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Google PlusBox Performance Results

Back in Late October I discussed my early thoughts on the flashy, new Google AdWords’ PlusBox product (while it was still in Alpha stages). Now, with a little over 6 months of data, I wanted to share my early impressions of the product’s performance.

(Sample Google PlusBox Ad; Before and After Expansion)

    1) Google has gradually increased their PlusBox “show rate” among eligible AdWords campaigns. Over the 6 month time frame, we’ve seen this rate increase from 38% to a more recent mark of around 70-75%.
    2) PlusBox “expansion rate”, users who actually expanded (clicked) on the PlusBox component of the ad once shown, is 0.5% or about 1/10th the standard ad’s CTR, (sans PlusBox).
    3) The overall CTR of ads containing PlusBox, click-through on headline or PlusBox offer component, had a slightly better rate as compared to the standard ad.
    4) Of users that expanded the PlusBox, 1 in 15 actually clicked on an offer (product) to follow through to the site. Furthermore, of those clicking the PlusBox only 1 in 7 actually made it to the advertiser’s site. (by virtue of headline or product listing)
    5) The CR of users who did follow through to the site once expanding the PlusBox was on par with the standard ad.

Here’s how I view the above;

  • I think Google is happy with the early results of the product. Observation #3 above is good news for Google, since CTRs are slightly better. Users are more engaged with paid ads when the PlusBox is present compared to the standard ad. Overall, more people engage with the ad itself, but that doesn’t mean that everyone engaging with the ad actually clicked on the PlusBox expansion…that is to say, more people ended up clicking the headline to make it to the site with the PlusBox than without. Also, the fact that Google ramped up the serving frequency suggests that it’s helping, or at least not cutting into their top line.
  • Only a small percentage of users actually expand the PlusBox, and even fewer click on products displayed in the results.
  • The ‘1 in 7 making it to the site after expanding the PlusBox’ statistic disturbs me. On one hand, a pro may be that you’ve saved some costs by showing the user 1-3 of your products, and they found that the selection didn’t fit what they were looking for. Given the listings I’ve seen though, I have to imagine that the items did not represent a realistic view of the full product offering. If the user had seen the advertiser’s site, based on the standard keyword level landing page, I believe they would have been more likely to buy. This 1 in 7 “abandonment rate” without the user ever seeing your site, promotions, and value props seems like a step backwards.
  • A final thought:

    If Google’s intent for PlusBox was to give the user a quick glance at a number of retailers product offerings without leaving Google.com, I believe this product could lead to a minor loss in order volume for the advertiser due to the pre-click “abandonment rate” phenomenon. If however this negative attribute is offset by increased interaction with the ad, both Google and the advertiser win (This is true to what I’ve seen so far). The success of PlusBox then, has little to do with the expansion of products within the ad itself, and is mostly a result of the CTR boost by merit of having a PlusBox next to your ad, while other advertisers do not.

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  • Matthew Mierzejewski
    Matthew Mierzejewski is EVP of SEO at RKG.
  • Comments
    10 Responses to “Google PlusBox Performance Results”
    1. Marc Adelman says:

      Matt,

      Thanks for the data on this.

      It appears that the only clear advantage of the plus box at this point is an increase of CTR when your ad is the only ad on the page that has the plus box. Therefore it seems like the plus box is serving as a function of visual differentiation and is influencing the subliminal click decision process more then speaking to it’s ability to display products and provide the Google user with a more rich and targeted user experience.

      If we fast forward 2 years, to the point when 50% or > of the Paid results may have a plus box, will this positive factor be negated by a level visual playing field?

      Google needs to have the plus box be more tightly connected to an Adwords process rather then a base feed process. While the potential for greater Google search user interaction is increased with the plus box, the lack of targeting and relevance to the individual search query, makes this increased potential more of a wash.

    2. Matthew Mierzejewski Matthew says:

      Spot on, Marc!

      50%+ might wash out the CTR benefit, (perhaps) visually clutter the page, and if product listings continue to be lackluster, users will stop using them!

      Google – For long-term product viability….We need more controls!

      I’ve talked with a few retailers that would love to have the ability to specify 3 top products for PlusBox on a given keyword. I doubt Newegg is happy about the 3 products Google chose to display from the Google Base feed. Perhaps adding a Product Ranking column to the Base feed would allow the advertiser to educate Google’s tools about key skus to promote. This rank alongside the taxonomy and product description might be the first step to improving PlusBox product listings.

    3. Advertisers having control would be great.

      Ultimately I think this product will go the way of click-to-call. Google is trying to dynamically determine what products will resonate for a given search. I have much more faith in the advertiser, their merchants, their internal search page logic, etc to figure this out. Users will quickly learn to blow off the plus box suggested products in favor of the advertiser’s landing page.

      The idea that consumers will do all their shopping without ever leaving Google.com is Google’s white whale — beware what you pursue!

    4. Marc Adelman says:

      What if the plus box was fed by extra fields in the Adwords upload file?

      Plus Destination URL 1
      Plus Image 1

      Plus Destination URL 2
      Plus Image 2

      Plus Destination URL 3
      Plus Image 3

      This would allow the plus box to be controlled within adwords on all levels. Additionally it would become a kind of landing page testing function that could be controlled on an individual adgroup level.

      The customer on Google would see images and links that the advertiser selected to show for that query.

    5. That would be much more interesting, I think. If someone searched for Canon cameras the plus box expansion might have sub-category pages for Canon digital, canon film cameras, and canon lenses perhaps.

      Whatever the search, you’d essentially feed them top choices for the next level of detail that might interest them, not try to guess the sku.

      I LIKE it!

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