Meet The Suggested User List in Google Plus – And How I Jumped From 4K to 80K Followers in Just 4 Months

Suggested User Lists in Google Plus

I’m a big fan of Google+, and have been from the start. I joined the first week it launched, and have been extremely active there ever since.  Since joining, I have loved the engagement, the people, the smart conversations, the functionality, etc.  In addition, I have seen the impact it can have on exposure, SEO, traffic, and credibility.

And like many others who believe in Google+, I have defended it many times.  But, I haven’t defended it based on Google bias.  Instead, I base my opinion and recommendations on data, and my knowledge of how Google works.  To me, if you aren’t using Google+, and you are interested in boosting your social and SEO efforts, then you are missing a huge opportunity.

Growing My Presence on Google+ and Increasing Connections
Similar to what you need to do with any social network, you first need to build a following.  I’ve always believed the best way to do that is to add value and engage users.  And that’s what I tried to do on Google+ from the start.  And over time, I’ve met some incredible people, engaged in some great conversations, while also providing a steady stream of valuable, curated updates.  Those updates included articles, posts, and insights across a range of digital marketing topics like SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing, Mobile, Web Analytics, etc.

And that approach has definitely worked for me.  I grew my following to about 4K people as of April, 2013.  And no, I really didn’t care about the number of followers.  I cared much more about the quality of people that had me in circles.  I found there were real people on the other end of my updates, with their own experiences, and their own points of view.  I found myself going to Twitter first, but Google+ was always a close second.  It became a natural part of my social media process.

Boom – Hockey Stick Growth
In early April, everything was chugging along as usual on Google+.  I was getting approximately 10-15 followers per day, and that was great.  But then April 12th came along, and I saw first-hand what hockey-stick growth looks like.  My followers began to jump, and jump fast.

I began seeing an increase of 400-600 followers per day.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And on some days, I saw over 1000 new followers.  Since April 12th, I have skyrocketed from 4K followers to over 80K.  You can see the hockey stick growth below in a chart from CircleCount.

Hockey Stick Growth in Google Plus

The Power of the Suggested User List
As you can imagine, I was heavily interested in finding out what was going on.  Was it my latest updates?  Was it my column on Search Engine Watch, combined with my writing elsewhere?  Were the new followers real people?  I had many questions.  So, I started contacting people that had recently circled me asking how they found me.  I figured they could shed some light on why so many people started following since April 12th.

And supporting one of the things I love about Google+ (that there are real people behind the profiles), my new connections got back to me pretty quickly.  The first response basically answered my question: “I saw you on a suggested user list for Technology”.   Then the second came in: “You were on a list suggested by Google”.

Ah, now I got it.  I was added to a suggested user list… now the growth made sense.

Suggested User List in Google Plus for Technology

OK, But Why Was I Added To The SUL?
As I said earlier, I have been continually sharing high quality, curated content on Google Plus (and other social networks).  I determined that my followers would benefit from the specific articles or posts that I read and marked as important.  That could be breaking news, tutorials, reviews of technology, or evergreen digital marketing content.  Never did I use a tool to automate that process.  I simply always tried to keep my connections up to speed on what’s breaking in SEO, SEM, Social, Mobile, Technology, etc.

And over time, Google+ algorithmically determined that the posts I was publishing were high quality, extremely relevant, drove engagement, etc.  At some point, I must have passed a threshold to be added to a suggested user list.  No magic. No gaming.  Just hard work and time.

The Growth of Google+, Seen First-Hand
There has been a lot of talk about Google+ not growing, and that it’s a ghost town.  I never believed that, just based on the people I saw there every day.  And when I was added to the suggested user list, I saw first-hand how many people were signing up.  You see, suggested user lists are presented when you first sign up.  Sure, you can see them any time, but they are prominently showcased when you sign up for Google+.  And if Google+ wasn’t growing, then I wouldn’t have seen a jump to 80K that fast…

What I’ve Changed Since The Jump
Absolutely nothing.
:)  Seriously, why in the world would I change anything now?  I keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is what my overall social strategy has been from the start.  Share valuable posts, engage users, and help others.  And I’ll keep doing that, even if Google+ removes me from the SUL.  It’s how my brain functions, which is also why I do so much blogging.  I love what I do, I love helping other people, and blogging and social media have been a natural fit.

The Impact of Google+ Growth:
OK, I know you’re wondering what the impact has been.  Like everything else in digital marketing, it’s important to look at the impact through a few different lenses.  I’ll touch on each one below.

Engagement and Connections
I have definitely seen an uptick in engagement since the surge began.  That includes people reaching out to me directly, in addition to engagement via posts on Google+.  It’s not 20X engagement, but I’m confident I’m getting in front of more targeted people on a regular basis.  And that’s a good thing social media-wise, and SEO-wise.  More about SEO soon.

Here is an example of a Google Plus Ripple for one of my recent blog posts:

Google Plus Ripple


Clicks From Google+
Based on the total number of updates I share via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc., I rarely end up sharing my own links.  My ratio of sharing non-G-Squared posts versus my own content is easily 100 to 1 (if not greater).  I don’t participate in social media to continually shove my own work in front of others.  I share important posts from around the web that relate to digital marketing.  Sure, if I write a post or need to reference one of my own articles, I will.  But that’s not what I do on a regular basis.

In addition, I use bitly pro to have a custom url shortener, which also enables me to track each url.  Using bitly pro, I can see a number of metrics for each url shortened, including total clicks from my shortened link, total clicks from all bitly links for that content, which referrers drove the most clicks on my link, geographic data, etc.  Note, I obviously can’t see impressions, so this is purely click data.

What I’ve seen recently is a jump in the percentage of clicks from Google+.  Now, I’m not Robert Scoble seeing hundreds or thousands of clicks per url.  But, I have seen the percentage climb for G+.  Again, it’s just another signal that more people are seeing my updates and engaging with the content.

For example, over the past 30 days, Google+ accounts for 26% of all clicks on my shortened urls.  Twitter is 24%, Facebook 7%, and “Other” accounts for 35%.  “Other” includes direct traffic, email, air clients, IM, etc.  So, Twitter is actually greater than 24%, based on third party apps.  But, Google Plus is not far behind, accounting for over one quarter of all links I share.

Percentage of Clicks for Google Plus Increases

Authorship and AuthorRank
There’s no doubt that authorship markup has a big impact in the SERPs.  The credibility that author details brings can impact click-through rate for sure.  But in addition to the increased real estate, the pure number of people following me can have an impact.  When users search for answers and solutions, view a search listing from my blog or column with author details, and see 80K+ people have circled me, that can mean a lot towards increased click-through rate.

Author Details in Google SERPs

And from an AuthorRank perspective (which doesn’t impact rankings just yet), the more people that have me in circles could potentially impact my AuthorRank score.  And that score can eventually impact rankings, and subsequent traffic.  Actually, AuthorRank could be impacting in-depth articles already…  So, the more weight my Google+ profile has, the more it could potentially impact AuthorRank (and natural search rankings).  Food for thought.   Note, I cover more about authorship and author stats soon.

With Search Plus Your World (SPYW), Google could increase the rankings of content published by people you are connected with on Google+.  That means my content could surface more often (and higher) for the 80K+ people that are following me.  And that includes both the urls I share from across the web, and the specific Google+ updates I publish.  For example, having{some-update-here} rank highly in the  SERPs for people that are connected with me on Google Plus.

Here’s a quick example.  I had some connections of mine perform various searches while logged in.  Here is a screenshot of a Google plus update ranking based on a search for the phantom update.  And this plus update does not rank highly when my connection is logged out.

Google Plus Posts Ranking via Search Plus Your World

Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools
OK, I know after reading that last paragraph about Search Plus Your World, you’re wondering how you can actually see the impact of SPYW via reporting.  For example, is there a way to see how many of your posts show up in the personalized listings?  Google Analytics won’t show you that data, although that would be a great addition.  But, there is a roundabout way to see which plus updates are showing up.  And it’s buried in Google Webmaster Tools in a report titled “Author Stats”.  It can be found under the “Labs” link in the left-side navigation.

Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools

While researching this post, I dug into my latest stats (which shows statistics for pages which are tied to me as an author).  These are pages that show up in the SERPs with author details (based on rel=author markup).  For me, there are many posts showing up from my Search Engine Watch column, Search Engine Journal Column, and my own blog posts from The Internet Marketing Driver.

But there are other posts listed there…  And as you can guess, they are Google Plus updates.  And those plus updates primarily show for people that are connected to me on Google+ (i.e. people that are seeing my plus updates based on Search Plus Your World when they search for answers).

Over the past 90 days, plus posts account for 15% of the pages showing author details (based on the author stats reporting in Google Webmaster Tools).  That’s a telling story when it comes to Search Plus Your World.  Most of those impressions do not occur for my connections when the personalized results are turned off (or for people that aren’t connected with me on Google+).  So, that’s a clear indicator of the power of SPYW and SEO.  And the more people I’m connected with, the more those plus posts show up in the SERPs.

Google Plus Updates Showing in Author Stats Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Plus Posts in Author Stats Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

And before you go crazy and start screaming that Google is driving more people to its own property (Google+), SPYW also impacts my other updates on Google+, which lead to external websites.  It’s just harder to understand how much they jump up in the SERPs based on Search Plus Your World (since it’s hard to uncover those stats via reporting tools).  The plus posts are easier to isolate, since I can view them in the author stats reporting in webmaster tools.

My Google+ Path Continues
So there you have it.  My story about surging from 4K to 80K followers on Google+ in four months.  Again, employing the right social strategy over the long-term can lead to great things.  You just need to fight through the black hole of social and keep providing value.  Most won’t make it through the black hole, but those that do could see a powerful impact.

My advice to anyone on the fence with Google+ is to start now.  The benefit can be felt on several levels, including increased connections, engagement, exposure, traffic, SEO, and credibility.  But you won’t see any of those benefits if you don’t get started.

I think I can sum up the core point of my post in the following way (and this applies to any social network).  Provide valuable updates, engage users, add value, and help others.  It’s a recipe for hockey stick growth. :)




How To Use Social Reports in Google Analytics To Analyze Specific Blog Posts or Content [Tutorial]

Social Reports in Google Analytics

In March of this year, Google Analytics released a set of new reports for measuring the effectiveness of traffic from social networks.  It was a great addition and provides some valuable information about how social is affecting your business.  For example, you can view social referrers, content that received traffic from social networks, view conversations across certain social networks, view conversion data (including last click and assisted attribution), how social visitors flow through your site, and more.

One question I keep getting from business owners is how to easily analyze a piece of content they are tracking?  For example, let’s say a certain blog post went live recently, was heavily shared across social networks, and ended up driving a lot of traffic.  What if you want to isolate that page and view data via GA’s social reports?  Well, you can absolutely do that, and I’m going to walk you through some of the core insights you can glean from the reporting.  Let’s get started.

Isolating a Blog Post or Piece of Content
For this tutorial, I’m going to use a recent post of mine, which ended up being popular within the search marketing industry.  Last month, I attended the Google Agency Summit and found out that the old Google Wonder Wheel’s engine actually drives the Contextual Targeting Tool.  The Wonder Wheel was a great tool for finding related searches, based on actual Google data, and many in my industry loved using it.  Needless to say, search marketers were thrilled to find out the functionality can still be found in the Contextual Targeting Tool.  The post ended up getting shared quite a bit on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Let’s take a look at the social reporting for this post.

You can isolate a page in two ways via social reporting in Google Analytics.  The first way is from the overview page, and the second way is from the Pages report.  Let’s jump to the Pages report, which will list your top content receiving traffic from social networks.  You can access this report by clicking “Traffic Sources”, “Social”, and then “Pages”.

The Pages Report in Google Analytics Social Reports

At this point, you will see a list of pages from your site, along with key metrics like visits, pageviews, time on site, data hub activities, etc.  I’ll cover what data hub partners are in a second.  For now, find the page you want to analyze and click the URL.  For me, I’m going to click the URL for my Google Wonder Wheel post, which had 1040 visits from social networks from June 20th through June 30th.

After clicking the URL, the Social Referral tab is the default view.  Here, you can view the social networks driving the most traffic to the post, along with viewing trending for all traffic versus trending for social traffic.  In addition, the primary dimension in the report is “Social Network”, which as I mentioned above, will display a list of social networks driving the most traffic to this specific post.  For me, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ drove the most traffic to this post over the 10 day period.

Social Networks in Social Reports

Social Actions and Data Hub Partners
If you click the “Social Network and Action” dimension, you will see Data Hub Activities for the post. Data Hub partners are social networks that have chosen to share additional information with Google so users of Google Analytics can view that data within Google Analytics reporting.  The activity stream from data hub partners can provide rich information that can be organized and viewed via Social Reports.

Unfortunately, some of the big players in Social are not participating, like Facebook and Twitter.  This means you will only get basic data in your reporting from these networks.  Current Data Hub partners include Google+, Delicious, Blogger, Disqus, Diigo, Pocket, etc.  You can tell which social network is a data hub partner since there will be a data hub icon next to participating networks.  See the icon below.

Data Hub Partners in Social Reports

Back to our example.  If you click the “Social Network and Action” dimension, you can analyze Data Hub activities for specific pieces of content.  For example, you can view Google+ posts, +1’s, reshares, bookmarks from Delicious, Pocket saves, etc.  You can also view a graphical breakdown of the data hub activities to the right.  Again, I wish more social networks were data hub partners, so you could get a full view of activities like tweets, likes, etc. from major networks like Twitter and Facebook.  That said, this is still valuable, and we’ll get more granular next.

Data Hub Activities in Social Reports

Activity Stream and Special Treatment for Data Hub Partners
You can click the Activity Stream tab to view specific data hub activities across social networks.  Sure, it’s cool to see top-level activity like we’ve seen so far, but the activity stream gets much more specific.  When clicking the tab, you will see actual conversations and events from across data hub partners.  The default tab is the Conversations tab, which will display shares and comments from data hub actions. You will see specific users, their shares, what they wrote when sharing the content, resharing, or commenting on a post.   For example, you can view Google+ and Diigo information below for my Wonder Wheel post.

Activity Stream in Social Reports

It’s important to note that while analyzing the activity stream (starting with conversations), you’ll notice some great functionality for Google+ content.  For example, you can click a person’s photo to view their G+ profile and there are icons that let you know if the person shared an update, reshared someone else’s update, or commented on a G+ update.  Then you can click the dropdown arrow on the far right to view additional information, including the Google+ ripple for the piece of content, you can view specific shares on G+, etc.  This is awesome data, as you can find influencers, view their posts about your content, view +1’s from other G+ users, etc.

Viewing additional data for data hub partners.

The Power of Ripples
In particular, viewing the Google+ Ripple for a specific URL reveals incredible data.  I’ve written previously about how to analyze G+ Ripples, and you should definitely check out that post.  Ripples enable you to see how your content was shared across Google+, from user to user.  You can also view influencers, sharing sequences, links to each public Google+ post, view shares over time, etc.  Spend some time with Ripples… you can find some incredible information.

Viewing Google Plus Ripples for Specific URL's

Events in Activity Stream
The second dimension in the Activity Stream report is Events.  By clicking this dimension, you can view additional information beyond just the conversations people are having about your content.  For example, you can view data hub partner events like +1’s, delicious bookmarks, pocket saves, trackbacks, etc.  I’ll cover more about trackbacks shortly, but this was a cool addition by Google recently.

Similar to what we did earlier, using the dropdown arrow on the right side enables you to see the actual activity on each social network.  For example, selecting “View Activity” for a delicious bookmark takes you to the actual bookmark page.  Here, you can view the profile of the person bookmarking your content, view comments, etc.  This is a great way to understand what people are saying about your content, find influencers, connect with similar people, etc.

Events in Social Reports in Google Analytics

Quick Tip:
By clicking the social network logo in the events list for any action, you can link to a page that shows all activity from that specific social network.  For example, clicking the delicious icon in the screenshot below, you will be taken to all delicious events for this specific piece of content.

A Note About Twitter
I mentioned earlier that you can only get advanced level data from Data Hub Partners.  That’s true (and unfortunate), but there is some additional data you can get from Twitter.  If you click the the link for Twitter when viewing social networks in your reporting, you will see a list of links (shortened links from Twitter).  If you move fast enough, you can enter those shortened URL’s in Twitter Search to view the actual tweets.  Then you can check out each Twitter user to find influencers, follow them, engage them, etc.  Twitter Search does not go back very far, so you’ll need to move fast.  You can also use a number of third party tools to mine Twitter data, but that’s for another post. :)

Analyzing Tweets via Social Reports in Google Analytics

If you click back to the Social Referral tab, and click the “Social Referrers” dimension, you might see “Trackbacks” listed in the report.  Note, you might have to use the rows dropdown at the bottom of the report to reveal additional rows to view trackbacks.  If you click the “Trackbacks” link, and then click the Activity Stream tab, you will see inbound links that Google Analytics picked up.  Trackbacks will display links to your content from outside your site (inbound links).

Viewing trackbacks in social reports

From this report, you can view the pages linking to your content by clicking the link icon next to the URL, or by clicking the arrow dropdown and clicking “View Activity”.

Trackbacks are a Great Addition, But Not Perfect
It’s important to understand the links that your content is building on several levels.  First, you can start to understand what people are saying about your content, what types of sites are linking to you, understand the authors of that content, what the comments are saying, etc.  That’s all really useful information.  Second, you want to understand the SEO power of those links. Are they relevant websites, is the content high quality, is it a spammy website, etc?  Third, you can absolutely use this intelligence to connect with influencers, whether that’s the blog author, or people commenting.  And no, this isn’t as robust as using Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO Tools, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, etc., but it’s nice having this data in Google Analytics.

Social Conversion Data for Specific Content
GA’s Social Reports include a valuable conversion report that displays the last click and assisted conversions from social networks. This is important data to analyze, since you can understand how social networks impact conversion (by directly impacting conversion and/or assisting conversion).

But, the social conversion report is not broken down by content.  In order to get that data, you would need to create an advanced segment for social traffic, then view top landing pages with that segment active.  Then you can analyze the conversion impact of visits to that piece of content from social networks.  At a top-level view, it’s great to see conversion data from each social network, but if you are laser focused on a specific piece of content, then the standard social reports won’t really help you.

Summary – Get Social with Google Analytics
As you can see, Social Reporting was a great addition for Google Analytics.  It’s ultra-important to understand the impact of social traffic, what’s being shared across social networks, which influencers are sharing your content, who is engaging that content, etc.  It’s also important to analyze specific pieces of content that are being actively shared across social networks.  I hope this post explained more about how to find and analyze data for a specific post.  But like anything else in digital marketing, you need to test it out for yourself!  So target a piece of content, fire up Google Analytics, and hit the social reports.  Good luck.


+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools – How To Analyze the Search Impact of +1 Annotations

How To Use +1 Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

Google+ has now been around for close to a year, it has grown significantly since it launched, and Google is integrating its new social network across products.  Based on what I just listed, many business owners are wondering how Google+ has benefited their companies.  Unfortunately, I think many of them wouldn’t know how to answer that question.

And what about the +1 button?  How do +1’s impact exposure, click-through, and trust?  Sure, we’ve seen those +1 buttons show up across the web, in the search results, in ads, etc., but do they make a difference?  And since Google is primarily a search company, how are +1’s affecting performance in the search results?  These are all good questions, and I hope to shed some light on the situation in this post.

Based on what I do for a living, I find myself analyzing data in Google Webmaster Tools a lot.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, Google Webmaster Tools is essential for webmasters.  It provides a wealth of data and functionality (directly from Google).  The problem is that I’m still finding many companies that aren’t aware of Google Webmaster Tools, the reports available, the functionality that Google provides, etc.  So, it’s not a shock to find that many webmasters are unaware of the +1 reports available in Google Webmaster Tools.  The reports provide a wealth of information about how +1’s are affecting the search results, click-through rate, etc.  If you want to know how +1’s are impacting your search performance, then the set of three reports in GWT is a great place to start.

+1 Annotations
Before I dive into the reports, let’s quickly cover what +1 annotations are.  When you search Google, you can +1 a search result in both the organic and paid listings (when logged in).  In addition, you can also visit a webpage and +1 that content via a +1 button embedded on the site (similar to a Facebook “Like” button).  You will need to log into G+ for the +1 to stick.  Those +1’s cast a vote for the webpage and are captured in your Google+ account.

+1 data is used as a ranking factor (yes, getting +1’s can help your content rank higher in Search), and it helps Google personalize the search results for users.  After you +1 a webpage, there’s a chance that your vote could be attached to a search result as a +1 annotation (when your social connections search Google).  The +1 annotation can help your social connections understand that you “recommend” that content.  By the way, your thumbnail and name can show up in the +1 annotation.

Here are some examples of +1 annotations in action:
+1 annotations in action

+1 annotation in organic search results

In addition, as you search Google, you might see +1 annotations based on the actions of your social connections.  For example, if your friend +1’d a product page on Zappos, then that search result could provide a personalized recommendation from your friend (in the form of a +1 annotation).  And yes, ads can show +1 annotations as well (via Social Extensions in AdWords).  Both paid search ads on and display ads on The Google Display Network can display +1 annotations.

So What’s the +1 Impact?
For those of you involved in Search Engine Marketing, you know that slight changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can pay huge dividends click through rate-wise.  For example, if you take 5 search listings, and one has a +1 annotation, it gives that listing a big advantage visually.  Standing out like that can absolutely help drive clicks.  But can you prove that?  How can you know that +1 annotations are impacting the search results and your search performance?

That’s where +1 reporting in Google Webmaster Tools comes in handy.  You can view three +1 reports in Google Webmaster Tools that help marketers better understand how +1’s are impacting search performance.  Let’s take a look at the trio of reports currently available.

+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools
1. Search Impact Report
After logging into Google Webmaster Tools, you can click the “Traffic” tab, which will then reveal the “+1 Reports” link.  The first report is “Search Impact” and will display the number of +1 annotated impressions, +1 annotated clicks, and the search impact of +1 annotations (by showing the click through rate of listings with and without +1 annotations).

The Search Impact Report in +1 Reporting

What this essentially shows you are the pages receiving annotated impressions, how many clicks those pages are getting (with and without +1 annotations), and then the percentage of click through rate change with the +1 annotation.

For example, here’s a page that shows an 11% click through rate without the +1 annotation and a 27% click through rate with the +1 annotation.  Needless to say, that’s a big difference in CTR.

Example of click through rate impact of +1 annotations

2. Activity Report
The second report in the list is the “Activity Report”.  This will show you new +1’s to your site during the timeframe selected (from your own site and from outside your site).  For example, you can view the number of +1’s from your own buttons on your site versus +1’s from the search results or on ads.  You can also click a toggle button to reveal all +1’s to the site in aggregate.  To clarify, the columns contain information about +1’s from your site (via the +1 button), as well as +1’s form other sites.  “Other sites” would be +1’s from the search results or via ads.  You can also click a specific URL to drill into results just for that piece of content.

The Activity Report in +1 Reporting

3. Audience Report
The third report in the list is the “Audience Report”, which displays information about users +1’ing your content.  There’s a trending graph of the number of users that have +1’d your content, along with graphs and charts for gender and age.  There’s also a button at the top of the report which will show you the location of those users (by country).

The Audience Report in +1 Reporting

Yes, You Might Be Surprised
Once you analyze the +1 reporting, you might be surprised with what you find.  I have the ability to analyze a wide range of websites across industries, and the data isn’t always what you think it will be.  For example, you would think that +1 annotations would yield higher click through rates across the board, but that’s not the case.  For some sites, you will see higher click through rates without +1 annotations.

There are several reasons that could be happening, and it really depends on the site at hand.  For example, user intent, the competition in the search engine results pages, etc.  Some sites I manage are seeing a big increase in CTR based on +1 annotations, while others show a slight decrease for +1 annotations.  Since every site is unique, I highly recommend checking your own reporting today to see the impact.

Authorship Markup Could Skew Results
Before ending this post, I wanted to bring up one point about authorship markup.  Using authorship markup (rel=author), your search listings can show up with author details, including a thumbnail image of the author in question.  Here’s a screenshot of one of my listings:

Author Details in the SERPs

Needless to say, this can have a big impact on click through rate in the search results.  When analyzing +1 reports for sites using authorship markup, I’ve seen less than stellar search impact from +1 annotations.  That very well could be occurring since most of their listings show up with author details already.  So, a SERP jacked up with author details could be skewing the results.  For example, even if the listings don’t have +1 annotations, they still have author details.  Users searching Google might click through based on seeing the listing with author details, which would be increasing the click through rate of non +1 annotated search results.  It’s worth mentioning this in case your own +1 data doesn’t show strong results.

Summary – Analyze your +1 Reporting
If you’re like many webmasters, you want to know how certain changes impact the search results, click through rate, and traffic.  With the launch and growth of Google+, it’s important to know how +1’s are impacting your business.  I highly recommend logging into Google Webmaster Tools today and analyzing the +1 reports.  You might find that +1 annotations are providing a big lift in click through rate.  And if they are, you should be looking to gain more of them.  :)


A Guide to Using Social Extensions in Google AdWords | What They Are, How To Set Them Up, and How To Analyze Performance

Social Extensions in Google AdWords

Google+ is in full force now, it continues to grow, and its impact can be felt in both organic and paid search. This is readily apparent as +1 buttons have spread across the web, similar to what happened with Facebook Like buttons. One of the ways that Google is enabling businesses to benefit from +1’s is via Social Extensions in AdWords. If you’re not familiar with Social Extensions, don’t worry. This post will cover an introduction to Google’s latest ad extension, explain why you should care about it, and I’ll also explain how to add them to your AdWords campaigns. And by the way, yes, you should care about Social Extensions. Read on.

Ad Extensions in Google AdWords
In Paid Search, any time you can attach additional information to your SEM ads, the better. Attaching relevant and valuable information to your ads can be the difference between a click or simply registering an impression. And that can impact Quality Score, CPC’s, and ROI.

Google has done an incredible job rolling out various ad extensions that provide valuable information for people searching for products or services. For example, paid search marketers can implement ad sitelinks, product extensions, call extensions, location extensions, and social extensions. I won’t cover each of these extensions in detail in this post, but it’s important to understand that they “attach” information to existing ads. That additional information might be phone numbers, addresses, reviews, sitelinks, +1 annotations, etc.

Google Introduces Social Extensions
After Google+ rolled out, Google launched a new ad extension called Social Extensions. Social Extensions enable you to connect your Google+ Page to your AdWords campaigns. This enables you to share +1’s from your G+ page with your ads, and vice versa. Sharing +1’s gives marketers a greater chance of having +1 annotations show up in their ads (and it obviously impacts the count that shows up, as well).

+1 Annotations stand out, as they display the number of +1’s, including social connections that have casted a vote for the business on Google+. Here’s a screenshot of Social Extensions in action (for Dell). Note, Social Extensions can show up in both Search and on the Display Network.

An example of Social Extensions in Action in Google Search:
Social Extensions in Action - Dell

How Social Extensions Can Help You
As we have all seen with Facebook Ads, social annotations bring relevance to advertisements. If your social connections show up within the ad itself (essentially giving their approval of a business), then it can make a bigger impact. That’s as long as you take that person’s recommendation seriously. Since annotations can show up in both Search Ads and Display Network Ads, this can have a far reaching impact for businesses. The Display Network consists of any website running Google Ads, including Google properties like Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, etc. It reaches approximately 80% of web users.

The fact of the matter is that social annotations work. They take up more screen real estate, they include visuals of your connections, and the number of +1’s the business has received. This can all be very powerful for advertisers, as it can increase the chances of a click-through. Google has stated that +1 annotations have yielded higher click-through during their testing.

Here’s an interesting quote from Vic Gundotra from Google about +1 annotations (from a New York Times Article about Google+):
“We are seeing 5 to 10 percent click-through-rate uplift on any ad that has a social annotation on our own Web sites,” Mr. Gundotra said. ”We have been in this business for a long time, and there are very few things that give you a 5 to 10 percent increase on ad engagement.”

How To Analyze Social Extensions in AdWords
Let’s say you implemented Social Extensions and were wondering how they were impacting the performance of your ads. You’ll be happy to know that Google addressed this situation by providing a +1 segment in AdWords. You can access this segment by logging into AdWords, accessing a specific campaign or ad group, and then clicking the “Segment” button, and then selecting the “+1 Annotations” segment.

+1 Annotations Segment in Google AdWords

You will then be presented with data showing how the +1 annotation impacts your performance. There are two types of +1 annotations that you can analyze. The first is labeled “personal” and will show you how many people saw the annotation when users from their circles were included. For example, if I was in a user’s circles, it could say, “Glenn and 22 other people +1’d this.” The second type of +1 annotation is “basic”, and it will simply show you how many people saw the annotation without personal recommendations. For example, a basic annotation would say, “250 people +1’d this.”

Using the +1 Annotations segment, you can compare the performance of ads that didn’t show an annotation to ads that did. In addition, you can compare both personal and basic annotations to see how they perform. And if you have conversion tracking set up, you can see the impact on conversion.

How To Add Social Extensions in AdWords
If you’ve gotten this far in my post, I’m sure you are wondering how to add Social Extensions in AdWords! I’ve got you covered. The first thing you need to do is to connect your Google+ Page to your website, and vice versa. Then you need to add the Social Extension in Adwords. Follow the steps below to add a Social Extension to your campaigns.

1. Connect Your Website and Your Google+ Page
You can connect your Page and Site a few different ways. In order to verify ownership, Google looks for a rel=”publisher” link on your homepage to a Google+ Page. You can also add the Google+ Badge to your homepage. You can learn more about each method here.

Connecting Your AdWords Account with a Google+ Page

2. Link Your G+ profile Back to Your Homepage
Next, Google wants to see a link from your Google+ Page’s profile back to your homepage. You can easily add this to your Page by editing your profile and then adding links in the right sidebar. After clicking “edit profile” button, you can click the links section in the right sidebar to edit them. Then you can click “add custom link” and enter the label and URL for your homepage.

Linking a Google+ Page Back to a Website

3. Add Social Extension in AdWords
In order to complete the process of adding Social Extensions, you need to add the extension in your AdWords campaign. Access the campaign in question and click the “Ad Extensions” tab. Use the dropdown and select “Social Extensions”. Click “New Extension” and you’ll be presented with a text field where you need to enter the URL of your Google+ Page. You can get the URL by accessing your page in Google+ and copying the URL. Make sure you are copying the URL of your Page and not your personal profile. This is a common mistake. Click “Save” to complete the process. Google will approve the extension if everything is in place.

Adding Social Extensions in AdWords

That’s it! Once your Social Extension has been approved, your ads will be eligible to have +1 annotations show up.

Summary – Don’t Miss Out On Social Extensions
When running AdWords campaigns, it’s important to take advantage of all the powerful tools that Google provides for increasing performance. Ad Extensions in general can help advertisers increase click-through, build credibility, and land more business. And Social Extensions in particular can bring a social relevance to your ads that’s hard to match. I recommend taking the necessary steps to implement Social Extensions, and then track how they work for your business. You just might find that +1’s, and the relevance they bring to your ads, boost sales and ROI. And that’s the name of the game in SEM.