Peaceful Coexistence: 6 Reasons to Love Google

Jul 18th

I tend to be somewhat cynical toward Google because I generally do not trust authorities and they CAN and DO kill many web based businesses that are too reliant on search. But to offset such posts I figured it would be cool to do a counter post on reasons to love Google

They pushed search. Back when search was unprofitable they believed in making it better rather than being at least 80% as good as the next portal. Search was eventually going to become big no matter what, but they largely are who pushed it becoming so big so fast. And search makes marketing more efficient because users feel they are in control when they search for information, even if in doing so they find your advertisements & offers. A search driven marketing strategy also allows you to build relationships by people finding you while looking for topics you published content on. This enables genuinely useful sites to bolt on services for sales without needing to worry about having to get as much value out of each person as a hyped up salesman because the website with real utility will typically reach far more people.

In time Google may become more self-serving with their search result biases, but for now they still do not have a paid inclusion program and they are nowhere near as self-serving as some competing companies like Yahoo! are.

They make SEO somewhat challenging. About a month ago a friend of mine launched a site and ranked it in the top 3 for some money keywords in Bing. Unless you are the U.S. government you typically can't do that in Google. The complexity of SEO presents a barrier to entry to new market participants, but once you are already established that barrier to entry helps protect your profit margins. And if you sell SEO products and services you know that there is going to be a market in need for a long long time.

In 2003 when I started SEO I was broke, in debt, new to marketing, unemployed, and within 6 months of opening Dreamweaver (to create a rant site rather than a marketing site!) I ranked in the top 10 for keywords like search engine marketing. I believe similar things are possible today with sweat equity, but the time delay is typically much longer and/or you need to operate at a much higher level than the stuff I did back then. In a way, this barrier to entry causes a lot of the worst parts of the web to disappear because it requires more commitment and/or investment to compete.

AdWords = instant market feedback. AdWords allows you to test a business model idea before building the business. And it gives you instant feedback from relevant market channels that you may not be reaching. It is one of the cleanest distribution channels with one of the smallest overlaps with other marketing channels:

Consumers who buy after clicking a competitive (non brand) paid search ad are the least likely to have been to the site previously through a different channel. In our research, only 10 to 20% of buyers who touched a PPC ad last came through any other channel previously. Compare this to affiliate traffic, where 60 - 75% of buyers came through another channel first.

Once you can convert cold leads from search it is much easier to convert warmer leads that are recommended via word of mouth marketing, affiliate arrangements, and other editorial & marketing channels.

Google furthers the value of this channel by baking a/b split testing directly into AdWords, creating valuable tools like their Website Optimizer, making their Analytics tool (somewhat) free, and even putting free conversion optimization presentations online:

AdSense offers a fast and easy baseline revenue stream. Many years ago advertisers had a big advantage over smaller publishers due to asymmetric information. While contextual ad networks have depressed the CPM rates of many large bloated "premium" publishers, they have also gave smaller publishers the ability to easily, quickly, and automatically test monetization potential. From that baseline publishers can look to improve the model by...

  • using custom AdSense channels and/or tying AdSense into Google Analytics to get more data to learn what sections of their site earn more
  • use that data to work on optimizing + promoting high earning content and/or creating more content covering similar themes
  • advertising similar offers that are advertised on their site

Vastly improving productivity. Like search, email was a vast wasteland of non-innovation (at least amongst the mainstream providers) until Gmail came out. They made it larger, faster, and more convenient. And they made obvious improvements (like adding search to email). A lot of my productivity that I take for granted comes from features in Gmail. Without Gmail evolving email I doubt I would be able to service nearly 1,000 customers while also having time to do marketing, work on building other sites, spend time reading, and have a bit of time for playing and working out.

Their document collaboration is great, and the recent addition of forms (that you can embed into pages for free) is killer.

A Free MBA Marketing Course. If you follow Google, know where they are moving, and understand the intent behind many of their moves it is better than any marketing course you could take.

Some recent examples.

  1. Appealing to geeks by using Tri Force in their logos.
  2. Making it easy to insert a directions widget directly into web pages. (And then being smart enough to market it directly to commerce webmasters through existing channels).
  3. Marketing their maps offline by creating pointers of favorite locations of celebrities. This is perfect marketing because the recurring cost is $0, and it spreads virally by promoting the egos of well known people, and makes other businesses look more credible. Win win win.
  4. Marketing to young people + making their software suite a default by giving it away to schools: "For more than two years, Google has approached colleges and universities with a near-unbeatable offer: provide unlimited hosted e-mail and other applications, all branded by the institution and delivered free of charge."
  5. Striking deals with people who influence large audiences.

And what is more remarkable about the above 5 points is that all of them are reasons to talk about Google and they are things that were mentioned just from this past week. There is a reason to talk about Google every day, even if it seems like some of us publishers are becoming broken records in doing so.

Hating Google in context. I do disagree with many of their policies, but I think a lot of blame goes toward Google when market forces commodize existing business models. But they are just another market force pushing the evolution of media. That means they will commoditize a lot of businesses and business models. When it is done hypocritically (I could write another post on this topic!) I think it is fine to complain, but it is typically more profitable to keep evolving your business model to make it keep adding value and make it less reliant on search.

And the less reliant you are on search the more reliant search becomes on your content. If you keep adding value every day then your business is not likely to see any risks with search traffic. If you were more like Google (to where people had new reasons to talk about you every day) you wouldn't need search traffic to build a sustainable business.

Published: July 18, 2009

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Comments

July 18, 2009 - 12:01pm

I have to disagree here. While true 2 years ago, starting last year many ads failed to show right from the start because of their black boxed Quality Score issues.

Unless of course you are talking about immediately bidding $2 to $10 a click. Even then, I don't think it will guarantee that your ads will be shown for your desired keywords.

OTOH, maybe they've made further changes this year. Who knows?

July 18, 2009 - 1:00pm

The barrier to entry is higher, but you do not need to be profitable right from the start if your goal is to start collecting market data.

If you look at any losses as a fee for expediency & quality of data then it can still look quite cheap.

July 18, 2009 - 1:33pm

Super post. And the landing page design vid is really helpful, thanks. I start reading and can't stop, so I end up on your site for nearly 2 hours! Which comes first work or research? Need to create a balance, but at the moment research is winning buy way too much.

July 18, 2009 - 3:08pm

Excellent analysis. SEO clearly becomes harder and harder every year but we can't really blame Google. We SEO guys are forcing them to optimize their algorithms. There is a war in every little niche going on. The one who is at the top of the rankings will get traffic and make money.

Gunter

July 18, 2009 - 6:25pm

Aaron, that Google Webinar video about the deadly sins of a landing page is just GREAT! I made a resume of the video here: http://remiturcotte.com/landing-page-optimization.html

July 18, 2009 - 8:42pm

Maybe I'm just still sour due to my recent run in with Google, but I would be more cynical about Google's "good nature". Many of those improvements to the web you speak of were really just Google seeking their own self-interest. It's great while it benefits you, but sucks when they destroy your business with an algo update, hand edits, quality score adjustments, or onebox results.

Sure, they are great businessmen, but that only makes me admire them professionally, not love their company.

I'm still rooting for Bing, and hope a dozen other search engines spring up in the next decade to eat away at their market share. Then search traffic would be much more defensible. SEO should be about general optimization and promotion, not doing what Google wants you to.

July 19, 2009 - 2:49pm

As a publisher who also had to deal with some of that sort of crap I completely agree with you James. The market needs more competition to pull power away from some of the central networks. But until it does all we can do is try to ensure we make our stuff thick enough that hopefully they wouldn't want to whack it, and try to create enough strong connections to where we would still have a viable business even if they did burn it to the ground.

July 20, 2009 - 1:52pm

It is hard for SEOs when you are marketing to really one search engine, any changes can have massive impacts on your hard work. We need Bing to really take off - maybe SEOs should play a bigger part in pushing this search engine.

July 20, 2009 - 2:36pm

Great post Aaron - and there really is no looking past the truly great things Google has done. Seeing the cost for this, is something time will truly tell.
I do have to say too, I think your choice of the link to the jonon post balanced this all really well.

July 20, 2009 - 7:56pm

I attribute my success to Google...without Adwords and Google Search, my company would have grown a lot more slowly. Gmail is fantastic as are the free tools such as Google Analytics, etc. Yes, they benefit Google, but they benefit me, too!
I don't always agree with every decision they make, but overall they have raised the bar by which all other Web companies are compared. And I say, Thanks!

Betsy Kent
Be Visible Associates
bevisibleassoc.com

July 21, 2009 - 8:11pm

Google sure put some blood in the internet. They have created wonderful (free) products which over the years people forogot it's free and start to complain.
Google adwords and Adsense are pretty much revolutionary products which still need to be tuned, but stands for the best deal around. (for now...)

July 22, 2009 - 9:38am

Adwords - way too costly. Unless you are not spending a dollar a click you wont get a quantitative data within a short span worth to do any analysis.

Gmail - is good. Yesterday I deleted one mail which I didn't intend to keep - and the whole thread was deleted. :-( Though, you can keep you whole house in Gmail and the poor marketing fellow will still say "space available, sir". ;-) I still feel Yahoo mail is faster than Gmail.

SEO - New and small entrants are a big NO NO. Whatever you do nothing happens. Except for a few "known" guys like you, Shoe, Yaro, Darran, Seth, and some others I dont think guys out there are getting a lot of traffic or making a lot of money.

I feel those who started in the era when you started ie... 2003, were a bit "lucky".

Do you think Aaron had you launched SEOBook in 2009, you would have done the same business you are doing today, say 2 years from now?

If the answer is Yes, we all know you are lying. If its no, it means for sure there wont be any other Aaron.

July 23, 2009 - 2:37pm

I can tell by the things you say in this response that you are not a member of the forum for this site. If you were, you'd see Aaron's business model (or one of them) is to create value. All of us within the forum see the value.
I started in SEO at about the same time Aaron did, and I am not as "lucky" as him. I am also not as smart, not as resourceful, and not half the businessman he is. But I do well, mind you. And it has little to do with being in this space for longer than you. It is because I too, am looking for ways to create and add value to sites - and I am using things I have learned from Aaron and others like him who talk with authority and experience about what we do.

And no, there won't be another Aaron. There won't be another you, either. But there certainly will be many success stories, as well as many people ready to claim it was easy, or lucky, or something else just as wrong.

July 22, 2009 - 10:23am

If AdWords is too costly then you are not monetizing as well as other businesses in your field already are and/or you are buying the wrong keywords. Perhaps you need to increase lifetime customer value or bid on different keywords.

You can recover that deleted Gmail thread from your trash bin.

Odd that you feel those who started SEO in 2003 were a bit lucky because back then people who started in 2000 or 1998 were a bit lucky. You can start out with a bit of luck but then eventually you make your own luck.

If I started in 2009 I doubt I would still spend so much time running this site. When you factor in the value of my time, this site is nowhere near as profitable as the best of the sites we started in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 are. Had I spent as much time from 2003 to 2009 working on sites outside of the SEO market as I spent building this site I would easily have at least $50 or $100 million in the bank right now. But I didn't. And so I don't. But the people who read this blog and applied it to those high value verticals are "lucky".

Oh well. Time for me to go make some more luck.

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