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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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