The new adwords survey feature is an elearning + marketing app

Before Larry Page soaked up all the ink last week, discussing his predictions for a lazy, impatient future during Google’s Q1 2013 earnings call, Susan Wojcicki, SVP Product Management and Engineering, shared her own view of the future.

With AdWords revenue up 18% Q/Q to $8.64 billion, it’s significant that Susan made her comments at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Leadership meeting.  At the meeting, Susan specified how google aims to tame the wondrous beast that is the ad world of the future.

Google’s first step toward harnessing the beast is…surveys.  They’ve already started rolling out integrated surveys into the AdWords engine.  Wait – surveys? As a critical, forward-looking initiative?  Absolutely.

 I’m really excited about using surveys in an advertising context because it opens up the potential for using the massively successful AdWords system for elearning + marketing applications.  Integrated into AdWords, surveys can function like an elearning + marketing app.

Web, uninterrupted

Wojcicki foresees a choice-based economy, where the user commands a 1-click, opt-in experience.  As Susan describes it, marketers will use the new AdWords integrated surveys for controlled experiments to help evaluate the effectiveness of their advertising.  The survey system is to be driven by Google Consumer Surveys, the same engine that drives a survey-powered revenue stream for USA Today Sports, Bloomberg, San Jose Mercury News and  It’s also the #2 most accurate poll overall in last year’s Presidential election.

 Connecting the dots, here’s how this could work to pivot into the elearning + marketing experience.

The elearning pivot

Surveys are a great way to make learning learner centric, rather than info centric.  Instead of using the survey to emulate a quiz, we use the survey to challenge the learner’s understanding and perspective.  Once you challenge people, they tend to be engaged.  

By implementing surveys within an instructional design strategy, we can tie surveys into learning objectives.  We can then use the surveys to jump right in to a learning experience, or engage learners in an unobtrusive, more asynchronous way.


For the learning interaction to be attractive to a user, it’s key to reduce disruption of the user’s flow but still allow him to opt-in to a deeper process at a later time.  The user experience can be a quick in-line response to be completed quickly, or a more complex interaction, signaling intent, to be completed at a later time.

Asynchronous learning has been a challenge for traditional elearning.  ADL’s xAPI (also known as the Tin Can API) was recently released into public 1.0.  The floodgates are open, the world has changed.  The purpose of xAPI / Tin Can API is to re-imagine elearning from the ground-up to support the “learning everywhere” by breaking up elearning interactions into the very kind of smaller, asynchronous transactions that could support elearning+marketing experiences.

By tying the AdWords Surveys with the Tin Can API, we could enable a save-for-later, bookmark functionality that could enable the deeper engagement in an asynchronous manner.  This approach would minimize interruption of the user’s flow.  Learners could stay on task while signaling an interest in learning more at a later time.  Also this approach opens up new opportunities for more effective remediation of learning.

The marketing pivot

By influencing choice, marketing moves the choice economy forward.  As Susan says, we see that choice works.  Choice-powered TrueView is already in 70% of youtube videos.

Choice is a factor of market size.  As google has modified its policy to allow for data collection across its properties, more and better choices come at us more quickly when we’re in their ecosystem.  When choice is informed by knowledge, the learning process becomes part of the value proposition. Purchase becomes a truly personal selection process.  Learning enhances the buying process.

Feeling confident about a purchase reduces the opportunity cost which should in turn encourage the actual purchase.  Also, with deeper data to draw on, recommendation engines become more accurate, which is particularly valuable in terms of Average Order Value (AOV.)

Slow and steady

Through their use of integrated surveys, and even barriers in mobile advertising, we see Google making strides toward improving the quality of online marketing.  We can leverage these efforts to get beyond standard research and usability smell tests.

Using the AdWords system to deliver marketing that helps people learn is a slower conversion process than delivering single-purpose ads.  Qualifying people through sequential learning that scaffolds and scales from quickly engaging the moment of need to a more advanced approach that follows users, is not a simple challenge.  But it’s an effort worth undertaking because higher qualification delivers higher value both to marketers and consumers.

connoisseur2Connoisseurs have more fun

An intellectually engaging experience is not best for all people in all situations online.  However, there are many settings where deeper interaction driven by pedagogical design will add value to the process — larger purchases, or more complex subject matter, or simply whatever a person enjoys knowing more about.  In these contexts, learning brings enjoyment to the process.

By presenting a compelling point of entry wrapped in a pedagogically sound (the learning bit) and rewarding (the marketing bit) experience, we can step into a deeper level of engagement.  Whether laggard or lighthouse, passive or engaged, people will be able to exercise more control over their content experience online and most ad views will be voluntary.  Elearning + marketing design can be a way to make those interactions more valuable.

Google is investing heavily on infrastructure to speed up the web.  In tandem, Google is also investing in machine intelligence to anticipate our questions and present us with answers without us having to ask.  This preemptive future will be helpful in many cases, but there will be times when looking past the enticing, easy answer will be more satisfying.  Elearning + marketing apps can help people enjoy making informed decisions.  Google’s new integrated AdWords surveys are a compelling step in this direction.