Marketing Lessons from Google

  • Under-monetize to buy mindshare. (almost every category Google is in)
  • Offer a free version to make sure everyone who may want to has a chance to experience your product and/or service. (almost every category Google is in)
  • Offer something that forces people to keep coming back to your website. Alternatively, bundle your stuff into the browser. (the Google Toolbar is huge.)
  • Invest heavily in distribution deals and public relations. Keep making small changes and talking about how important they are so you stay in the media. Maintain that your success is because superior products even while you are buying marketshare.
  • If a business model competes with your model, try to guide the conversation and get market participants to attack each other to your own benefit (this, above all other reasons, is why it is not smart for "professional" SEOs to publicly endorse outing each other...nobody wins but Google).
  • Offer free or low cost versions of cash cows of competing services to distract them and/or force change upon them. (Google Docs)
  • Even when you have a market leading position, keep investing heavily in complimentary markets to reinforce your position as the default. Become ubiquitous. Become a verb. (mobile operating system)
  • When you tap out the potential of your product or service look for ways to make it deeper is select high value verticals. (onebox, universal search, site search)
  • When you have enough leverage and a large enough lead, change the market to put yourself at the center of it. (the Omnibox in Google Chrome)

I Missed Many Ideas...

What marketing lessons have you learned from watching Google?

Published: November 24, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


November 24, 2008 - 1:47pm

Great post, Aaron.

I agree with what you have here. I'd add at least one more bullet: Don't Be Evil.

Regardless of whether you think Google fully lives up to that stated goal, they do a lot to work towards it, from big things like mostly maintaining the separation between paid and organic results, to small things like Google Flu Trends.

It's hard to measure the marketing impact of "Don't Be Evil," but it's significant. I think it's a big part of the reason their brand is consistently among the world's most valuable.
And there's a broader strategic impact (Umair Haque does a great job explaining this.)

November 24, 2008 - 2:42pm

I actually file "Don't Be Evil" under their public relations spend. One that yields high ROI. :)

They are aggressive at blending ads into the organic results. In Germany they actually used THE FACT that many searchers can not distinguish between the paid results and the organic search results in their research to market their paid search service to advertisers:

INT [interviewer]: “Why do the results on top have a yellow background, did you notice?”
TP [tester]: “I didn’t notice this.”
INT: “What does it mean?”
TP: “It definitely means they’re the most relevant.”

What goes on in consumers minds while they are using the service is more reflective of reality than what they tell reporters. But again that is another example of their public relations working to shift perceived reality to make them more press-worthy.

November 25, 2008 - 10:33am

Whats wrong with that Aaron?

Google SERPs compromise of organic and paid results - and this is known to almost all searching G.

However, there are some (infact many) who still can’t distinguish between paid ads and organic ones.

Either case, why blame Google (or any other search engine for that matter) if they knowingly or unknowingly click the sponsored ones.

Everybody wins -

The user – gets the company he/she wants,
The advertiser – gets a client,
Google – does business.

If I am not wrong Google has algorithm in place to make sure the most relevant ads show up first in a query.

IMHO, if they change the background color on top ads from blue to a light yellow, its none of our business.

We should remember that Google is a business organization first, search engine second – and they have every right to monetize their business the way they want.

- Like You and Like Me and Like Everyone Doing Business Online or Offline!

Dilip Shaw

November 25, 2008 - 10:46am

Whats wrong with that Aaron?

If a business tells you that you should clearly mark all paid links, and then they market how they do not, then that is pretty shitty of them.

November 24, 2008 - 2:35pm

I don't have a lesson to add to your list, but would very much like to become a verb myself...or I'd settle for a decent conjunction. :)
On a somewhat related note (kind of) on Showtime last night, they advertised a Twitter feed for a show...first time I ever saw that (using Twitter). But with the rise of all the great series they run, I see them approaching what they do in the same way Google does...and they are following some of the same points you mention here.

Martin Muehl
November 24, 2008 - 3:01pm

The most interesting lesson to me is to roll out a product as soon as possible and correct along the way. This way you can claim your marketshare with a new product and use user feedback to improve your product. Google did it that way with pretty much everything.

November 24, 2008 - 3:40pm

That is a great strategy Martin...a large part of what makes open source so powerful.

November 24, 2008 - 4:00pm

Keeping our client's sites in the media has by far gotten us the biggest boost to their rankings. Not only does it keep the brand fresh in people's minds, it keeps the buzz alive as well as always means new links to the site through different media outlets and blogs from those who choose to discuss the new change/addition/etc. You're killing multiple birds with one stone, so to speak.

November 24, 2008 - 5:00pm

--> They don't start monetizing for a long, long time. And it looks like they are giving a free service.

See Google News, Google Scholar, Image Search, and others. They are out there for a long time but not making any money.

It was the same with Youtube. People were thinking that Google must be stupid to waste that much bandwidth/resources on Youtube without monetizing. And look at it now. People have become addicted to it. It may even replace the TV channels. They have deals for full TV series. *And they start playing ads*. Now, how many users would stop using Youtube because of those ads, especially when full series/shows are coming.

But they might have had a different response had they started big ads in the start.

November 24, 2008 - 8:32pm

If you have a new area you want to get into and someone begins to do really well in that space - take them over. If you have a new space you didn't think about getting into but someone is doing well there, and you think it will complement your business - take them over.

Don't just buy them out, get the staff too. Work out the best way to integrate this/them into your offerings. Keep it separate, make the old business disappear and just add them to your own business, or some combination of the two.

Also this works really well if you have billions of dollars in cash laying around. This way if you see something you like, you can buy it. Having boatloads of cash also means you don't have to be afraid to spend and you can hold off on monetizing almost anything for years (even if you spend 1.5 billions dollars on one deal).
November 24, 2008 - 9:55pm

love it

November 25, 2008 - 4:30pm

I think you guys should check out Shady's latest post:
This sheds a different kind of light on how Goog's using their business that is pretty scary.

November 26, 2008 - 9:45am

Don't be evil ? you've got to be kidding . Google has ignored every law it can in its attempts to extend its empire . They seem to think copyright law doesn't exist , or it doesn't apply to them . They're starting to behave exactly the same way Microsoft did . Monopoly power is dangerous and evil

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