February 21, 2014, 9:47 AM

How Google Plus helps Top 1000 retailers boost click-through rates

Around 43% of Top 1000 retailers include the +1 button on product pages. Including ‘+1’ data in paid search ads increases click-through rates by 10-15%, according to Google. Some retailers say they’ve also noticed a lift in organic search rankings and clicks.

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Socially adept retailers have long known that a friend’s words carry significant influence in many a shopper’s purchasing decisions. The same goes for what’s “hot or not” at the moment among larger groups of consumers. So it follows that when a shopper is looking for an item on Google.com, seeing “+1s”—the equivalent of a Facebook Like on the search giant’s Google Plus social network—next to a link will make it more attractive to her, retailers say. 

Around 43% of the retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and Second 500 Guide include a +1 button on product pages, according to data from Top500Guide.com. And 407 retailers, or 81.4% of merchants ranked in the new Internet Retailer Social Media 500, which profiles the leaders in social commerce, have a Google + page. That’s more than double the number of retailers than are on Vine (191 retailers) and Tumblr (124 retailers), according to an analysis of new social data on Top500Guide.com. 362 retailers are on Instagram.

Many merchants, such as web-only footwear retailer Heels.com, are using Google Plus to their advantage in paid search ads. Heels.com includes in its Google paid search ad copy the number of Google+ users who’ve clicked +1 to signal that they like the brand, along with a product’s average star rating from consumer reviews, says marketing director Austin Caldwell. “These two signals add credibility to our brand for first-time buyers,” he says. Ads with these two cues, he says, garner “significant gains” in click-through rates versus ads without them.

Consumer electronics and marketplace seller Newegg Inc. has also noticed some positive effects when +1s are included next to both its paid and unpaid links in Google search results, says Soren Mills, Newegg’s chief marketing officer in North America. “While we don't have firm quantitative data to share, based on anecdotal evidence I can say we’ve seen a significant increase in click-through rates and a moderate increase in organic ranking,” he says. 

In fact, paid ads that include +1 data have a 5-10% higher click-through rate than ads that do not, according to Gretchen Howard, director of global social solutions at Google

“It’s pretty basic psychology—if people you know, or lots of people, have +1ed a brand,” you’re more likely to find a link credible and click it, she says, referring to the two ways +1s appear to consumers in Google search results: personal or anonymous. In the first case, a consumer who is logged into her Google account when searching might see a +1 with the name of her friend on the social network, as in “Gretchen Howard has +1ed this,” next to search results. If she’s not logged in, or if none of her Google Plus contacts have +1ed something she’s searching for, she might see a more general piece of data like “500 +1s” next to a brand’s link. 

Google+ has 300 million monthly active users, or users with profiles who have logged into the network at least once in the last 30 days, Howard says. She declines to comment on how such cues influence click-through rates for organic search results. However, Stephan Spencer, an SEO expert and author who founded digital marketing agency Netconcepts, which search technology provider Covario Inc. later acquired, says any extra visual cues, including +1s, thumbnail images from an article or video, and retailers’ star ratings, can increase click-through rates on unpaid Google search listings or paid search ads by 30%.

For more about how to take advantage of Google Plus, check out the article “Get to know Google Plus” in the next issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Sign up to receive your free copy here

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