Are You Following Google's Marketing Strategy?

I just read Google and The Value of Web Supremacy, comparing Google to the history of Venice. It is a great blog post well worth a read.

Google's position on top of the web allows them to monitor any area of growth, and give themselves the first slot for any area they want to compete in. If they are uncertain of their competitive positioning they can list a couple other competitors alongside until their internal stats show their product is superior. Free exposure and free benchmarking are great advantages.

Their relevancy standards and universal search product allow them to vote for or against any type of information or company. From a business standpoint, anything they buy or launch can be tightly integrated in the search results like they did with YouTube and Google Checkout.

Their protective moat extends out from that position with the following assets

  • the default video hosting platform
  • the default display & contextual ad networks
  • the default blog feed management company
  • the leading feed reader services
  • the default web analytics service
  • the default mobile operating system
  • the default standard for map sharing
  • free payment processing for non-profits (good for public relations and a cheap way to buy market exposure)
  • (soon to be) the default web development platform - Google App Engine

Given the size of that moat and diversity of their offerings, holding Google stock is like holding a mutual fund with a long position on the web. As SEOs we monitor Google too closely to talk about why and what they are penalizing and how to get ahead, but I think you can learn more about marketing by watching what they do to build their brands and dominate their markets, and try to do the same in our markets.

When you have a well known brand, a good idea, and do an aggressive launch sometimes your idea sticks as the default answer for that question. You end up owning ideas - sometimes for years. In some cases idea ownership requires extensive maintenance costs, but in many cases there is little ongoing cost.

  • Even if a domain name costs $50,000 or $100,000 it is only $8 a year going forward.
  • A good site design might cost $5,000, but earn you that much each month.
  • Some software tools and downloads rarely need updated.
  • The difference between an average blog post and a piece of feature content might only be 8 hours of production and 4 hours of marketing.

Once you have default status in a category the web's network economy works for you and works against the competition.

  • if you already rank that exposure can become self-reinforcing (until someone creates a better idea)
  • if you are already well known it is easy to get listed in DMOZ and get other trusted 3rd party citations
  • if you have a well known brand you can charge more and be selective with who you sell to
  • if you have a lot of exposure people new to your field are likely to quickly run in to you and help promote you while they learn from you
Published: April 18, 2008 by Aaron Wall in internet


April 18, 2008 - 9:23pm

You make a great point here, Aaron. The fact that they set themselves up as the default solution for everything is sort of reminiscent of Microsoft's strategy (though their tactics are at least marginally more pleasant, it seems). Looking at lists of the varied services that Google offers these days, it's kind of amusing to think back to when they first took over as my search engine, when the appeal was, "hey, check it out, this engine just gives you what you want without all of the associated crap." Yet, for the most part, the additions of these services has seemed pretty organic, as they've added value to the Google experience incrementally. You're right: damn, they're good marketers.

April 18, 2008 - 9:38pm

One of my favourite places (and books) combined with SEO? How can I resist?

The parallels with Venice go much deeper than the channels in the lagoon:

  • Venice bound allies to its cause by means of commerce, which made it attractive for partners to co-operate and difficult to stop that co-operation once started.
  • Venice pursued its own commercial agenda while dressing in the garb of righteousness (see Crusades and the sack of Istanbul)
  • Venice spread fear and distrust amongst those in Europe who spoke out against it with a programme of liquidation of prominent targets
  • Venice co-opted emerging technologies and commodities and created monopolies of production or distribution to protect its commercial position

Of course, Google still has a bit to go, as instead of relaxing with lava lamps and chargrilled seabass, the Venetian powers were busy establishing prostitution rings in convents.

(You really should read that book, if you haven't already, Aaron.)

April 18, 2008 - 11:23pm

Just ordered the book Stever. Am thinking of surprising my wife with a trip there. But don't tell her. :)

April 20, 2008 - 11:19pm

Google's philosophy seems to be "provide the best services and they will come" and, so far, they are absolutely right. Google has led the web in search, email and feed readers.

When it's found itself out-competed in a popular market (like video) it buys the competition. We shouldn't be surprised at this, it's exactly what large companies with a lot of liquidity do.

What is surprising is that Google took over YouTube but didn't castrate it - YouTube is still the most accessible video solution out there, both for geeks and the non-techies. In any other industry (insurance or orange juice or autos), this would be unheard of: upper management would be replaced, processes and QA would become king, users would end up losers.

Google knows that it took over search from Alta Vista because it was better, not because its marketing was superior or its advertising budget was larger.

I'm not an apologist for Google but I'm sure that Larry & Sergy realise that its easy for us all to change our home pages to the next big thing and forget them. When was the last time you visited

Igor The Troll
April 21, 2008 - 2:55am

Aaron, looks like Google is Spamming its own index with its own products.

Looks to me like Google buying links to its own products, time for a penalty!

But then Google does no Evil..:)

April 23, 2008 - 7:46pm

I agree with what Aaron has to say, and this post is highly informative. The only thing that Aaron left out is all the unethical practices that company's can do to try to better there standing on the Google webpage. Also google does a great job of monitoring these peoples injustices and fines them for there wrong doing's.

April 23, 2008 - 7:50pm

Aaron left out is all the unethical practices that company's can do to try to better there standing on the Google webpage.

I think you have limited understanding of how search works if you believe this statement 100%.

For example, when Google pays people to steal your copyrighted content and wrap it in their ads...who is really being unethical there?

In that case Google is being more unethical than most spammers are.

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