Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

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.


Gold Medal for Goldman in Axiom Awards!

March 26, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Just got word that the book won the Gold medal in the “Advertising/Marketing/PR/Event Planning” category from the Axiom Business Book Awards. No cash prize but will be receiving one of these fancy medals.

Very honored and appreciative but seems like a miss that these guys don’t give out online badges for winners to display on their websites. As covered in chapter 7 (Act Like Content) this is a great opportunity to build up link juice by offering something of value that people would be happy to put on their sites along with a link to the authoritative domain.


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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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.


Like Any Good Investment, You Gotta Give To Receive…

November 9, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

McGraw-Hill facilitated some Q&A for me with Michael Mink of Investor’s Business Daily for his piece, “Click with Social Media.”

Mink does a great job of threading together insights from a number of various authors to show how social marketing “can be low cost, high reward.” I’d definitely suggest investing some time in reading through his column.

Here’s the full Q&A:

What is the “Big Picture” idea of “Everything I Know About Marketing I learned From Google?”

The big picture idea is that any organization — regardless of size or category — can apply lessons learned from Google to better engage new and current customers.

Many people think the secret to Google’s success is some complex algorithm or similar marvel of engineering.

The truth is that Google just applied some tried and true marketing principles to drive usage and revenue.

The goal of my book is to demystify Google and share the key elements of its success so that any business executive can inject a little Google juice intro his or her organization.

What are [some] tips that business people can start implementing right now that will make the most difference in their marketing with respect to the information in [your] book?

Here are 5 “Googley Lessons” from my book that business executives can act on right away:

1. Keep it simple, stupid.

There’s nothing simpler than Google.com. There’s no ambiguity over what the product is or how to use it.

How can you bring Google-like clarity to your business? One way is to perfect your Twitter Pitch. Describe your company in under 140 characters. Then shrink it to 95 characters and run it as a text ad on Google. Experiment with different versions and see what works best.

2. Be where your audience is.

Google doesn’t make you go to Google.com to Google things. You can Google from your desktop, toolbar, mobile phone, and anywhere else where there’s an Internet connection.

In today’s world of infinite sources of information and entertainment, it’s critical to bring your brand to your audience and not what for it to come to you. Your website should be your hub but you need spokes everywhere your audience is spending time. The first step is figuring out where your audience is. There are great tools available from the likes of comScore, Experian Hitwise, and, yes, Google (AdPlanner) to see where your target customers are on the Internet.

3. Test everything.

Google is fanatic about testing. It once tested 41 different shades of blue for a toolbar. But Google doesn’t test in focus groups. It tests in live environments. There’s no better way to gauge performance.

Rather than wait to go to market until you’ve got everything buttoned up, launch your product or your ad campaign as quickly as possible and use real-time customer feedback to tweak and iterate until you’ve found the right combination. The only failed test is the one that never happens.

4. Make your company a great story.

Who doesn’t know the one about the 2 guys at Stanford that crashed the university’s servers with its new web crawler? Or the one about the company that gives its employees free food, massages, laundry, and transportation? Or the one about the company that uses goats to mow its lawns?

Generating word of mouth requires more than just creating a great product. It requires creating a great story — nay, becoming a great story. How can you make your brand more memorable? You don’t have to reinvent yourself. Just give people something to talk about. For example, if you’re a retailer, stock your cash register with $2 bills and give people a reason to tell others about their experience in your store.

5. You can learn a lot from a query.

Every day, billions of people around the world tell Google what’s on their mind. Google uses this data to deliver targeted ads to the tune of $20+ billion annually.

How can you use search data to drive growth for your company? Track query volume for specific products to adjust your offering and/or features. Monitor query volume in certain geographic regions to help prioritize expansion plans. Measure query volume for your brand name to gauge the effectiveness of your other marketing efforts.

When it’s all said and done, what makes the most difference and is the best use of a company’s or their executives’ time and money in the digital and social media marketing space?

At the end of the day, if I had to pinpoint one reason for Google’s success, I’d say that it figured out how to be relevant. It created a product that’s highly relevant (read: indispensible) to anyone using the Internet. And it created that product based on new and innovative ways of determining relevancy based on what people are looking for and what assets are available.

As a business executive, when thinking about digital marketing and social media, you must make yourself relevant. Build a brand that’s relevant to your target audience(s). And create assets that Google will deem relevant to people searching for related products and services.

Getting to the top of Google is not about gaming the system. It’s about proving relevancy. If you can’t get a #1 ranking then you’re not as relevant to your audience (or the product/service being searched) as you think. Find new and innovative ways to demonstrate your relevance and Google will reward you. And so will your customers.


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.


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.


Getting Googley with Kenshoo

September 14, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

Taking a page from Chapter 19 and making my company (and personal brand) a great story, I did a little Lebron James spoof to generate interest in my “decision” to put Connectual on hold and join the “all-star team” at Kenshoo as CMO.

I started by declaring my free agency last week and followed up with a video announcement riffing on the interview Lebron did with Jim Gray on ESPN.

More scoop on my move to Kenshoo can be found in the official press release or coverage by MediaPostDM News, and Internet Retailer. (UPDATE 9/24: I just posted more detailed rationale for why I joined Kenshoo on the Connectual blog.)

I’ve also updated the author page with my new bio and acknowledgements with full disclosure.


AOL Gets Googlier

September 3, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

MediaPost Online Media Daily

Here’s the POV I shared with Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost for her coverage of the AOL-Google news – AOL’s Mobile And Video Push Powers Google Search Deal.

I’m not surprised that AOL renewed its deal with Google. With Tim Armstrong and Jeff Levick both being ex-Googlers, there’s no doubt they had the insider knowledge required to get the best possible terms, not to mention figure out the best possible way for the 2 companies to collaborate.

It’s interesting to see that the deal covers more than just Google distributing search ads to AOL. It has AOL providing content to Google. In my book, I talk about how AOL has rebranded as a new economy content company. They’ve done a good job positioning themselves to capitalize on the type of content that’s easier to monetize — not news, weather, and sports but travel, entertainment, and health. I see AOL succeeding with content where newspapers are failing. And it’s ironic because Google succeeded in online advertising where AOL failed.


Can you spell SEM CPA?

September 2, 2010 by Aaron Goldman

MediaPost Online Media Daily

Shared a few sound-bytes with Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost for her article, “Search Engine CPA Patent Goes Up For Sale.”

Here’s the POV I provided…

Well, I’m no intellectual property expert but I wonder if this concept is even patentable [Clarification: meant to say, "I wonder if this patent is even enforceable."] It’s not like Bill Gross was able to patent CPC on search engines.

That said, the closest thing we’ve seen to CPA search results to date was Microsoft’s failed experiment with Cashback. The idea was advertisers would essentially pay a CPA for actual conversions and a portion of that fee would be passed along as incentive to the searcher. Microsoft never got the advertiser adoption it needed to scale Cashback and, without a lot of offers, it wasn’t able to provide a great user experience.

One of the biggest challenges in a pure CPA search model would be getting advertisers comfortable with implementing new tracking code on their websites to allow the search engine(s) to track actions. Fortune 500 companies and leading internet retailers are already leery of letting the fox into the henhouse.

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