+1 Problems & Preparing for +1 Targeting

Over the past week, Google has made it very clear that they do not want businesses creating G+ profiles, because, as they have noted, their current structure isn’t meant for businesses.  Fear not, businesses, for Google has something in the works and undoubtedly it will affect advertisers.  What exactly Google has lined up, I’m not sure – your guess is as good as mine and I’d love to hear your predictions.  (As always, feel free to use the comment section as a discussion forum.)  In exchange, here are some of my guesses as to what G+ business profiles will include:

  • Lead forms at first, likely followed by e-commerce, which will both be easily trackable in Analytics without additional tracking, of course.
  • Likely some impact on SEO, based upon the content shared – although I think any and all content shared on G+, regardless of whether it originated from a business profile, will be rewarded organically.
  • A link to AdWords, in order to specifically target certain circles.
  • Of course everything Google is already doing will be tied in as well: maps, locations, click-to-call, etc.

If you’re interested in piloting, sign up to be a Beta tester for G+’s business profiles. (Note: all testing profiles will be deleted at the end of the test.)

Again, with the knowledge that G+ has something on the way for businesses, that they seem pretty excited about, I’d say it’s safe to assume that it will affect advertisers.  I think it is also pretty likely that we will soon be able to target G+ users and, more specifically, people that have +1’d our pages.  Whether targeting options regarding G+ users and +1’s, is in the near future or later in the year is still unclear, however, I think we can all agree that something will be headed our way soon.

What does that mean for advertisers, today?  Get ready.

There are a few things to note.  If you’re already using AdWords and you’re using it well, following Google’s suggestions: specifically, utilizing multiple landing pages based upon different keywords, then you may want to sit down.  If you’re like me, as you read on, you may find a few details regarding the +1 feature frustrating and I will try my best to help you understand the different ways of implementing in order to suit your needs.

Although +1 reporting is not yet available, the button is already appearing next to ads.  Ideally, this is great.  What could possibly be better than incorporating viral marketing into paid search?  Viral marketing is, as Google notes, a cheap and reliable form of advertising.   I would agree but, at the same time, viral marketing must be done right.  Before we move on, you must note that when an ad is +1’d, it is not actually the ad that receives the +1 but the destination URL.  So, essentially what people are saying is “This URL helped me find what I was looking for.” (Aside: users won’t actually know that until they go to the page – not after just reading the ad, so it is helpful to include +1 on the page itself, as well.)

I’m sure the wheels are turning in your head but here’s the kicker: each landing page will be counted as a different page because they have different URLs.  Also, if you have additional tracking appended to your URLs for more intense data analysis, Google will recognize this as a different URL but we’ll talk about how to resolve that in a moment.

In my opinion, if you’ve created several landing pages, as Google suggests, in order to meet the needs of every user and to maintain high quality scores, then you’re kind of getting screwed.  At this point, I’m seeing +1’s trickle in slowly, I don’t see any pages with mass amounts of +1’s, although it may have a boost once more people sign up for G+.  Thus, if you have multiple landing pages, the few +1’s that you do receive will be spread throughout the site, a few here and a few there, so although you may have a healthy 15 +1’s for your services, each page may only have 3 or less.  A competitor that uses their home page for their landing page may only have five +1’s total but it will look as though they have more than you, since they are all on the same page and that is the page that they use to advertise.

If you can pick the most important page, you can use  canonical tags to redirect your +1’s to a specific page but in many cases there isn’t necessarily one page that is “better” than another page.  Also, if you do use a canonical tag, remember that all other URLs, aside from ‘the chosen one’, won’t show +1 if they appear in the SERPs for ads or for organic because their +1’s are trickling through the canonical tag to the other page, so that negates the value of the +1 for advertisers.

Remember, although it isn’t possible yet, it likely will be possible to target people that have +1’d your page so you probably don’t want to send all the +1’s of various products to your home page just to boost your home page.  In the future, I assume you will want to know where your +1’s are coming from.  I wish, however, that product categories could share +1’s without having to send all traffic to the main category page or canonicalizing all pages within the category.

In e-commerce it would be especially helpful to have different +1’s for each product, but many lead gen clients use multiple landing pages with content that is similar but yet different enough to warrant different landing pages, so it’s frustrating that the +1’s are scattered throughout.

Handling Parameters

Also, as previously noted, any additional tracking will be treated as a separate URL but you can use Google’s parameter handling to ask Google to ignore up to 15 parameters. If you use session i.d.’s you’ll definitely want to use parameter handling because each page will technically never show up again.  Note: Google treats this as a suggestion, so it may or may not ignore the parameters.

So what do we do, Amy?

Well, that depends.  It’s important to note that the +1’s stick with a URL.  So, if your URL is clicked when it shows up in organic results, it later will show up for ads and vice versa.  So, if your landing pages aren’t indexed, you may want to add canonical tags to your landing pages, redirecting the +1 value to the actual site, which will boost your SEO.  Unfortunately, that devalues your paid search from a +1 standpoint.  Maybe its best to leave your pages alone and see what Google has in store for +1 targeting.  At the very least, I would consider utilizing the parameter handling to ensure that your +1’s aren’t entirely scattered.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!