Google Search Counts as Market Value Indicators?

Dec 6th

I got a call about a week ago from a person representing talent, who was just about to have their record released, and had just lost a major sponsor due to the limited number of matching pages when someone searched Google for that person's name. With how easy it is to manipulate the number of results shown for a query, it is surprising that huge corporations would put any weight on it. That is like a VC going through Alexa and asking to invest in my site based on my Alexa ranking. Sorta absurd, isn't it?

The only marketing idea I found crazier was that the marketer wanted me to give them that information for free. I love berating marketers and people dealing with economics who try to squeeze a free consultation out of me without paying. I find their shortsightedness / greed amusing. What kind of value do they add to their clients? How much do they value their own time at? It will be funny if they get their website banned because they use blog comment spamming or some other dubious technique when there are so many cheap, fast, easy, and brand friendly ways to manipulate that data point.

Do you think search cues will eventually become a strong market value indicator? Could SEOs get in trouble for manipulating financial markets based on manipulating search engines?

Published: December 6, 2006

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Comments

December 6, 2006 - 6:39pm

As an angel investor, I am doing some R&D work in this area and attempting to determine to what degree SEO-type factors can or should be used to value one web startup (vs. another).

It's a major work in progress, but an alpha version of the tool is here: http://www.websitegrader.com

Though there are similar tools out there, my main objective is to measure the effectiveness of websites and their marketing as an efficient way to gauge the current status of a web-based startup.

Overall, I think SEO will play a larger and larger role in determining the value of a company.

December 6, 2006 - 8:38pm

I hope the talent goes on to become huge!

I really don't like seeing people take one point of data, and then completely use it in an inappropriate way. That's like saying, "because the sun is shining bright, it is going to be hot today." For me, it's about 27F and the sun is almost blinding right now, so not sure how many people consider that hot!

They shouldn't be concerned at all with that, but the artists potential. Ironically, the music industry is primarily founded on identifying talent before they become huge and household names because the artists are hungry and ready to jump on any deal offered.

As for the freeloaders... twice this year I've seen where I've invested a fair amount of time and advised people. At some point along the way, it was determined that my services were well out of their budget range. Okay, that's fair and that is naturally part of the business. The part that I find mind boggling is that, shortly after this, they go off and register domain names elsewhere, perhaps saving a couple bucks, instead of at the very least, purchasing through me, even as a token gesture for the advice and time.

It's one thing to provide information for free on a website. Certainly for those of us in the web industry itself, this has been a part of the culture of enhancing the industries growth as a whole and even helping our peers. For that I'm grateful as I'm sure many are.

If someone has provided a way for basic interaction, such as a forum or replying to the occasional blog comment, that's one thing. But emailing or calling with a list of high level questions that tap into the time and hard earned knowledge is another thing.

Like anything, the more it becomes abused, everyone will alter how they handle business. Web designers and SEO's will be forced to start billing like attorneys... "Sure, I'd love to talk to you about this, here is my rate per hour and I bill in one hour increments with a minimum of one hour. When would you like to schedule this?"

December 16, 2006 - 1:29am

I just wanted to say "thanks" to Dharmesh for that link to his tool. It's outstanding! I love it.

mad4
December 6, 2006 - 10:11am

Its a strong indicator of buzz. I searched for reviewme the other day and there are a million results!

December 6, 2006 - 12:00pm

Being a small business I take sales calls on a regular basis. Most of this time spent talking to new clients and prospects, is a rewarding experience that I enjoy.

However in the world of prospects there are the good and the bad.

The worst type for a small business is one who is disingenuous from the start. They will say they are 'just enquiring' but will also seek free advice.

If you want to be harsh, these are pick pockets of your time. They are the ones who will try and 'prize' as much free advice from an initial call as they can, usually with no intention of doing any contractual business (because they are just after free advice).

As they do this a consultant has to fight a battle of Paid Advice V Free Advice.

The enquirer's belief is a contradiction. They believe 'advice' is not something they should pay for - yet it is exactly what they are asking for. As the consultant sells advice this is not a match made in heaven.

I agree that these types of enquirers can't value their own time as they will spend hours of their own time calling lots of companies trying to get free advice (often talking to sales people who can't really advise them anyway). What is in their sights seems to be as much free info as possible and how long this takes is not in the equation. I don't know whether this is just a coincidence but their websites are usually representative of them - in need of help.

How to best deal with these folks in a polite way? The obvious step is to say "ok - no problem I can help you out with that - we just need to set up some consulting time".

Usually this will get a negative response. You may hear a mumbling/ grumbling sound (you can't hear the words properly but it is definitely not a yes). They then change the subject briefly, but within a minute or so will gradually go back and start asking more 'hypothetical' questions to get advice. If you go in with another '..sure we can help. I can book you in for a consultation in a few days time no problem' this will tend to again act as a blocker and the conversation tends to down turn.

My experience is that if it is made clear that there is a value on advice then they will no longer continue with the call as their belief is the advice they need should be free.

I find it interesting these types of "enquirers" never make it as clients that's why I say they are not really prospects. They are a bit like obstacles in the road you need to respect but also avoid.

The downside is they are pick pockets of time - the upside is, they are usually easy to spot wthin the first 60 seconds.

December 6, 2006 - 12:17pm

Spot on Gareth.

My answers are typically along the lines of "Oh it is easy, but I can't tell you for free because there is no business model in free." and "Yep that it is easy too. It just starts with a Paypal payment."

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