexy CTR boosting +1 recommendations.

That's just an example. It's easy to see how the bait and switch style could be used in plenty of other scenarios. You could even argue that the switch may not be necessary; why not just redesign the page to put the shop shelf options at the top and include the old content below - perhaps compare how many of your 10 wish list items made it into the first wave of phones.

Will people start to buy sites that have a large number of URLs that have had plenty of +1s? I wonder if the CTR boost will be significant enough that it becomes the basis for calculations on the monetary value of +1s.

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