Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

SIMply Search and Social

June 22, 2012 by Aaron Goldman

Last week, I pulled out all the analogies in the book (hey, there’s another one!) to describe search and social marketing at the SIM Partners SIMposium at the (too legit) Wit Hotel in Chicago.

Below is my presentation and below that is my (too legit) rap…


Google Gets Clever

January 4, 2012 by Aaron Goldman



Three weeks ago Google bought Clever Sense, maker of the app-ssistant, Alfred.

Last week, I shared my take in MediaPost’s Search Insider: Will Clever Sense Help Google Become The Perfect Search Engine?

Sometime, we’ll get our answer.


Google’s Next Acquisition? Got My Antenna Up!

September 27, 2011 by Aaron Goldman



Q: Who Will Google Buy Next?
A: Tune in to my Search Insider column to find out.


Thoughts on the Zagat Deal: Content is Information. Information is Power.

September 15, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Last week Google bought Zagat for a rumored $125 million. I shared a quick point of view on the deal with MediaPost for its coverage: Google Buys Zagat To Support Mobile Local

“Zagat gives Google quality reviews to fuel business listings through Google Places,” said Aaron Goldman, Kenshoo CMO. “Professional reviews, rather than biased reviews from families of restaurant owners or competitors that weaken the signal from other review sites, is what differentiates Zagat.”

Over the past week, there’s been a healthy debate about Google getting into the content creation business and whether that jeopardizes its status as an unbiased search company. For what it’s worth, I think that’s a very tired and, frankly, irrelevant thread.

Google’s in the business of organizing (and monetizing) all the world’s information. Zagat’s content is very valuable information for restaurant seekers. Local and mobile search queries are becoming more and more prevalent. So what better way for Google to improve (and monetize) its local restaurant information than by buying a company that has developed a means to continually provide it?

The bottom line is Joe Searcher doesn’t care if Google is biased. Joe Searcher has come to learn (and trust) that Google will find the best and most relevant information for each query. Joe also doesn’t care how Google gets the information. In fact, Joe might prefer Google to be biased if it means it can give him the best and most relevant information.

This isn’t about journalism or publishing. This isn’t about church and state. This is about needs and fulfillment. Supply and demand. Once again, Google is well-positioned at the intersection. And it will continue to zig-zag along the way.


What’s ZMOT Got To Do With It?

July 27, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

ZMOT is a new ebook published by Jim Lecinski, Google’s US Managing Director of Sales and Service. It’s also the subject of my latest Search Insider column. Some of what I wrote for MediaPost is regurgitated here but most of the following is original material and incremental observations. (Update: for a “behind-the-scenes” look at ZMOT, be sure to read the 2-part interview between Jim and Gord Hotchkiss in MediaPost.)

I’ve known Jim for quite some time as our paths have crossed repeatedly in the world of search and the streets of Chicago. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to relate to brand marketers and put key principles of Google into a broader marketing context. And ZMOT is no exception.

ZMOT underscores the point I was trying to make in Chapter 4: Mindset Matters. ZMOT is the moment after some stimulus has compelled you to act but before you actually take action. In a shopping scenario, ZMOT is the moment when your decision takes shape of whether or not to buy and, if so, which brand.

In his book, Jim describes a new “mental model” in which ZMOT follows a stimulus but precedes FMOT (a term coined by P&G for the first moment of truth at the store shelf) and SMOT (the second moment of truth when the consumer experiences the product that he/she purchased) before reappearing when the buyer decides if the brand is a keeper and worthy of sharing with friends (or, in marketing terms, lifetime value and word of mouth).

Here are some other ways Jim describes ZMOT:

  • “A moment where marketing happens, where information happens…”
  • “That grabbing-the-laptop moment.”
  • “The moment of highest impact”
  • “‘Before the store’ moments”

So how to make sure your brand is available at ZMOT? Well let’s turn to Chapter 17: Show Off Your Assets. Aptly, in this chapter I recount a meeting with none other than Mr. Lecinski at the Google Chicago office in 2006 in which he preached about the importance of brands digitizing and optimizing all their assets — images, videos, manuals, and even brand attributes.

In my book, I point to Ronald.com as an example of McDonald’s digitizing one of its assets, the Ronald McDonald mascot. But beyond just Ronald himself, McDonald’s took the brand promises of happiness and giving and optimized them for kids around the world to experience in a safe virtual playground.

There’s no question McD does well at ZMOT. (Hmm, I’m hungry, what should I eat?) But it’s not just because there’s a McDonald’s in every major city and most of the not-so-major ones. And it’s not simply because there’s a McDonald’s ad that reaches you when you’re hungry and/or close to one of their locations. And it’s not only because the food comes out fast and there’s a ball-pit for your keys to play in. It’s because of all these things! McD does well at ZMOT because of all the touchpoints they’ve created with consumer and the emotional connections they’ve built.

However, as Jim argues credibly time and time again in his book, all the connections in the world between brand and consumer are meaningless if the brand is absent at ZMOT.

Boy, how I wish this book and the ZMOT concept had been around back in 2005. I remember being in a meeting with the head of advertising for McDonald’s pitching the merits of search engine marketing and getting this objection, “Why should I buy ads on search engines? People don’t buy hamburgers online.”

But then why are people searching for hamburgers online? Why are they searching for McDonald’s? You spend billions of dollars on marketing and you’re willing to risk it all when a consumer acts on your stimulus and can’t find you at ZMOT?

Luckily, the McD ad exec remained open to the idea and, within a year, SEM was a staple on the company’s media plans.

To me, this example is the epitome of what the ZMOT book is all about. It’s 75 pages of persuasion to quick serve restaurants and other verticals (eg, CPG) that have yet to truly embrace SEM.

Now, lest you think this is a fluff read relying on heady ideas and intuition, I should note that, throughout his book, Jim backs up assertions with hard data.

In researching this book, Google conducted an extensive study of more than 5,000 shoppers across 12 verticals in April of 2011, providing a wealth of information about what ZMOT is and why it matters.

Here are some of the key stats:

  • 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase.
  • 79% of consumers use a smart-phone to help with shopping.
  • The average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information to make a decision. (Up from 5.3 sources in 2010.)
  • 84% of shoppers said ZMOT shapes their decisions. (Based on a mapping done by Google of information sources to Stimulus, ZMOT, and FMOT.)
  • 62% of shoppers search for deals online before at least half of their shopping trips.
  • 54% of shoppers comparison shop for products online.
  • 37% of shoppers find online social sources to be an influential driver when making decisions. (Up from 19% in 2010.)
  • Showing up is 80% in life. (Woody Allen quote used by Jim to encourage people to “jump in” and address ZMOT within their orgs.)

And here are some SEM stats included in the book that I found interesting:

  • 20% of searches across all Google properties are local.
  • 40% of all mobile searches across Google properties are local.
  • Mobile-only campaigns perform 11.5% better on average than desktop-mobile campaigns
  • Recipes make up 1% of all searches on Google.

One of my favorite quips in this book comes from Rishad Tobaccowala (who is quoted extensively in my book as well) commenting on the role of search engines in the buying process. “Don’t call them search engines,” Rishad says. “Call them connection engines.” A great insight and especially gratifying for me to hear as I still remember back in the early 2000′s when Rishad dismissed SEM as merely “math and machines.”

Another great quote comes from Professor Dave Reibstein of The Wharton School in framing word of mouth in today’s society. “Talking over the hedge is one-to-one. Digital word of mouth is one-to-millions.”

And here’s one from Jim that underscores my premise in Chapter 8: Test Everything. “In the world of ZMOT, speed beats perfection.”

I’ll wrap it here and leave you reason to peruse the book for yourself. It’s a great, quick read. Perfect for the too-little-time-too-many-social-networkers and instant-gratificationers among us.And, if you’re Apple-enabled, be sure to grab the free iBook to access multimedia content.

Now go forth and ZMOT!


Bringing the Heat in Chi-town

July 26, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Below is the presentation I gave today at the Online Marketing Sumit (OMS) in Chicago.

In it, I use my patent-pending “Heat-o-Meter” to describe the hotness of various companies, channels, and trends in digital marketing, including:

Companies: Facebook, Groupon, Apple, Google, LinkedIn,  Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo

Channels: Social, Mobile, Local, Video, Search, Display

Trends: Automation, Integration, Attribution

The deck has 70 slides packed with stats and the last section has some Kenshoo case studies for context on how advertisers are capitalizing on these hot trends. So warm up your fingers are start clicking!

As is becoming habit, I rapped the Q&A portion but only had time for one topic. No video has surfaced (yet) so here’s an audio clip from Brent Payne aka the Bald SEO.


Nonplussed by Google+ (Update: I’m getting Plussed!)

June 30, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

This week Google introduced its sharing (not to be confused with “social”) network, Google+.

Here are some initial thoughts and observations. Will add more as I dig in further.

1. I’m just as conflicted over the name as I was with Google +1. On one hand, it’s short and I get it. On the other it’s a nightmare to toggle between + and “plus.”

2. They key to social (and sharing) is scale. The more people in the network, the more valuable the network. Google has a lot of people. Now it just needs to connect them. Google+ should help.

3.Advertising opportunities in and around Google+ will likely be less about new units or formats but rather advanced targeting. This is another way for advertisers to more finitely target and reach the folks most likely to be interested in their message. Whether that message appears on Google+ or another Google owned, operated, or connected property is TBD.

4. On Google+ are Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. I’m surprised Business or Work is not a standard classification. Would help Google compete with LinkedIn just as much as Facebook and Twitter.

5. As a user, I love the circles concept. It’s intuitive and the fact that Google+ is new allows me to start fresh by categorizing my connections and sharing only the appropriate stuff with the appropriate peeps. Wish I could have done this on Facebook from day 1. As it stands, I end up sharing less on FB because I don’t want to bother my personal friends and family with work-related stuff and don’t always want my industry colleagues to see my personal stuff.

6. I’m surprised that the search box isn’t more prominent on Google+. In fact, I don’t see one at all. Goes against my premise in Chapter 5: Be Where Your Audience Is. They must be counting on people using their toolbars and browser defaults to Google things. Sure seems like a missed opportunity though, especially given how many search queries originate in Facebook. (See update from July 2 below.)

7. The privacy police will be watching closely any little screwup will fetch headlines.

Update July 1, 2011:

8. Been thinking more about why Google rolled out a sharing network rather than a social network. Now actually seems pretty obvious to me. Contrary to #6 above (which I do expect to be remedied in short order) this IS about improving Google’s bread and butter product and monetization engine — Search.

Every share that happens within Google+ gives a critical signal to Google of the value and context for a specific digital asset – website, video, image, etc. It also allows Google+ to see who the real influencers are on the web based on number of shares and +1s. Pretty soon Google will no longer need to rely on links created by webmasters as its primary method of determining quality and authority for search rankings.

More on this line of thinking:

Like vs. Link and the Future of Web Ranking

Why Google Needs a Social Network

Why Google Me

9. Yes, I’m happy the name of this project is Google+ and not Google Me so I can keep on wearing my shirts with no fear or trademark violation. No, I have no plans to create Plus Me shirts. :)

Update July 2, 2011:

10. Regarding point #6 above, perhaps I was a bit hasty in saying that Google isn’t “being where its audience is.” While I still think incorporating a search box into the Google+ UX is a no-brainer, Google has brought its new sharing network to where its audience by integrating it into the nav bar atop Google.com, Gmail, and other Google properties and framing it in a block box to really stand out. See screenshot below. I find myself constantly coming back to Google+ because of the not-so-subtle reminder of its existence and the fact that notifications appear there as well.

Update July 13, 2011:

Today I published a column in MediaPost’s Search Insider titled, “Google+ Adds Up.” In it I outlined 10 key takeaways from Google+ to date including some of the observations posted here.

Update July 14, 2011:

Yesterday I was asked what impact I thought G+ would have on LinkedIn. In composing my thoughts, I stumbled upon a key insight from Google’s foray into search that very likely may have dictated its (most recent) approach to social. Read on…

I don’t think G+ will eat away at LinkedIn. People use LinkedIn to connect, not share. G+ is for sharing. That’s why it will hurt Twitter. Twitter sole purpose is sharing and the experience/UI is not very intuitive (especially when it comes to controlled sharing).

Same reason I don’t think G+ will eat at Facebook. While sharing is the #1 activity on Facebook, it’s use as a full social network is broader and includes that connecting aspect of LinkedIn. It’s about making new relationships as much as sharing with current ones.

Google dominated search because it had the luxury of not being first mover. It saw what Yahoo and Alta Vista and others did and took the key functionality and made it better. Rather than a portal with a bunch of links and content, it just stripped out the search.

Same now for social. Google had luxury of seeing FB, Twitter, LI, etc. And now it realizes sharing is the most vital aspect of social networking. So it’s stripped that out and built a whole experience around just that.


Google Alphabet Soup

June 16, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Check out the Search Insider column I penned this week for a rundown of everything you need to know about the Big G from A to Z.


Zeroing in on Google +1

April 7, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

In yesterday’s MediaPost Search Insider column (+10 and -10 for Google +1), I shared 10 things I love and 10 things I hate about Google +1. It just so happens that the lists contained the same 10 things. Behold the definition of a love/hate relationship!


Why Facebook Needs More SMB Apps

March 3, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

I haven’t been using Google Apps much since I joined Kenshoo but I was a power-user with Connectual.

Today I logged in to my Google Apps account on a whim to see if anything had changed a lo and behold, I was greeted with the message below.

This got my thinking about how valuable an asset it is to Google to have over 3 million businesses using Google products to power their internal operations. And why Facebook needs more small/medium business (SMB) apps if it wants to continue growing it’s share of the digital advertising pie — which is already growing quite nicely, mind you, with 1 in 5 online display ad dollars going to Facebook this year per eMarketer.

By working its way into the SMB infrastructure, Google makes itself indispensable to businesses. And with that level of penetration, cross-selling advertising products becomes much easier. Just check this box to send traffic to your domain!

I was talking to a friend the other day who works for Facebook and joking with him about why Facebook doesn’t use its own messaging system for internal corporate communication. Then the light bulb went off. Why not create an messaging app for SMBs? They gave everyone a Facebook email address. Why not let people use Facebook to manage messages to their own domains? And do it for free to trump Google App’s $50 a year.

Of course, creating business products like this would require a ton of new development around security and other protocols that are critical to servicing SMBs but, in the long run, this would really pay out for Facebook by getting businesses more active on the platform beyond managing pages. And once they’re more active on the platform, getting SMBs to fork over some ad dollars would become a much easier proposition.

Penetrating SMBs is the key to Facebook doing better than 1 in 5 display ad dollars and closer to the nearly 1 in 2 total online ad dollars that Google gets today per eMarketer. Now that would give Facebook investors something to really like!

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