Is Google Using AdWords Express Budgets To Promote Google+?

Google now offers small businesses using its AdWords Express service a way to promote their Google+ pages seemingly everywhere but on Google+ itself, which Google reasserts should be an ad-free zone. That omission may make these ads less effective for those seeking new customers or followers to their Google+ pages. Meanwhile, the push gets those same small businesses spending their advertising dollars to promote Google+ itself for Google.

AdWords Express & Google+ Pages

In case you’re not familiar with AdWords Express, it’s Google’s version of automated paid search. With AdWords Express, small and local businesses who are in a time crunch and don’t have time to properly set up campaigns let Google run their ads. Google then chooses where to show the ads. Some will appear in Google search results, based on terms that Google selects. Some appear within Google Maps. Some appear on non-Google sites that are part of the Google advertising network.

Since some small businesses don’t have web sites, Google has offered them free ones to use with AdWords Express through its Get Your Business Online service. But now, Google has said businesses can drive visitors to their Google+ pages.

In a post late last week Christian Oestlien, a member of Google Product Management, announced that AdWords Express would now “offer” businesses a new way to promote their Google+ pages:

Along with the announcement Oestlien mentioned that this option would be available for all Google properties – except, well, Google+. In fact, Oestlien took a pseudo-swing at Facebook by stating:

… we only show these promotions when they’re appropriate—not overwhelming people with random ads when they’re trying to spend time with friends.

Why No Advertising On Google+?

Many could argue that if you are trying “attract more followers” they would want to do so on Google+ itself. Why show social network ads in search? Why show them for your Google+ page in maps? This is a hard stance that Google+ took throughout 2012. But the thing is, social ads work. There simply isn’t a better place for admins to try and grow fans with ads than from targeted ads in the social network.

Well, Can You Advertise To Just Google+ Users?

The answer is no. A Google representative confirmed to us that the only targeting option is “normal targeting,” so it will reach everyone. This is a huge negative for those AdWords Express advertisers who are trying to build a following for their Google+ page. Seeing that you can’t advertise on the social network and you can’t target those across the Google network with a Google+ enabled account, you have no guarantee that a click is coming from someone who has a Google+ account or if they have even heard of Google+ before.

So Just What Is This New Service That Google Is “Offering”?

The 10,000-foot view of this announcement reads like this:

  • You give your money to Google to handle online advertising
  • Google spends your money across their network
  • Instead of driving traffic to your site, the new announcement ”offers” businesses the ability to let Google drive traffic to a Google property
  • The goal is to “attract new followers and customers” but Google can’t show ads within the social network itself.
  • Nor can active Google+ users be targeted

Why Is This A Bit Suspect?

While Google+ has been relatively successful, it has come at the hands of a huge investment. From advertising during big NFL games, to worldwide print and TV campaigns, to big NFL partnerships, Google has spent inordinate marketing resources on the Google+ product. In a way, Google is now leveraging AdWords Express users’ budgets to do so, too.

The glaring lack of ability to target ads on Google+ itself, or even to target users who are on Google+ makes for un-targeted, poor advertising for those looking to build their pages. The majority of those users who click will have to be sold on Google+ first before they can follow a brand page. Instead of hitting active users, advertisers are simply handing money to Google to blast the budget across the general Google network.

None of the other social networks operate in this fashion. Facebook offers a variety of advertising options across the social network, Twitter has a handful of ad options across Twitter. The key is that all of these are on the network that has that social scent trail to it.

So Is This New Service Helpful For Anyone?

Is this worth doing? In some cases, absolutely. If a company doesn’t have resources for a website and they don’t want to promote their Facebook page, this gives them an option to get up and running. If you are on a shoestring budget and need a landing page, this option may quench your thirst for more eyeballs. The issue isn’t with the “attract new customers” statement that Oestlien made, but more about the attraction of new followers aspect as there is no Google+ user targeting built into the service.

While this new targeting may look valuable at-a-glance, severe lack of targeting makes it tough to recommend to anyone. From Google’s standpoint however, this would be an ideal selection for advertisers as a big byproduct of the budget is more awareness of the Google+ product.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Features & Analysis | Google | Google: Google+ | Top News


About The Author: is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 6+ years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

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  • daveintheuk

    Users need to be very careful about the ways in which Google is pushing them to invest in their properties for them… the “see inside” panoramic photos are another example – why spend £600+ with a “Google Trusted” photographer to build content on their site, when you could get the same imagary cheaper for your own website.

    Making users pay to advertise their third-rate social network is another cynical, greedy move by Google. Perhaps THEY should concentrate more on what users want.

  • TrueWebPresence

    Maybe the business owner is more interested in calls and walk-ins than they are website visitors or G+ followers. If this is the case, a G+ follower would just be icing on the cake!

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