Why Google's Point of View(s) Is Changing + SM ROI

Randy Milanovic
Randy Milanovic Principal & Author, Kayak Online Marketing

Posted on April 18th 2014

Why Google's Point of View(s) Is Changing + SM ROI

Google recently made a change to the way it displays metrics. If you look closely enough, you'll find that for many people, the "+1's" on your Google Plus profiles have been replaced by a view counter.

From Google's side of the table, displaying views instead of +1's makes sense. It's certainly more in line with the way LinkedIn, Facebook and other social sites show counters on your content, and opens up an opportunity to more easily market its new Promoted Posts service, which gives them a social media advertising platform to offer brands.

For marketers, though, the switch isn't quite as simple as it might seem. In fact, it could have big effects on the way marketers and content creators think about the effectiveness of their posts on what is quite possibly a hollow metric: impressions. While it's been standard practice for traditional marketing/advertising channels (and their ad agencies) to measure impressions over returns, focusing on easily visible view counts stands to create a new challenge to online efforts that was previously only an issue in the traditional world.

mark traphagen's impressive impressions

The Immediate Consequences of the View Swap

As you can probably tell, I'm not a supporter of displaying views on profiles or content. I feel it simply places an inappropriate amount of weight on something that doesn't really matter a lot. For one thing, early users of Google+ who are reasonably active are likely to have far more page views than their newer counterparts, regardless of how interesting or compelling their content actually is. And for others, the attraction to post more frequently – just to increase their view count – usually leads to lower quality and poor engagement, not to mention killing ROI. All just to bulk up the numbers.

More to the point, though, without any further context – and without studying the results those views have generated – the number itself is meaningless at best, and deceiving at worst. This really takes us back to the old days of billboard advertising, where the goal was to count the number of passing vehicles and approximate the number of views based on an assumed multiple (Gross Rating Points). Whether or not passers-by responded to the advertisement was something else entirely, but the assumption was that more views would equal more business.

That point of view didn't necessarily hold true in the traditional world, and it certainly doesn't make sense now, when competitors are displaying their ads, content, and profiles right next to yours - good or bad. Why consider impressions when it's measurable results that move your business forward? Who really cares how many people might have scrolled past a page or post, even accidentally, if they didn't hang around or simply weren't interested? 

As the principal of a marketing firm that focuses on actual leads generated from measurable efforts and engagement actions by the individual, I find counting impressions hilarious in an almost repulsive way.

Quick and easy as it might be, someone has to put at least moment's worth of thought into pressing the "+1" button – giving you an implicit endorsement. Taking that action says something about what they think of you or your ideas, and the message that sends you is a lot more meaningful than an anonymous "view" that may or may not have actually been read.

 

A Quick Example from My Own Content Efforts

To demonstrate this point, consider this piece of content recently posted titled "Is Social Media Turning You Into a Minimum Wage Employee?" It was a hit on LinkedIn Pulse, generating over 45,000 views before finally petering out a few days later. Today, there's still a trickle of views.

No matter how you look at it, 45,000 is a lot of impressions, and that kind of exposure is undeniably good for every aspect of my business. However, once we go beyond those immediate metrics, what did we really accomplish with all of those views?

It's still too early to tell, but I'll be very surprised if the number of new blog subscriptions, downloads on my website, and actual sales opportunities that originate from the LinkedIn Pulse article come even close to matching the results from a post I did back in February on Social Media Today which didn’t attract anywhere close to the number of views or impressions, yet will surely have a dramatically more positive impact on my firm's revenue.

The big difference and distinction, of course, is one of focus. The LinkedIn Pulse article has an attractive title and is written for almost everyone, posted at a strategic time, and earning a lot of page views as a result. The Social Media Today post was targeted to marketers (my primary target market), had more relative depth, and while likely of less interest to the casual reader, speaks directly to my buyer influencers. And so, even though it might not have received the same impressions, it was notably more powerful from an ROI perspective.

The bottom line? Watching those views on Pulse climb hour after hour was incredibly fun and satisfying, but ultimately didn’t deliver what matters most when I'm really trying to grow my business. So there you have it… the views are a fun statistic, but not a meaningful business metric.

To get a better sense of how this might ultimately play out over time, let's make the relative numbers a bit easier to compare and understand. Notice how the eye-popping views turn out to be deceptive when it comes to the results that actually matter to me the most as a business owner and not someone who just wants to watch the odometer spin:

key findings and comparisons

Let’s look at the numbers for the LinkedIn Pulse article, Is Social Media Turning You Into a Minimum Wage Employee? (still growing at time of writing):

  • Page Views (impressions) 45,000
  • LinkedIn Likes Given (real measure) 485
  • Comments Generated (real measure) 133
  • Pulse Followers Gained (real measure) 2775
  • LinedIn Connections Gained (real measure) 210
  • Day/Time of week: Friday, 5pm local
  • Duration of Pulse: approx. 16 hours

LinkedIn Post Shares to other social channels:

  • Twitter (real measure) 128
  • Facebook (real measure) 211
  • Google Plus (real measure) 156
  • LinkedIn Shares (real measure) 1,572

Related:

  • Slideshare worksheet Views (impressions) 278
  • Slideshare worksheet Downloads (real measure) 38
  • New Original Article Views (impressions) 471
  • New Blog Subscribers (real measure) 19
  • Direct conversions (real measure) 8
  • Est. Value of Conversions (signed contracts) $320k *

* based on conservative $40k/contract, 100% close

$320k / 45,000 impressions = My ROI Score: 7.1

Now let’s look at that post I did right here on Social Media Today as a “Best Thinker” in February, 3 Online Lead Generation Worksheets for Marketers [FREE].

  • Post Views Enjoyed** (impressions) 123
  • SMT Likes Given (real measure) 16
  • Comments Generated (real measure) 1
  • Day/Time of week: Thursday, 6am local
  • Duration of Feature position: approx. 4 hours

LinkedIn Post Shares to other social channels:

  • Twitter (real measure) 274
  • Facebook (real measure) 19
  • Google Plus (real measure)106
  • LinkedIn Shares (real measure)42

Related:

  • Landing Page Views (impressions from post / social) 305
  • New Blog Subscribers (real measure) 86
  • Direct conversions (real measure) 112
  • Related conversions (real measure) 36
  • Value of Conversions (real measure) $5.8 million *

based on conservative $40k/contract, 100% close

$5.8m / 428 impressions = ROI Score: 13,551.4

** Quantcast report: SMT 1.3m visits per month / LinkedIn 245m visits per month.

 

How Marketers Should Handle the Switch to Page Views

More often than not, I side with Google on the programs and ideas they bring to their search engine and social platform. Most of them are convenient and well thought out. In the case of displaying page views, though, my advice would be to simply ignore it altogether.

Hard as it might be to accept, they just don't matter. It's so much more meaningful (not to mention effective and profitable) to engage a small handful of committed prospects than it is to get lots and lots of views from people who are never going to do business with you and don't care what you have to say. Amassing page views on Google+, or a specific piece of content, is akin to having 10,000 Facebook "friends" that you’ve never actually met in the real world – it might make you feel better, but it probably isn't going to have any kind of effect on your life or business.

Focus on social engagement rather than empty statistics. The numbers you're looking for might not be displayed upfront on Google+ anymore, but that doesn't mean their importance has suddenly changed.

Note to critics: Agreed, this is not exactly scientific research. Rather, it is a snapshot of two real life posts containing different content, facing different audiences and addressing different issues. Just the same, I’ll bet it makes you think, right?! But, isn't the entire point of writing?

--

+RandyMilanovic

Randy Milanovic

Randy Milanovic

Principal & Author, Kayak Online Marketing

Randy is author of 2 books: Findability: Why Search Engine Optimization is Dying + 21 New Rules of Content Marketing, and Building a Better Business Website. He is the Prinicipal of Kayak Online Marketing, a leading Canadian inbound marketing firm.

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Comments

MCCCODE
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 2:58AM

Randy really good post.

My take is simple any channel that works for you is a good channel, regarding LI's influencers post i still would like to see the long term effect on it, especially since the platform is being open to all members it may cause an eventual collapse.

Regarding G+ my take is simple Google knows Google has control of the information and has the tools to interpret what is going on, on Google's eyes (with or with out Glass) Facebook and twitter only provide certain amount of visible information and Matt Cutts has said himself that they are unable to read all the signals. The advantages on G+ will probably be also SERPS and that means stability of visitors for your content on the long term.

Randy Milanovic
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 8:43AM

THX Daniel. I've seen results from both platforms. What's interesting here is the ROI scores being vastly different. 

MCCCODE
Posted on April 20th 2014 at 5:05AM

can you exanp on the differences you have seen?

Randy Milanovic
Posted on April 22nd 2014 at 1:09AM

Hi again. Yes, the diagram shown above points out some of the more interesting numbers. Of course the most important if all is the ROI. 

Mark Vang
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 5:45AM

Randy, great post. I liked +1's because I could see the direct relationship between page and website. Community membership factored into that for pages that owned (public) communities. I think that is a very good measure of engagement with a brand when folks join the community.

I haven't seen anything published by Google that explains how views work. Maybe I missed something, but I'd prefer to get the info "straight from the horses mouth" and not from a bunch of posts where folks are speculating on what it means. I'm sure that you noticed that the day after this rolled out on G+ there were already a number hypotheses and formulas in circulation.

Of course at the end of the day, Google has access to all of the data so it makes no difference to them - but it certainly makes it harder for us to measure the value of online assets, and leaves the door open for the snake oil salesman that can easily boost views by sharing worthless content (more sunsets and cat memes please).

<sarcasm> Look at all of my views! I'm an influencer! Woot! (page content nothing but "thought for the day" quotes). Nice. </sarcasm>

Randy Milanovic
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 9:55AM

No kidding Mark. The chatter around views was deafening. So much speculation (viral?) and so little understanding. It was apparent to me almost immediately that 'impressions' was a goal. Followed a week later by Promoted Posts and it is obvious views are there to help Google sell +Posts. 

Robin Carey
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 11:36AM

Randy, this is a fascinating validation of something we've suspected for some time but had no clear analysis to support.  As niche publishers, focused on engagement and not on scaling and perhaps not sufficiently on monetization, we had always believed that our value came from an ability to provide contributors, and sponsors for that matter, a more "quality" experience.  Thanks  A TON for giving us the data to prove it.

Randy Milanovic
Posted on April 18th 2014 at 12:07PM

Thank you so much Robin. I'm a firm believer in creating ROI. My approach has been as much experimental as planned, but overall, the successes have been quite satisfying.