Google +1 on Display Ads

Google has unrolled the Google +1 button on ads in the Google display network. When these ads appear on a site the +1 button will be included at the bottom of the ad, as well as the +1 count and the images of any people with whom you are connected on Google.

This has some very fascinating implications for the impact of +1s on clickthrough rates, which we’ll get to in a bit. The following types of ad formats will now display the +1 button via the display network:

  • Image ads
  • Flash ads
  • Ads created with the Display Ad Builter
  • Flash Ads
  • DoubleClick Rich Media ads (even off the Google Display Network)

Google +1 Button Tied to Page, Not the Ad

A very important part of the functionality of the Google +1 button on display ads is that the +1 associated with the ad is tied to the landing page that ad click will take you to, and not the ad itself. This means:

  • Anyone who clicks to +1 the ad will actually be +1ing the landing page.
  • Any +1s on your landing page will show up as +1 on the ad pointing to that landing page.

This means that if that +1 count is actually meaningful (if people are more likely to click through to an ad with a lot of +1s) then increasing the +1s on a given page could actually increase your click through rate on ads over the display network. And from Google’s perspective this is a good thing — it encourages you to have a high quality and relevant page for users to land on.

Of course the downside of this is that if a higher +1 count is meaningful, then you’ll quickly have advertisers paying for +1s on their site (there are already services offering this) just to boost the count on their landing pages to boost the odds of getting clicks on their ads.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out — if the +1 count doesn’t matter no one will care and perhaps Google will leave it up just as a way of advertising their Google+ network. If the count does matter then we’ll quickly reach a point where the winners will be the people who have paid for their +1s, which means Google will either have to develop extensive +1 spam algorithms, or stop showing the count (though they could still show connections) to stop rewarding people for breaking the rules.

My bet is that the +1 count will matter for click through rate, but eventually Google will stop showing the general overall +1 number, and instead will just show the +1s of your friends.