How To Social Proof Your Google Adwords Campaigns

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when advertisers could operate search engine marketing campaigns using misleading or false claims. You could promise “24/7 customer service,” “amazing views,” “customer recommended” or whatever you could think of to sell a product, and there were few ways for consumers to truly vet your claims – until it was too late!

Those days are ending, if they aren’t already completely over. Today, an advertiser with great marketing but a terrible product or customer service may be outright banned from most advertising channels, and will have a hard time profiting from the remaining few that allow him access. Mistreat your customers and you can get banned from Google AdWords, eBay, Amazon, and comparison shopping engines, not to mention getting slaughtered by bad reviews on Yelp and massively viral outrage via social media.

Introducing A New Social Component: Google Plus

Recently Google announced an innovation that could be the most significant change yet – the integration of Google Plus “+1’s” into Google AdWords. This new feature allows advertisers to use social proof to enhance their advertisements. To highlight the power of this feature, ask yourself this:

If you have rabid fans of your product or service, why not leverage these advocates in your Adwords advertising?

The concept here is a direct homage (or, um, some would say, rip off) of “social actions” in Facebook PPC. Google Plus integration, which Google calls “social extensions”, works the same way. If your friends +1 a company, you might see their mugshots below that company’s AdWords ads:

example ad with google plus

Imagine doing a search for “mortgage rates” and seeing pictures of your friends next to only one of the eight to ten ads Google serves up – the combination of social proof and herd mentality are incredibly strong psychological factors to resist. Over time, imagine repeating that search and seeing pictures of your friends next to all of the ads except for one. Is there any doubt that you would avoid the lone outlier like the plague?

Search is a “bottom of the funnel” channel, Facebook is “top of the funnel.” When a consumer conducts a search on Google, he is very close to making a purchase decision. As such, social proof – or lack thereof – on search results pages is potentially way more important to advertisers than social proof on Facebook, simply because this social proof could very likely be the difference between an immediate sale or lost business to a competitor.

How to Connect Your Google+ Page to Your AdWords Account

To integrate Google+ into your AdWords account, start by clicking the “Campaigns” tab in your AdWords account. To the very right of all the standard tabs at the top of the tab (Campaigns, Ad Groups, Settings, etc.) you’ll see a little button with a down arrow on it. Click this button and an additional list of tab options will appear. Select the one called “Ad Extensions”:

google campaigns ad extension location

You should then be automatically taken to the “Ad Extensions” tab. Once again, you need to find the hidden option by click on the drop-down list entitled “View: Location Extensions.” Scroll down until you see “Social Extensions” and click that.

Location of social extensions in Google Adwords

You are now ready to link one or more of your AdWords Campaigns with your Google+ account. To start, just click the “New Extension” button:

location new extension google adwords

The next screen prompts you to choose the Campaign you want to associate with Google+. Generally speaking, there’s no disadvantage to associating all of your campaigns with Google+, but if you want to start conservatively (which is always a good idea), start by testing one or two campaigns that will get you enough clicks to determine the effectiveness of social extensions. Make sure to enter the URL of your Google+ page here as well!

google adwords ad extension tab

And voila, you now have a Google+ page linked to your AdWords account via a “social extension”! Now that you are connected, you need to start analyzing the actual performance of the social extension. It’s important to understand that Google determines the rank of ads on search result pages (SERPs) based on two primary factors: the maximum cost per click you are willing to pay (Max CPC) and your ad’s click through rate (CTR). When you change your ad text – in this case, by adding social extensions – you are hoping that this change leads to an increase in clicks from quality users. The higher the CTR, the lower the CPC you have to pay to get to the top of the results.

Keep in mind that your goal is to get quality users, not just any users. So if your social extensions resulted in thousands of people clicking on your ads but no one actually buying anything from you, you would win the battle but lose the war (more specifically, you would be making money for Google but not for your business). For this reason, in addition to evaluating the impact social extensions have on CTR, it’s also worth measuring the impact they have on your conversion rate (CR). At PPC Associates, we do this by evaluating what we call “Conversions Per Thousand Impressions” (CPI). To calculate this metric, simply multiple your CTR times your CR. If social extensions in your ad text gives you a higher CPI, you should see a decrease in CPC and an increase in conversion rates – a win-win!

As noted, the theory behind social extensions and the convergence of Google+ and AdWords is that recommendations from friends (social proof) increases both clicks and conversion rate. Theories, however, always need to be tested. If you find that social extensions are performing poorly as compared to other extensions in a given campaign, you may need to eliminate them from that campaign.

What This Means for the Future

So what can you do to position your company in a future where Google+ matters? For starters, get a Google+ account for your business and start building relationships with your customers through Google+. Growing your base of +1’s will positively influence both organic and paid results on Google (note: for organic results, +1’s will influence someone’s personalized search results, I am not suggesting that +1’s will necessarily improve a company’s Page Rank).

In addition to simply having a Google+ account, marketers need to start become internal champions for outstanding customer service and awesome products. It is no longer enough to just do a great job of driving traffic or sales and wash your hands of responsibility for the actual customer experience. Online marketers who disregard customer satisfaction will be put out of business by these very customers, either indirectly through social proof mechanisms like Google+ or Yelp, or directly through outright bans on major marketing channels like eBay, Amazon, and AdWords.

A famous cartoon in the New Yorker once noted “on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Today, at least concerning online advertisers, that phrase rings hollow. It’s fairly easy for potential customers to determine whether or not your company is a “dog”, in the pejorative sense.

Integrating social proof like Google+ into AdWords makes it even easier for customers to make this judgment. AdWords advertisers will live and die not by their crafty ad text, advanced bidding algorithms, or beautiful conversion funnels, but simply by delivering great products with great service to consumers.

About the Author: David Rodnitzky is CEO of PPC Associates, an SEM agency in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter @rodnitzky or contact him at