Free Data

The other day a person contacted me about wanting to help me with ad retargeting on one of my sites, but in order to do so they would have had to have tracked my site. That would have given them tons of great information about how they could retarget all my site's visitors around the web. And they wanted me to give that up for free in an offer which was made to sound compelling, but lacked substance. And so they never got a response. :D

It is the same reason I don't use services like AddToAny on our websites.

Given that we live in "the information age" it is surprising how little people value data & how little they expect you to value it. But there are still a lot of naive folks online! Google has a patent for finding under-served markets. And they own the leading search engine + the leading online ad network.

At any point in time they can change who they are voting for, and why they are voting that way.

They acquired YouTube and then universal search was all the rage.

Yes they have been pretty good at taking the longterm view, but that is *exactly* why so many businesses are afraid of them. Google throws off so much cash and collects so much data that they can go into just about any information market and practice price dumping to kill external innovation & lock up the market.

Once they own the market they have the data. From there a near infinite number of business models & opportunities appear.

Google recently became the #1 shopping search engine. How did they respond? More promotion of their shopping search feature.

All those star ratings near the ads go to a thin affiliate / Google value add shopping search engine experience. Featured placement for those who are willing to share more data in exchange for promotion, and then over time Google will start collecting data directly and drive the (non-Google) duplication out of the marketplace.

You can tell where Google aims to position Google in the long run by what they consider to be spam. Early remote quality rater guidelines have highlighted how spammy the travel vertical is with hotel sites. Since then Google has added hotel prices to their search results, added hotels to some of their maps, and they just acquired ITA software - the company which powers many airline search sites.

Amongst this sort of backdrop there was an article in the NYT about small book shops partnering up with Google. The title of the article reads like it is straight out of a press release: Small Stores See Google as Ally in E-Book Market. And it includes the following quote

Mr. Sennett acknowledged that Google would also be a competitor, since it would also sell books from its Web site. But he seemed to believe that Google would favor its smaller partners.

“I don’t see Google directly working to undermine or outsell their retail partners,” he said. “I doubt they are going to be editorially recommending books and making choices about what people should read, which is what bookstores do.”

He added, “I wonder how naïve that is at this point. We’ll have to see.”

If they have all the sales data they don't need to make recommendations. They let you and your customers do that. All they have to do to provide a better service than you can is aggregate the data.

The long view is this: if Google can cheaply duplicate your efforts you are unneeded duplication in the marketplace.

Look at the list of business models Google publicly stated they were leery on:

  • ebook sites
  • get rich quick
  • comparison shopping sites
  • travel aggregators

3 out of 4 ain't bad. But even on the one they missed, they still have an AdSense category for it. :D

Published: July 1, 2010 by Aaron Wall in


July 2, 2010 - 8:44pm

thin affiliate / Google value add shopping search engine experience.

lol. Burn.

Google spends soooo much money on data, and they are being aggressive about buying as much as they can before someone else does.

They have the biggest signal in the world to determine which markets are rising in popularity, and can also gauge the value of those markets through their ad bidding system (AdWords).

What they are trying to do is find their next cash cow. AdWords is their main revenue driver to this day, and they are milking it for what it's worth until another search engine catches up to them (highly unlikely).

July 6, 2010 - 3:04pm

Heh Heh Heh...

I love it how you can pick 5 categories of objectionable advertising but you can't eliminate all of them.

One of the reasons I liked Google Adsense was that I didn't get those "Flat Tummy" ads, but now there's no way I can get rid of them, despite ticking all the appropriate boxes on that form.

July 6, 2010 - 6:33pm

Recently, the conversation came up about how vertical website/content development companies (ie. legal like lexisnexis, financial, etc) are distributing many of the same articles to their client websites. Does the fact the articles show up so many different times in so many different websites affect the way Google rates the individual website?

As an example a law firm here in Sarasota, FL chose lexis/nexis strictly due to the content articles; however, there is a great deal of confusion on how it benefits the law firm if Google does not recognize most of the content as original. Any help or feedback you can provide on this will be MOST APPRECIATED!! As Always, Tricia

July 6, 2010 - 10:31pm

Thinkback to 2005 or so when Google Analytics stepped into the traffic reporting marketplace and drove the independent software vendors out of business. I was one of many noting how bad an idea it was to hand your business activity data over to Google.

I learned that from my first job at a manufacturing company (while still in high school). Your competitors were willing to pay spies to find out your vendor lists, the prices you paid for painting/chroming of parts, even where you bought your shipping boxes. Of course they'd love to know your customer lists and the effectiveness of your marketing programs. Customer lists and mailing lists were stolen and re-sold all the time in business...clearly they were valuable. Obviously that's why Google offered so many features for free. It wasn't really "free" after all.

But how could anyone continue to say that as the independent options disappeared? And as Google added more advanced features which you came to actually need if you wanted to compete in Google? Google web optimizer, Google integration with paid advertising, Google's API for integrating traffic reporting with activity reporting. As your competitors abandon common sense and chase the short term advances (at the expense of risking Google's competition), you have no choice but do the same or go broke trying to do it another way.

So now we are saying it was a bad idea to share business activity data with Google, because Google will now compete with us and take the profits out of the marketplace before we can (or more efficiently than we can).

Breaking news! Alert the media. Oh, and adjust the budgets to accommodate non-free analytics and performance management tools. We're gonna need a lot more money for operations.

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