Photo: Google +
Google’s social chief Vic Gundotra explained why the company thinks Google+ is a success, even though people aren’t using the core service very much.It’s getting people to click on more ads.
But as far as we can tell from the Times report, he never actually shared usage statistics for Google+ itself, the social networking Web site that is located at plus.google.com and that looks and works a lot like Facebook.
Instead, like Larry Page did on Google’s last earnings call, Gundotra talked about how many active Google+ users were engaged with ANY Google product that is tied to Google+, including Gmail and YouTube. It was 90 million per month at the end of December. Now it’s over 100 million.
Like his colleague Bradley Horowitz insisted last fall, Gundotra said that Google+ isn’t about creating a social network to beat Facebook. It’s about making Google better by adding information about who your friends are and what they’re interested in.
Google’s slipperiness on the subject made us think that Google was hiding something. We figured Google didn’t want to admit that Google+ would be stuck in the perennial #2 spot behind Facebook.
But now we get it. From Google’s point of view, Google+ really is a smash hit. Why?
Because when people recommend an advertisement to their Google+ friends, it’s increasing clickthroughs on that advertisement by 5% to 10%.
Here’s the most important quote from Gundotra:
“We are seeing 5 to 10 per cent click-through-rate uplift on any ad that has a social annotation on our own Web sites …. We have been in this business for a long time, and there are very few things that give you a 5 to 10 per cent increase on ad engagement.”
That’s an amazing result. Google regularly fine-tunes and tweaks its search advertising technology in hopes of increasing clickthrough rates by a few tenths of a percentage point.
An uplift of 5 to 10 per cent really is a big deal.
Another way of looking at it: the Google+ service is bait. All Google wants you to do is create a profile and link to some friends with it.
After that, Google really doesn’t care if you never visit again. As long as you sign in for any other Google service (like Gmail), and then recommend an ad or a Web site once in a while, so Google can put that information in front of your other Google friends, all is well with the world.