Home Google+ Ads In Search Might Actually Be A Great Idea

Google+ Ads In Search Might Actually Be A Great Idea

“We have no plans to inject ads into your photo albums,” Google SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra told a pretty huge audience at SXSWi today. “We should not be injecting ads into your most intimate social experiences.” The man who calls the shots on Google+ understands that you don’t want to be advertised to when you’re looking at pictures of your newborn daughter.

“It is our goal to make ads into content,” Gundotra told us. That sounds a little gross the way he put it, but it’s the right idea. If you’re trying to decide on a restaurant, a recommendation from a friend isn’t a mere ad. It’s what you’re looking for.

When we’re trying to socialize, it’s not the right time to show us ads. “Maybe the right time is at the moment of commercial intent,” Gundotra said. “Commercial intent is what we call search.” When you’re searching for restaurants in Austin, that’s when Google wants to show you your friend’s recommendation. Since Google has your eyeballs across a wide range of online activities, it can save the social ads for when the time is right.

So many purchases start with a Google search. Google knows when you’re using it for shopping, and it knows what you’re shopping for, so that’s an opportunity to show you a relevant recommendation from a friend.

Facebook and Twitter have to resort to pumping ads into your social streams. Google doesn’t need to do that in order to monetize Google+. It can spend the valuable social data it gathers there on search ads, when you’re actually trying to buy something.

And according to data Gundotra shared with the New York Times this week, it works. “We are seeing 5 to 10 percent click-through rate uplift on any ad that has a social annotation on our own Web sites,” he said. “We have been in this business for a long time, and there are very few things that give you a 5 to 10 percent increase on ad engagement.”

Even as someone who was initially skeptical about the value of social search, it’s starting to sound helpful when Google puts it this way. The worst thing about the app-powered world is having a different dedicated app for every little niche. There’s no way all our friends are in all those places. If Google can incorporate recommendations from our friends right into Google search, which is already the go-to place for finding things, we’re liberated from having to check 12 different apps just to find stuff to do.

If you disagree, and you find all this social ad stuff creepy, remember you can always turn it off.

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