Facebook Ads for eCommerce – How To Combine Custom Audiences, Lookalikes, and Unpublished Posts to Target Customers and Similar Users

How to use unpublished posts as Facebook Ads

I used to be extremely critical of Facebook Ads in the past.  But that’s before Facebook released a boatload of functionality for enhancing your campaigns.  Sure, marketplace ads, or ads running the right sidebar, have seen declining engagement over the years, but that’s just a fraction of what you can do now with Facebook Ads.  And I’m finding many advertisers don’t know about the powerful options available to them.

For example, there’s FBX (or retargeting on Facebook), news feed targeting, mobile-only targeting, promoted posts, custom audiences, lookalike audiences, unpublished posts, etc.  And with this enhanced functionality comes better targeting and performance.  Now, I still think paid search can reach someone who is searching for a specific solution at the exact time they need it, and social advertising can’t do that (yet).  But, using advanced targeting within Facebook can absolutely make an impact, and on multiple levels.

In this post, I’m going to explain one method of using three pieces of functionality in Facebook Ads that might change your view of social advertising.  It has for me, and I’ve been using this technique for some time now.  It leverages unpublished posts, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences to target your current customers, and users similar to your customers, when you are running a specific promotion or sale.  It’s a great way to make the most of your current assets, and at a relatively low cost.

Meet Unpublished Posts
I find many business owners have no idea what unpublished posts are.  If you fit into this category, then today is your lucky day.  Unpublished posts enable page owners to create page updates that don’t get shared with their entire fan base.  In addition, you can run ads based on the unpublished posts and use a wealth of ad targeting to reach the right audience (which can include current customers).  Interesting, right?

Unpublished posts in Facebook

The easiest way to create an unpublished post is to use Power Editor.  And if you’re running Facebook Ads and not using Power Editor, you should start today.  It offers a lot of functionality and targeting options not available in Ads Manager (which is what advertisers use on Facebook’s website).

By clicking “Manage Pages” in Power Editor, you can actually craft a page post.  But since we want an unpublished post, you can create the update and not publish it.  That’s ultra-important, since we want to use the post as an ad, and not an update that’s broadcast to your entire fan base.

Creating an unpublished post in Facebook using Power Editor.

So, if you’re an ecommerce provider running a specific sale, you could create an update focusing on that sale, with an understanding it will reach a very specific audience (and not every fan).  I’ll cover how to target specific parts of your customer list soon, including people that are similar to those users.  Once you create your post, you can click your account ID in the left pane to return to your ads dashboard (in Power Editor).

Now we’re ready to talk about custom audiences and lookalikes.

Meet Custom Audiences and Lookalikes
I wrote a post earlier in the year about custom audiences in Facebook.  You should read that post to learn how to set them up.  You’ll need a custom audience in order to use the method I’m covering in this post (since that’s the audience you will target, and it’s also the list you will use to create a lookalike audience).

Custom audiences enable you to upload a list of current customers, based on your in-house email list.  Then, Facebook will match up the list with users on the social network.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That means you can target your in-house email list (or parts of that list) via Facebook Ads.  Awesome, right?

Using Custom Audiences in Facebook

Once your custom audience is created, you can use that list to target current customers with specific promotions and sales.  And you can use unpublished posts to reach them.  Did you catch that?  I said unpublished posts.  That means getting your targeted promotion in front of your current customers (whether they are fans of your page or not).

Great, but what’s a lookalike?
Lookalike audiences enable you to base a new audience (set of Facebook users) on a custom audience (your current customers).  Facebook reviews a number of characteristics about your custom audience (your current customer base), and then finds people similar to your customers.  Yes, once again, eye-opening targeting opportunity ahead.

Imagine you had five custom audiences set up, all containing specific customers for specific categories of products.  Then you could use lookalikes to find similar people (which you can then target via Facebook Ads).  The old days of Facebook ads seem so caveman-like, right?  :)

How To Set Up Lookalikes
Once you have set up a custom audience (following my tutorial), then you can easily select that audience in Power Editor, and choose “Create Similar Audience”.  Choose “Similarity” in the dialog box and Facebook will find users that are similar to your in-house list (based on a number of criteria).  It could take up to 24 hours to create the list, but I’ve seen it take much less time than that (especially for smaller lists).

Using Lookalike Audiences in Facebook

Combining Unpublished Posts, Custom Audiences, and Lookalikes
OK, we have covered unpublished posts that contain targeted messages about new promotions or sales.  We have also covered custom audiences based on our in-house email list.  And, we have covered lookalike audiences, which enable us to target similar people to our own customers.  Now we are ready to tie them together.

1. Create a New Campaign
In Power Editor, you can create a new campaign and set the campaign parameters like name, budget, etc.

Creating a new Facebook campaign in Power Editor.

2. Create a New Ad
Click the “Ads” tab to create your ad.  Under “Type”, choose “Ad”, and then select the radio button labeled “For a Facebook Page Using a Page Post”.  That will enable you to choose an unpublished post for your ad.

Creating an unpublished post ad in Facebook.

3. Choose a Destination
For “Destination”, choose your Facebook Page.  Note, your page’s image and title will still link users to your page, but the post itself can drive users to the sale landing page on your website.  Your post itself is where you should place the link to your landing page (on your own site).  In addition, you should add tracking parameters to your destination urls for your unpublished post (so you can track each campaign via your analytics package).

Choosing an ad destination for unpublished post ad in Facebook.

4. Select An Unpublished Post
Now, choose your unpublished post to use that post as the actual ad.  Note, you can also create your unpublished post at this stage (using Power Editor).  That’s a nice feature that was recently added.

Selecting a page post for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

5. Choose your placement:
OK, how awesome is this?  You get to choose where your unpublished post shows up.  For example, in the News Feed (Desktop and Mobile).  This is the most powerful placement in my opinion.  Your ads will show up directly in someone’s news feed versus along the right side.

Choosing ad placement for unpublished post in Power Editor.

6. Choose Your Targeting
Under “Audience”, you can choose targeting, based on the goals of your campaign.  Note, this is not where you will choose your custom or lookalike audience, although the tab is titled “Audience”.  You can choose location, age, gender, etc. if you want more granular targeting than just the custom audiences we created earlier.

Choosing ad targeting for unpublished post in Power Editor.

7. Choose Your Audience (Yes, this is what we’ve been waiting for.)
Under “Advanced Options”, you’ll notice the first field is titled “Custom Audiences”.  If you start typing in that field, your custom audience should show up (based on what you named the audience when you created it).  Once selected, it should show up in the field.  You can leave the rest of the targeting options located below as-is.

Selecting a custom audience for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

Clarification Side Note:
To clarify what we’ve been doing, this ad will target your current customer list.  When you create a second campaign, you can choose your lookalike audience.  Then you can run both campaigns and target both your current customer list and people similar to your current customers.   And since they are in separate campaigns, with separate tracking parameters, you can track performance by audience.  Awesome.

8. Select Your Pricing and Status Options
For this example, let’s choose CPC and enter the desired cost per click.  Facebook will provide a suggested CPC to the right.  Once completed, you’re ready to rock.

How to set pricing for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

9. Upload Your Campaign
Click “Upload” in Power Editor and your ad will be uploaded to Facebook, where it will need to be approved.  Once approved, you’ll receive a notification that your unpublished post is live.

Uploading an unpublished post ad using Power Editor.

Why this approach works:

1. Exposure and Sharing
By using this approach, you can get your latest sale or promotion in front of your current customers as they browse Facebook, while also providing a great opportunity for that sale or promotion to get shared.  For example a current customer might like your update, and it could hit their friends’ news feeds, which can provide even more exposure and opportunities to land new customers.

2. Engagement
Even though the unpublished post is technically an ad, it still looks and works like a typical page post update.  That means users can like, share, and comment on the post.  And yes, users often do like and comment on unpublished post ads.  Remember, the unpublished post ad is hitting users’ news feeds (both desktop and mobile), so there is a strong chance they will be exposed to your ad.   And if it’s crafted well, then there’s a chance that a certain percentage of that audience will engage with the post. It’s a great way to engage your current customers, while also engaging similar people (via a lookalike audience).

3. Page Likes
Gaining more page likes is an added benefit to using this approach.  Sure, you want people to click through to your sale landing page and buy, but you probably also want more page likes (so you can reach more people with your organic status updates down the line).  I’ve seen unpublished post ads work extremely well for gaining more page likes (across industries).  For example, a recent campaign I launched increased page likes by 7% during a one week period.  Not bad, when you take into account the other benefits from running the campaign (like exposure, sharing, engagement, and sales – which I’ll cover next).

4. Sales (and other important conversions)
Using this approach can yield a low CPA, high ROAS method for increasing sales for specific promotions.  I’ve run campaigns where the CPC was under $0.40 per click, and depending on the specific campaign, return on ad spend (ROAS) can be extremely strong.  For example, 2000 clicks at $0.40 per click is $800.  A conversion rate of 2.0% and an average order value of $75 would yield $3000 in revenue and 275% ROAS.  That’s just a small and quick example, but unpublished page post ads could yield a shot in the arm pretty quickly.

And from a B2B standpoint, with average order values typically much higher than B2C, the ROAS could be even greater.  Even a handful of sales could generated thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in revenue.  For example, a recent campaign I launched for a client focused on items starting at $1000 (and some were up to $5000 per item).  Even one sale at $5K based on the campaign I mentioned before would yield a strong ROAS.

And let’s not forget other important micro-conversions on your website.  For example, newsletter signups, which can be a great driver of revenue for any ecommerce provider, app downloads, requests for more information, etc. all fall under this category and can start forging a relationship between prospective customers and your business.

What’s the Downside?
OK, I love using this approach, but social advertising brings some unique challenges with it.  Since what we’ve covered is an actual page post, and not a straight ad, users can interact with it.  That means both positive and negative interaction can occur.  For example, you might have some unhappy customers post their negative feedback in the unpublished page post ad.  How you deal with that situation is for another post, but I always recommend addressing the problem directly (in the post).  But again, there are several situations that can arise, and I’ll try and address them in a future post.  Just keep in mind that users can comment, and those comments might not always be positive.

The Power of Unpublished Posts, Custom Audiences, and Lookalikes
After reading this post, I hope you better understand the power of using unpublished posts along with custom audiences and lookalike audiences.  Unfortunately, the features and functionality I covered in the post are not readily apparent to many Facebook advertisers.  And that’s a shame, since they can be extremely effective for businesses looking to engage current customers and new audiences, while also increasing sales.  I recommend testing this approach soon to see if it can be effective for your business.

You can start today. Create a custom audience, create a lookalike audience, and use Power Editor to create unpublished post ads.  You may never look back.  :)



AdWords for Twitter – How To Set Up Keyword Targeting Campaigns in Twitter Ads [Tutorial]

Keyword Targeting in Twitter Ads

There was a big announcement on Wednesday in the advertising world.  Twitter finally launched a keyword targeting solution for Twitter Ads.  Yes, that means AdWords-like targeting for Twitter.  Many in the industry (including myself) have thought for a long time that Twitter should launch something like this… and it’s finally here.

As soon as I heard the news, I ran to my Twitter Advertising dashboard to jump in.  Based on setting up my first set of campaigns, I decided to write this post to detail how keyword targeting works in Twitter, how to set up a campaign, explain the targeting options you have, etc.  My hope is that after you read this post, you’ll be off and running with your first AdWords-like Twitter campaign. :)

What is Keyword Targeting in Twitter?
Let’s start with a quick introduction.  With this new release, advertisers can now promote certain tweets based on keywords that users are searching for on Twitter, based on keywords used in their tweets, or based on keywords found in tweets users recently engaged with.  When a match is made, your promoted tweet has an opportunity to win placement either in a user’s Twitter stream or in the search results (for when someone searches Twitter).

A Promoted Tweet looks like this:
Example of Promoted Tweet


Creating Your First Campaign
In your Twitter Ads dashboard, you should click “Create campaign” in the upper left-hand corner.

Create a keyword targeting campaign in Twitter Ads


Next, click the “Promote your Tweets” button to select a promoted tweets campaign.


Select campaign type in Twitter Ads


Once you select a promoted tweets campaign, you should click the button labeled “Target by keywords” to create a keyword targeting campaign.


Select keyword targeting in Twitter Ads


Your Options (Feed and Search)
When you decide to launch a keyword targeting campaign in Twitter, you’ll have to decide if you want to target the search results or users’ timelines.  I like that Twitter forces you to break out campaigns by type, since I would have recommended doing that anyway.   This will enable you to better analyze the effectiveness of your targeting (very similar to breaking out display network and search campaigns in AdWords).

Target search or users' timelines


Keyword Match Types
Next, you’ll need to address the keywords you will target for your campaign.  Similar to AdWords or Bing Ads, you have several options when targeting keywords.  You can choose unordered match (which is similar to broad match), phrase match, or exact match.  Unordered match will match your keywords, but those keywords can be in any order.  Phrase match requires the keywords be in the exact order you list, but other keywords can be at the beginning or end of the query.  And exact match requires a perfect match on the keywords you enter – without any other keywords in the query.  Exact match is the most restrictive of the match types and is only available when you target the search results.

Choosing keywords for your Twitter Ads campaign


Note, you can also import keywords as comma separated, or line separated (which is a nice option for importing keywords from other platforms).


Importing keywords in Twitter Ads


If you are familiar with paid search advertising, then you already know the power of using negatives.  Well, Twitter Ads enable you to include several types of negatives, including negative broad match, negative phrase match, and negative exact match.  Note, negatives are only available when you target the search results versus users’ timelines.  This makes sense, since most tweets don’t contain a few words (like a search query does).  When you use a negative, it tells Twitter to not show your ad when the negative appears in a search query.

Using negatives in keyword targeted campaigns in Twitter Ads


Your Ad, I Mean Tweet
When you use keyword targeting, you are setting up a “Promoted Tweets” campaign.  So, you aren’t setting up ads.  Instead, you are choosing a specific tweet to promote.  That’s important to understand or you can make the mistake of tweeting out an ad-sounding message during the campaign creation process.  When you set up your keyword targeting campaign, you can select a tweet to specifically promote from your stream.  You can also create a new tweet to promote, if that makes more sense for your campaign.  And yes, that makes the most sense, since you will want to tag your destination URL’s so your analytics package can accurately report your campaign statistics.

Selecting a tweet to promote in Twitter Ads


Personally, I think Twitter can learn something from Facebook here.  Using Facebook Ads, you can create an unpublished post to promote, and then use various targeting methods to reach your audience.  I would love to have that ability using Twitter Ads.  For example, an advertiser could create specific tweets to promote that wouldn’t necessarily show up in their stream (that all of their followers would see).  That would also enable you to split test your tweets more effectively.  Hey, it’s just an idea. :)
Targeting Options for Keyword Campaigns in Twitter Ads

Location Targeting
Once you choose your keywords, set negatives, and choose your promoted tweet, you can target your audience in a number of ways.  For example, you can use location targeting to limit your promoted tweets to users in a specific geographic region.  As of now, you can target users by country, state, and metro area.  For example, you can target the United States, New Jersey, or the Philadelphia Metro area.  Note, you cannot target at a smaller city or town level (at least yet).

Location Targeting in Twitter Ads

Target by Gender
In addition to using location targeting, you can also target by gender.  There are radio buttons for “any gender”, “male only”, and “female only”.  Twitter infers gender by the tweets shared by users, by their profiles, and by their follow graphs.  Using gender targeting, you can test response rates by gender (by splitting out campaigns by gender).  That’s exactly what I did when setting up my first keyword targeting campaign.

Gender Targeting in Twitter Ads

Device Targeting
Keyword targeting campaigns also enable you to target by device.  For example, you can target desktop and laptops, iOS, Android,  Blackberry, and “other mobile devices”.  You can use this targeting capability to split mobile and desktop campaigns, to target specific platforms, etc.

Device Targeting in Twitter Ads


Bid and Budget
At the bottom of the campaign setup screen are fields for campaign budget, daily budget, and maximum bid.  You can also use standard or accelerated delivery for your daily budget, which will either spend your budget as fast as possible starting at midnight, or spread that budget throughout the day.  When setting a maximum CPC, Twitter will supply a suggested bid range.

Setting a bid and budget in Twitter Ads

Once you have entered your keywords, chosen a tweet to promote, set up targeting, and set your bid and budget, then you are ready to rock and roll.  Simply click the “Create Campaign”  button at the bottom of the screen to launch your campaign!

Long Overdue, But Glad Keyword Targeting is Here
Although many in the industry believe this is long overdue, I’m thrilled that Twitter has finally released keyword targeting for Twitter Ads.  Over the past few days, I’ve been setting up various campaigns and testing performance, engagement, etc.  I plan to write more posts in the near future, based on the results of my initial campaigns.  So stay tuned.  In the meantime, I recommend jumping in yourself.  You can set up your first keyword targeting campaign today by following the instructions I included above.  Good luck.




How to Combine Custom Audiences in Facebook Ads to Enhance Your Targeting [Tutorial]

Custom Audiences in Facebook

Facebook recently released a powerful new option for advertisers called Custom Audiences.  Using custom audiences, advertisers can leverage their current in-house list of customers for targeting ads.  By uploading a list of emails, phone numbers, or UID’s, you can create a custom audience that can be used for targeting Facebook campaigns.

In my opinion, this was a brilliant move by Facebook.  It brings a unique targeting capability to the social network, and can be extremely useful on several levels.  For example, are you launching a new product?  Then use your custom audience to make sure your current customers know about the new product by reaching them on Facebook.  Know that a certain group of customers are interested in a given category of products?  Then use a custom audience to target just those customers with specific ads, copy, and calls to action.  The sky is the limit with regard to ideas for targeting your current set of customers, and I’ve been using custom audiences more and more recently.

Using Segmentation to Move Beyond Your One In-house Email List
A business can easily export its in-house email list and upload it to Facebook to create a custom audience.  It’s relatively straight-forward to do so, and you can accomplish this via Power Editor.  Once Facebook processes your list, it’s available to use when targeting an audience.  But, you shouldn’t stop there…  You can slice and dice your in-house email list and upload several files (if you have criteria for segmenting your list).

For example, do you know which customers are interested in which categories you sell?  Break those out.  Do you know which customers are tied to which purchases?  Sure you do, break those out too.  Once you do, you’ll have several targeted lists of emails that you can combine to hone your targeting.  And who doesn’t like that idea?

Combining Custom Audiences
When using Remarketing in AdWords, there is something called custom combinations.  When advertisers create a custom combination, they can create a remarketing audience that includes one audience, but excludes another.  That’s extremely powerful and provides a lot of flexibility for businesses trying to reach their customers via retargeting efforts.  Well, combining custom audiences in Facebook Ads enables you to do the same thing.

Here’s a simple hypothetical situation.  Let’s say you sold amazing new earphones that are invisible to the naked eye.  You already blasted an email out to your current customers and received some orders.  If your full email list was uploaded to Facebook as a custom audience (which should be done anyway), then you could create a second audience that includes customers that already purchased the new earphones.

Then, when you create a new campaign targeting your in-house email list (promoting your new earphones), you can exclude the list of customers that already purchased them.  This saves you from looking foolish, cuts down on wasted impressions, wasted clicks, and wasted budget.  Yes, that’s a simple example, but shows the power of creating custom combinations in Facebook.

How To Use Custom Combinations with Facebook Ads
Let’s quickly walk through how to set this up in Facebook.  Below, I’m going to explain how to first create a custom audience, and then how to upload and use a second audience (that can be used to hone your targeting).  Let’s create a custom combination using custom audiences in Facebook:

1. Export a straight list of customer emails as a .csv file.

Exporting a CSV of emails to create a custom audience.


2. Launch Power Editor and click the “Custom Audiences” Tab.
Note, if you’ve never used Power Editor, set that up now, download all of your campaigns, and then revisit this tutorial.

Custom Audience Tab in Facebook Ads


3. Click the “Create Audience” button and enter the name, description, and choose the type of list. 
For this list, click the “Emails” radio button.  You should also click “Choose File” button to locate the csv file we just created in the previous step.

The Custom Audience Dialog Box in Facebook Ads


4. Click “Create” and Facebook will upload your list and create your custom audience. 
Note, it could take a few hours for Facebook to process the file.  That depends on your list.  Remember, Facebook is going to scan the emails and try and match them up to current Facebook users.


5. Wait for Facebook to process your custom audience.
The status for the custom audience will say, “Waiting” while Facebook is processing the file.  That will change to “Ready” when the audience is ready to go.
You should also see the audience size (based on the users that Facebook could match up).

Custom Audience Status Message


6. Repeat the process in steps 1-5 to create a second custom audience (the hypothetical list of customers that already purchased our killer new earphones).
Make sure you give the new custom audience a descriptive name like “customers-invisible-earphones”.


7. Create a new campaign that will be used to target your current customers that have not purchased your new earphones yet.
Simply use the standard process for setting up a new Facebook campaign.

Creating a New Facebook Campaign


8. Select your custom audience.

When you create a new ad within your new campaign, you can hop down to the “Audience” tab.  You can click the button labeled “Use Existing Audience”.  Then select your full in-house email list.  That’s the first custom audience we created.

Use Existing Audience in Facebook Ads


9. Now select the custom audience to exclude.

Next, click the “Advanced Options” tab under “Audience”.  You will see an option for “Excluded Audiences”.   You can start typing the name of the custom audience containing customers that already purchased your earphones (the second custom audience we created).  The audience name should auto-populate when you start typing.  After selecting the audience, you should see the “Estimated Reach” number drop, based on excluding the new list.

Combining Custom Audiences to Enhance Targeting


10. That’s it, you have now used a custom combination to hone your targeting using Custom Audiences!
Your ads will now only be displayed to customers on your email list that have not purchased your new earphones yet.

Summary – Combine Audiences for Power
As I explained earlier, using custom audiences is a new and powerful way to reach a targeted audience on Facebook.   It combines the power of a current, in-house email list with the flexibility and intelligence of segmenting your audience.  Don’t look foolish, don’t waste clicks, and don’t waste budget.  Use custom combinations to slice and dice your current customer list.  Now go ahead.  Set up your campaign now.  :)



+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 Google.com 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.