+1 Button on AdWords: Paying for What You Could Get for Free?

    July 26, 2011
    Chris Crum

Before Google unleashed its new social network Google+, it launched the +1 button, which appears on content sites across the web, in Google search results, and on Google’s AdWords ads. Now that the button appears in the Google+ stream as well, it’s likely that the +1 buttons everywhere will get clicked more.

What if you don’t want the feature on your ads though? Do you have a choice? Perhaps you feel like it could lead to more clicks that you don’t want to pay for. One advertiser shared a story with WebProNews about just such a scenario, and discussed his struggle trying to opt out of the feature, which has so far been unsuccessful.

Should advertisers be able to opt out from having +1 buttons on their search ads? Tell us what you think.

First, here’s how Google explains the +1 button in relation to AdWords:

When making decisions, people often turn to those they trust for recommendations. Now with the +1 button, people can recommend your site’s content or ads to their friends and contacts right when their advice is most useful – on Google search.

Let’s say you own a hotel in Madrid. Brian is having a lovely stay at your hotel, and visits your site to look up local attractions. He sees the +1 button you’ve added to your page, and clicks it to recommend your business to his friends and contacts.

When Brian’s friend Ann plans her trip to Spain, she signs in to her Google account, searches on Google, and also sees your hotel’s ad – plus the personalized annotation that Brian +1’d it. Knowing that Brian recommends your hotel helps Ann decide where to stay during her travels.

“I was informed by a standard email presumably sent to all AdWords advertisers advising of +1 and explaining that AdWords would be visible within the +1 social network, meaning that if Bill clicks on my advert then all of Bill’s +1 friends are also shown my advert and therefore invited to click on it also,” Jon, an AdWords advertiser tells WebProNews.

Jon’s business is a campground, and he claims to have strong geographic and language preferences, and his AdWords account set so that his ads only appear on search engine results. “I am an ex IT consultant and very Internet savvy,” he says. “I fine tune my AdWords campaigns.”

“I don’t want to have my adverts shown on the +1 network,” he tells us. “The principle reason is that I only want to spend money reaching totally virgin customers. The reason for this is that campers are social animals, and as soon as Bill finds a great campground he will tell all his camping buddies. I don’t need help from Google getting referrals via this mechanism. Once Bill knows I am content to wait until Bill tells his friends verbally or via email, that does not cost me a dime.”

“The other objection is that Bill may have friends in other geographic locations who may speculatively click on my advert as exposed to them via Bill and the +1 network, whereas previously I could limit geographic scope on my AdWords campaign,” he adds. “And Bill is intelligent enough to know which of his online buddies lives too far away to find my campground of interest – and anyway I am not paying for Bill’s verbal or email recommendations.”

Jon pointed to the hassle he has had trying to opt out of +1’s on his ads. “Last time I looked there was no ‘+1′ opt out on the AdWords users’ control panel – I expected just to login and tick the appropriate ‘NO’ box and all would be cool (I was still irritated that I was opted in by default, but hey they are trying to make money aren’t they?).”

“Nope – you have to hunt around documentation to find a buried ‘opt out form’. By buried I mean that Google clearly don’t want you to find it easily,” he says. “You have to read FAQs and things first.”

The form looks like this:

Opt Out form for +1 Button on AdWords

“When I tried the form it didn’t work. It failed to give a confirmation page and instead indicated a field error by stipulating ‘required field’ in red, but unfortunately this was next to the very tick box that I deselected to indicate that I wanted to opt out,” he says. “I worked in IT for 15 years and I can design a bug free form in my sleep but Google engineers needed two attempts over two weeks with me sending screen shots and verifying that I had tried multiple browsers and so on.”

“After about two weeks of Googles ‘experts’ working on the issue they got the form working so I was able to indicate that I wanted to opt out,” he continues. “Then I followed up by indicating my lack of confidence in this whole setup with the Google guy who has been handling my case and asked when I was going to actually hear anything . You see, the opt out option is not a ‘right’ or an immediate thing – it is a ‘REQUEST’.”

Jon claims a Google employee told him:

Hi Jon,

I spoke with the PM responsible for this and he re-iterated the following:

»Submitting this form is not a guarantee that your campaigns will be opted
out of social features.” This is clearly stated on the submission form

If his request were to be granted then you would be contacted as also
explicitly stated on the form.

>From the form: “We will review these requests and may contact you at the
e-mail address provided.” – notice it says may, not will.

“So you see I have only managed to get on the waiting lists to be ‘CONSIDERED’ for opt out, and apparently I can only be sure that I will be contacted if my ‘REQUEST IS GRANTED’,” Jon says. “May I reiterate here that I am ‘requesting’ the right to decide how my advertising revenue is spent. I know my customers and I believe that the +1 network will deliver only what I get for free right now but at a price.”

“I am not against +1 or its incorporation into AdWords, but I am really annoyed that Google has first of all opted me in by default, then provided me with a buggy opt out mechanism that takes two weeks to fix, and then tells me as if a royal speaking to a subject that what I consider to be a ‘DEMAND’ is actually a ‘REQUEST’, and that I ‘MAY’ be contacted if they decide to ‘GRANT’ me the right to decide how my money is spent.”

What do you think of Jon’s story? Should opting out of this feature be a right or is it simply Google’s right to handle this feature of its product how it sees fit? Tell us what you think in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.