Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Seth Godin, Squidoo

Seth Godin
Author, Blogger and Founder

Which of the lessons I’ve outlined resonates with you the most — and why?

“Relevancy rules” combines two key ideas: permission marketing and the long tail. In an endless shelf space world like the Internet, attention is precious and no one will choose to pay attention to things that don’t interest them. Anticipated, personal and relevant messages will always outperform spam. And products that are just what I want will defeat those that aren’t just what I want.

What was the key insight (whether related to one of these lessons or not) that led you to start Squidoo?

Squidoo is a long-tail company. We have nearly a million people building pages (millions so far) about things that fascinate them. And then the people who find those pages (via Google, etc.) find just the pages they are fascinated with. An entire cycle of fascination.

How big is Squidoo currently in terms of unique visitors, number of lenses, page views, etc? What has surprised you the most about how Squidoo has been adopted?

We had more than 20 million unique visitors in December of ’09. The site grows as much as 10% every week… it’s sort of exciting. I’m really pleased at how much money our users have raised for charity, and thrilled to see the stuff they come up with. Smart people together are pretty smart.

Are there any plans for monetizing Squidoo beyond advertising and affiliate links?

Squidoo is profitable, and our users make more money every single month. Right now, our revenue comes from Amazon, eBay, Google and other ad networks. If we find a better way, we’ll add it!

Squidoo certainly seems to follow lesson #2 — Tap the Wisdom of Crowds. And your book “Tribes” underscores the importance of leading crowds. What’s the difference between crowd-sourcing and crowd-organizing? And how can marketers best capitalize on these techniques?

I’m not crazy about crowds. Crowds are close to mobs — out of control and sometimes angry. Tribes are groups that are connected, interested and on their way somewhere. The best marketing doesn’t put the crowd to work, the best marketing leads people and then gives them a platform to do what they choose to do.

Lesson #15 stipulates that sex sells. What can you share about how Squidoo has been adopted by those in the adult (aka porn) industry? What percent of lenses are adult-related? Do those lenses generate the same/more/less ad revenue that your average lens?

Sex doesn’t sell, not if sex is also available for free. Porn has never been a great entry point to more polite forms of commerce, it’s merely made money because it was hard to get for free. Playboy magazine is toast — porn DVDs, too.

Squidoo has no adult content. At the beginning, my posture was to not be a censor, not to decide what the platform would be for. It became really clear, though, that people who want to build porn pages aren’t good actors, don’t contribute anything else and do work that we’re not proud of. So we kicked them out and we don’t miss them.

We never made more than 2% of our income from ads on these pages, and we’re delighted that they’re gone.

What makes Google such a unique company? Why has it been so successful?

Google is successful because of three things:

1. They made very smart decisions about the importance of search and interface.

2. They picked the perfect source of revenue to go with that.

3. Senior management has the guts to ignore Wall Street and build what they want.

In 10 years, how will the marketing world be different and what will Google’s role be in the ecosystem?

I think the ecosystem is going to be even more always-on and connected, more viral and less spam.

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