Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Google’s Future: Risky, Frisky, or Briskly?

February 12, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Today’s Montreal Gazette has a great piece exploring the “Risky Business of Google.” I shared a wide range of opinions and sound bytes with Jason Magder as he prepared this column. Here are some of the ones he used:

“Many of the new initiatives that Google launches can still somehow be tied backed to monetization from search advertising.”

“With the social network movement, people are now finding new ways to get information online that doesn’t require Googling it.”

“Goldman said he believes there is no limit to Google’s growth. He believes the company will figure out how to bring a social context to searches, and can have success in virtually every product it develops. He sees the company as becoming an all-encompassing life tool, that will power everything from televisions to computers, phones and cars.”

“Google has the advantage of having 5 million advertisers behind it, so it can go into pretty much any market it wants and find a way to monetize it with its slew of advertisers.”

To balance my seemingly eternal optimism, Magder includes some points-of-view that are a little more skeptical about Google’s future.

“If they lose relevancy, they’ll lose everything.” — Christian Russell, Dangerous Tactics.

“The company has spread itself too thin.”  – Ian Lurie, Portent Interactive.

“Google’s biggest problem is that it has consistently failed to produce any new lines of business apart from keyword-related advertising, which still produces over 90 per cent of its income.” — Matthew Ingram, GigaOm

“Maybe they can’t innovate anymore. It takes them meetings and processes to make decisions. Things don’t get launched as quickly.” — Fred Wilson, venture capitalist.

“They also tried to get into social networking and failed, so they’re not impregnable,” Ken Auletta, Googled.

There’s definitely no question that Google will face increasingly bigger challenges in the coming years — from Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and itself as it grows bigger still. For what it’s worth I think Google’s future will bring new ventures that are at times risky (as in the imminent launch of a new social network), at times frisky (as in the frivolous pursuit of self-driving cars), and at times briskly (as in the pace of innovation and new product releases).

Let’s just hope we never see Larry or Sergey emulating Risky Business too closely…

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If I Ruled The World…

February 10, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

In August of 2008, I wrote a column titled, “If I Were Running Google.

Two weeks ago, I revisited that column to see what came of my ideas.

Yesterday, I wrote a new column offering 5 things I’d do If I Were Google CEO.

We’ll see if Larry Page takes me up on any of these. My guess is he’s too busy running Google right now to do much reading.

If you can spare a few minutes, though, I suggest queuing up this track as background music. And this song would work too if you added a few zeros.

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Search and Social 2011: Kaboom!

December 16, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

McGraw-Hill Professional Holiday eBook

Yesterday, McGraw-Hill released an eBook compilation of short essays from its authors on “What’s Next” for 2011. The topics range from innovation to investment to sales to leadership to, of course, search. It’s a great, quick read from some of the “leading minds in business” so be sure to download your copy.

Here’s my take on what’s in store for search next year…

2011: The Year That Search Got Social
by Aaron Goldman

Search marketing and social media are on a collision course. And 2011 will be the big bang. The implications for marketers, search engines, and social networks alike will be profound. Here’s what you need to know.

To date, search has been the primary way people have found things on the Internet. Looking for a place to eat? Google it! Want to know what camera to buy? Google it!

That’s changing though. As more and more people join Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, the answer to these questions is no longer, “Google it!” It’s now, “Ask your friends.” Or, “Ask your followers.”

As it turns out, your friends, families and others in your social circle (read: people) are better indicators of what you might like than webpages stuffed with keywords and links (read: webmasters).

Who’d have thunk it?!? That Zuckerberg guy, that’s who.

Indeed, Facebook stands positioned to lead the next wave of innovation in search marketing. And this will likely benefit Microsoft, of all companies. In early October, Facebook and Microsoft announced that “likes” (all those little “thumbs up” buttons that get pushed on Facebook and other sites across the web) will be integrated into the Bing search algorithm.

Now, instead of search engines deciding what websites are most relevant to you based on the number of links they have, rankings will be based on the number of likes they have. And, more importantly, likes by people in your social graph.

So, how can you make sure your organization is prepared for this shift in search power?

For starters, make sure you’re “well-liked.” Put that button on your website and encourage people to click it. As an example, Walmart recently started running promotions that offer exclusive discounts to people who like its page.

And don’t forget Twitter. Set up an account and start tweeting. If the “like” trend is any indication, it won’t be long before Twitter followers and “retweets” are applied to search engine algorithms as well.

But don’t fire your search engine optimization team just yet. Google still controls over 70% of the global search market so it’s critical to make sure your website is well-optimized for keywords and links.

That said, it won’t be long before Google gets social. Whether it’s an acquisition of Twitter or a new social network called Google Me, you can be sure the Big G will be bringing the big guns.

So, as 2011 draws near, the best advice I can give comes from Chapter 8 of my book. Test everything.
Get more likes. Get more links. Get Googley. Get Facebooky. Get Bingy. Get Twittery.

As Google CEO Eric Schmidt himself put it, “The mistake we always make is we assume the success in the next 10 years will be the same as the success in the last 10 years. The dominant players always get it wrong.”

When it comes to search marketing, success in 2011 will not be the same as 2010. The future is social, whether you like it or not.

Aaron Goldman is Chief Marketing Officer at Kenshoo, a global leader in search marketing and online advertising technology for advertisers, agencies, and local marketing providers. He is also the author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google.


Why Groupon Matters

December 14, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Yesterday, in my post “On Groupon and Google,” I derided Groupon as nothing more than a “COUPON WEBSITE.”

I was being dramatic to make the point that, if it wanted to, Google could quickly and effectively build something of similar scale to Groupon.

That’s not to say that Groupon itself isn’t incredibly valuable. And might even be worth $5-6 billion. Here’s why:

1. Brand recognition. Groupon is the Google of the deals space. When Groupon calls, merchants answer. And when Groupon emails, consumers open.

2. Relationships with merchants. Small/medium-sized (SMB) businesses in cities around the world look to Groupon as a shot in the arm for sales. Not unlike how they looked at Google a few years ago. The problem, of course, for SMBs is that Google taps out once all the relevant queries are tapped and bids get too high.

3. Relationships with consumers. Every day, Groupon sends me an email. And every day I look at it. I can’t think of many other brands I have that frequent interaction with.

4. Data. Groupon is sitting on a treasure trove of data. What offers people like. What offers YOU like. What price points make a deal tip. There are tons of companies that could monetize the heck out of this.

5. Revenue. Rumors are Groupon is doing anywhere from $800 million to $2 billion in annual revenue. That’s pretty easy to value.

Clearly, Groupon has built a fantastic company with tremendous value. But, as any entrepreneur knows, one of the keys to success is defensibility of the business model. And, as I pointed out yesterday, I’m not sure how defensible Groupon is… at least not when it has companies like Google keen on getting into its space. That’s why if I were Andrew Mason, I’d be getting mine while the getting’s good.


On Groupon and Google

December 13, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

OK, I’ll say it…

I think Groupon was NUTS to turn down $5-6 billion from Google.

I mean, c’mon now, we’re talking about a COUPON WEBSITE here!

As for what Google wanted with Groupon?

1. Something more than AdWords to offer SMBs and increase share-of-wallet. After all, there are only SO many people Googling “Dry Cleaners 60622.”

2. A big honking opt-in mailing list to have deeper commerce touchpoints with consumers than fleeting search queries. (Botiques.com is another example of this.)

I have to believe Google could build these things itself.

1. Hire a bunch of freelance salespeople (or buy a Yellow Pages company) and get in front of SMBs with offers to run Groupon-esque deals.

2. Launch Google Deals and send an email to every Gmail user with the opportunity to opt-in.

If it only took Groupon a couple years to scale sales and stimulate demand, I bet Google could do it in one.

There you have it.

Eric, Sergey and Larry – if you’re reading this, that’ll be $5.4 billion, please.

Update: To be clear, I’m not saying Groupon isn’t worth $5-6 billion. I’m just saying Google shouldn’t pay that much for it because it can build something of similar scale itself. Perhaps I should’ve changed my second line to, “I think Google was NUTS to offer $5-6 million for Groupon.” Lest you think I’m not a big Groupon fan and believer, please see my follow-up post, “Why Groupon Matters.”


Is Google Manipulative?

December 6, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Last week brought word that Google is being investigated by the European Commission for abusing its dominant market position and preventing competition (aka acting like a monoploy) with the way it ranks websites in organic listings. Naturally, Google responded by playeing its trump card of “we only do what’s best for users.” Ahh, gotta love the altruism!

Laurie Sullivan covered the news in her MediaPost piece, “EU Opens Antitrust Probe Into Google SEO And Paid-Search Practices.”

When asked for my position on Google abusing its position by “manipulating rankings,” here’s what I told Laurie…

“Manipulating rankings” is Google’s business model. The question is whether it is manipulating maliciously and stifling competition in the process. It will be tough to make this case. Google has a long track record of manipulating rankings solely for the purpose of giving searchers more relevant results.


Getting Googley at SES Chicago

October 21, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Hit up SES Chicago today. Jolly good show.

Here’s the deck I presented in my session, “Get Googley: How to Apply Lessons from SEM to Other Marketing Channels.”

As you may have guessed from the last slide, Tha Lyrical G made an appearance. Will post the rap in its entirety in a separate post. (Waiting for YouTube to complete the upload.)

UPDATE: Here’s the Googley Lessons rap. Turn up your speakers, click the link, and then brace yourself.


What Will Search Look Like 5 Years From Now?

October 16, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

That’s what MediaPost’s Laurie Sullivan asked me in prepping her column, “Search Reaches Turning Point With Social Integration.”

This was my response.

In 5 years, search will be an incredibly personal experience.

When we want information, entertainment, or commerce, we’ll use apps that know our preferences and return not just the results we want but the actions we want to take.

To deliver on this promise, the search engines of the future will tap APIs from virtually every content publisher, brand manufacturer, and retailer to deliver immediately actionable opportunities.

And, to make the experience more relevant, “likes” will be weighted more heavily than “links” in the search engine algorithms. And location will be automatically factored in.

This thread is covered extensively in Chapter 21: Future-Proofing and Siri is profiled as the “search-and-act” engine or “app-sisstant” of the future.

As for Google’s role in this brave new world… as discussed in the book, the Big G can either become a search-and-act engine itself and/or the underlying platform upon which these engines are built. Think API-burner.

It’s interesting to see Bing taking steps towards this new expression of relevancy though its recent deal with Facebook to incorporate “likes” into its search algorithm. I explored the potential for a search engine that pivoted on the social graph in a blog post from 2008 titled, “The Perfect Search Engine.”

And, more recently, I looked at “Link vs. Like and the Future of Web Ranking.”

It’s hard to say whether 5 years is the right window for all this heady stuff to come to fruition but if we look at how far search has come in the past 5, I wouldn’t bet against it/us.


Is Google Taking Too Much Credit?

September 28, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

That’s the question I’ll be addressing on my panel at OMMA Global in New York today.

Here’s the prep sheet I sent to my panelists. Will update this post tomorrow with session highlights.

OMMA Global NY
9/28 at 11:30am

Is Google Taking Too Much Credit?

Google recently announced that its search and advertising tools generated $54 billion of economic activity in the U.S. in 2009. But, as we all know, there are a number of different factors that contribute to sales conversions both on and offline. In this session, we’ll examine the role of search in the media mix and discuss best practices for evaluating performance across all channels. We’ll also look at some of the more evolved attribution models being deployed by search marketing advertisers, agencies and technologies.

Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer, Kenshoo

Eli Goodman, Search Evangelist, comScore, Inc.
Greg A. Green, Director, Global Agency Strategy, Google
Justin Merickel, VP, Marketing and Product Development, Efficient Frontier
Peter Platt, Chief Digital Officer, Catalyst
Adam Kasper, SVP, Managing Director, Digital, Media Contacts


Is Google taking too much credit?

  1. See this post and video: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/googles-us-economic-impact.html
  2. Download this report: http://www.google.com/economicimpact/
  3. Please be prepared to weigh in with your thoughts on the methodology and findings.


  1. Since SEM is so dependent on consumer demand/interest, it can be difficult to budget for it. What are some best practices?
  2. Should search be the first line item budgeted for or the last? Somewhere in between?
  3. What about SEO? How does one approach this unpaid media opportunity?


  1. How can one measure “assists” solely within the search channel? (ie, upper funnel keywords)
  2. How can one measure impact of other online ads on search?
  3. How can one measure impact of offline ads on search?
  4. What tools are available to help with attribution?


  1. How does the conversation about attribution change when an advertiser has strict branding goals? (ie, no direct conversion/sales metric)


  1. What will the digital marketing landscape look like in 5 years?
  2. What will Google’s role be?
  3. How will budgeting and attribution strategies evolve?
  4. How can marketers best prepare today?


Lots of great conversation and insights.

Key points:

Greg – studies show the overall value of the Internet between $300 billion and $1 trillion so $54b is a drop in the bucket. (Sounds awfully like the Google monopoly defense.) Attribution is not a zero sum game. The pot for all of digital is getting bigger.

Eli – when thinking about attribution, don’t forget about offline. Oh yeah, and comScore has tools to help you do that.

Justin – with Facebook ads now being integrated into SEM platforms such as Efficient Frontier and Kenshoo (disclosure: my employer), it’s critical to measure the interplay between channels.

Adam – you have to get the right people in the room from the client, agency, and technology partner side to have a real discussion about attribution. That includes marketing, IT, etc.

Peter – it’s critical to track lifetime value and segment customers by value when evaluating credit for each channel. Not all customers are created equal.

I did a bit of Geraldo and worked the crowd throughout to integrate audience Q&A. And I gave a signed copy of the book to the first person that asked a question. (Wisely, someone immediately shot up their hand and asked, “Can I get the book?”)

Here’s one of the brief moments I was actually up at the podium. You can’t tell but I’m wearing a green Google Me tee and matching Pumas.

At the end of the session I asked each of the panelists and then the audience which company they thought would be driving the lion’s share of economic impact via the web in 2015. The rough audience response was as follows:

80% Google
10% Other
5% Apple
2% Facebook (aided by presence of Kelly Graziadei from FB)
2% Microsoft

Update 2: Here’s a better pic courtesy of my colleague, Paula, at Kenshoo. Good view of the green ensemble.

Update 3: I just got another one of those phishing emails and was reminded of a great exchange during this session with Greg from Google.

As a follow up to his analysis of the economic impact study, I asked Greg if Google counted the millions in impact from the Prince of Nigeria floating funds through my account in the US.

Greg: How’d that investment work out for you?

Me: Can Google help me get my money back?

Greg: Sure. Send me your social security number.

Me: Don’t you already have it???


Google Your Way to Space

September 16, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Yesterday, Boeing announced a deal with Space Adventures to “offer commercial spaceflight opportunities.”

In the press release, Boeing says that “potential customers for excess seating capacity include private individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. federal agencies other than NASA.”

Laurie Sullivan explored the potential for commercial space exploration in her MediaPost Search Marketing Daily column: The Search For Spock: How SEO Might Help Boeing Market Commercial Space Flights.

Laurie explores how SEO might play a role in helping Boeing find potential customers. She cites SEO Training Dojo David Harry about how keyword research could be used.

“Ask them to search on Google for information about low orbit space travel at the consumer level,” Harry says. “Get then to try and book a flight searching from Google to see what they can actually do.”

Harry is taking a page (literally) from Chapter 14: You Can Learn a Lot from a Query by noting that search can be a great source of intelligence. Another application would be looking up the demographic profiles of people searching for “commercial space flights” and related queries using tools such as comScore and using that data to inform audience definition.

In preparing her piece, Laurie asked me what I thought the first step would be in creating an online marketing plan.

This was my response…

First step I’d say is defining the target audience.

This is way too broad: “private individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. federal agencies other than NASA.”

Depending on the price tag here, it’s likely the potential customer base is very small.

It will take some non-traditional marketing to reach this audience.

How do you reach Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher? Well, they’re on Twitter a lot.

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