Converting Facebook’s 750 million active users to Google+ will be a long, difficult battle for the search giant. But converting brands to Google+ will be much easier if Google+ is able to solve advertisers’ biggest problems with Facebook — such as post-click engagement tracking, paid search inefficiencies and limited customization.
Advertisers drive paid media to their Facebook Pages because they want to be where their audience is, but there’s a major flaw in this strategy. Advertisers can’t track post-click engagement of non-Facebook ads driving to Facebook, and that’s a huge disadvantage in qualifying traffic and uncovering valuable user insights. Without such information, we can only guess whether media dollars are being well spent.
In a month or two, Google+ will launch its highly anticipated brand pages. Here are four reasons why marketers are right to be excited and why Google+ brand pages will provide a better branded experience than Facebook.
1. Better Search Opportunites
A major challenge with driving paid search ads to a Facebook page is that the Facebook.com domain generates a lower click-through rate (CTR), most likely due to people finding the domain irrelevant to their query. The low CTR makes for a low quality score in Google’s auction-model, which typically increases cost per click for paid search ads driving to Facebook versus a unique brand domain. The loss in cost efficiency of driving to a Facebook page has been an ongoing struggle for advertisers, particularly on Google, which has over 60% of the search market.
It would be crazy for search giant Google not to have search benefits for Google+ brand pages, whether it is a “certified check mark” callout (like on Twitter), a colored box around the listing, or possibly page-rank priority. Search benefits would likely be the strongest reason for brands to adopt a Google+ brand page. The only flaw in this theory is that giving brand pages’ extra benefits in search could raise the specter of anti-trust action and legal challenges.
2. More Customization
Facebook ad types are limited to just ads, sometimes with a video or poll, allowing for few branding or creative opportunities. Looking at the design of Google+ personal pages, I predict the two skyscraper-sized white spaces on each side of the profile will be opportunities for custom skinning of your brand page and for display or rich media ads.
Google+ users are probably cursing me for suggesting the placement of ads on the currently clean design of Google+, but I am speaking specifically about allowing brands to advertise and skin their own pages as seen on branded YouTube channels such as Old Spice and Miracle Whip. These are great examples of how Google+ brand pages can deliver stronger brand experiences and help brands raise awareness of special promotions, as well as letting them drive qualified traffic to pages outside of Google+.
I would not be surprised if advertising opportunities were immediately available after the launch of Google+ brand pages, since Google is fully prepared to support it with its Google Display Network, AdWords and DoubleClick advertising products.
3. Better Analytics
People who have used Google Analytics know how detailed the data is, including metrics like time spent on page, top content, referring sites and geographic information. It seems inevitable for Google to integrate Google Analytics into Google+ brand pages, so that brands can gain valuable insights into who their fans are, what content their fans are consuming, and where they are coming from.
All this data will guide brands in the prioritization, organization and creation of content for their page, which will lead to an improved experience that better suits fans’ interests and needs. More importantly, Google Analytics and DoubleClick reporting products will let advertisers tie paid media placements to page interaction, and help to optimize and maximize the value of media spend.
4. Google Can Learn from Facebook
Facebook pioneered one-on-one connections between a brand and its fans through social networking, and will continue to be valuable for inherently social brands like musicians and celebrities. But for less social industries such as insurance, health and, say, paper towels, Google+ provides a platform that is open to conversation and focuses on providing branded content and valuable information in one place.
Facebook’s successes and missteps offer invaluable lessons, giving Google second-mover advantage in creating a brand page based on brands’ need for more customization, a hub to aggregate content across the web, strong search presence and user-engagement data. However, if Google+ brand pages turn out to be a replica of Facebook’s, the battle could be over before it’s begun.