Has Google Stepped Away From Its Motto – Don’t Be Evil?

I have a slight problem, one which I struggle with and well it is in fact a big problem……. it’s Google. Google has changed our lives and is probably one of the or if not the most influential brands of our time. But since Google was formed in the university dorms by the Google Guys a lot has changed and it seems Google has forgotten the very core of what they stand for – don’t be evil!

Looking at it from a marketers perspective I am torn about how I feel about the brand. On the one hand, I am concerned by their domination in search and how the lack of competition will drive up paid search costs in the coming years. This will have a massive impact and price many small businesses out of the market, which are those same businesses who over the past 5 years have built their business around the search engine.

However on the other hand I am grateful for the way they have transformed the online media industry almost forcing platforms to move to a cost per action model enabling marketers to deliver guaranteed return from investment. And even more so I am pleased to see Google keeping the “bastards honest” as they say in the analytics industry.

And whilst I hold high admiration for their level of innovation I am concerned just how far Google will go in the name of profit. You see the bottom line is Google is a media company. And like any media company Google must enhance the user experience as much as possible to keep the money rolling in – and this is at the expense of many industries that fund their own existence.
So whilst Google dominates the search landscape this is not enough for them. Google has their eyes firmly set on 3 core areas. So what are they and what is the impact on the existing market players and the industry.

Smartphones1. Mobile Space

Google knows the mobile battle ground is one that needs to be fought given its potential in the coming years. However for once it has some stiff competition with Apple. It although seems the pursuit to innovate will impact more than just Apple themselves. Only 2 days ago Google announced their intentions to weave technology for driving directions and road data into new versions of its Android operating system for smartphones, which is wrecking havoc to the Satellite Navigation industry.

2. Own Vertical Segments

Google also realises that horizontal search engines don’t cut the mustard like they used to. Engines that are able to aggregate different forms of data and provide a more rich user experience throughout the various stages of decision making will dominate the search landscape. As such in Australia Google has its sights set on the property sector having released their own property search overlay on Google Maps. In addition if we look further afield to the US we see that Google has also made a move into the mortgage market. Google has also shown they want a greater share of the music pie launching “OneBox” in conjunction with MySpace’s iLike and Lala.com. This is definitely just the beginning and unfortunately this could spell an end to the aggregator models that dominate industries such as jobs, finance and even travel.

Social Media Strategy3. Social media

This is definitely one area that is threatening Google’s revenue model. Users are spending increasing amounts of time on social sites. As a category in Australia social media is about to overtake search engines and this is likely to be similar across the world. Google’s latest move in the social search space is its first major step to try to bring consumers back to Google by acting as a central source for their social media activities.

Google’s social search also aggregates a users social circle activities with existing search results – adding a more dynamic way of aggregating social elements into the existing search infrastructure. View more information here. This combined with Google Wave signals there need to be getting a greater slice of the pie in this market. But this is one area that I think they can’t win and thus we will continue to see Google attempt to acquire some of the big boys as their efforts fall short of engaging consumers…….. at least for the next few years.

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What Have The Search Juggernaughts Got In Store For Us?

Search Engine Marketing

As the battle of the search giants continues, R&D rolls on. Google and Microsoft have taken the war from search engines to our desktops, to our mobiles and into our marketing budgets with one prime objective – DOMINATION.

So whilst we all feel a bit violated by how far these brands are prepared to invade our privacy – as marketers we are all benefiting from a range of free tools and their innovation is also creating a wealth of new opportunities to connect and collaborate with our intended audience.

So what are some of the latest innovations and how will these change the marketing landscape?

Google Wave

Google WaveGoogle wave is in marketing speak a communications and collaborations tool but to simplify it, wave is email and instant messaging on steroids. Google Wave, which was produced by the same engineers as Google Maps, offers functionality like email playback, image sharing features, real time IM and a suite of other interesting functions. With a release date set for sometime in September, Google Wave may, if widely embraced, change the way email is as we know it.

How will this change the landscape?

Wave could transform the traditional email marketing campaign and this could be an exciting prospect for the email industry. Wave does have some very funky tools that will enable email to become more social thus it could mark the start of a new era in email tools. To preview the platform click here – note the video is 1 hour 20 minutes long but after 20 minutes you will get the jist.

Bing Vertical Search

With the introduction of its new search engine, Bing wants to do more than provide search results. As its positioning states, Bing is a decision engine, as it aims to help users to make decisions related to key problems. As a result Bing is investing heavily within its vertical search categories such as travel, shopping, medical and news (view Bing US to see what Microsoft is creating). Bing sees the future of search in aggregating content from various sources into one rich experience that is easy to navigate. Thus although Google is already doing it through universal search, the information is not structured logically to support a users decision process and this is where Bing could gain a significant advantage.

But with the Bing launch now old news, I am probably not telling you much more than you already know. So the question is where is this going? While this is largely speculative, it is believed that Microsoft will expand its vertical search by up to 12 separate channels. My guess is that Bing will build verticals across jobs/careers, education, property and finance at a minimum. So whilst Bing has its sights set on vertical search it seems Google has similar ideas. Google has already begun entering the vertical arena with Google Real Estate and also Google City Tour. And whilst at this stage it is difficult to tell how successful their vertical search strategies will be, I feel if Bing stays on route with aggregating content and steering clear of white labelling third party supplier products, they might have one up on industry leader.

How will this change the landscape?

Bing vertical search expansion to our shores will largely depend on the uptake of the Bing search engine as a whole. If the uptake is not there, we may not see the vertical search channels evolve locally, however I still expect to see Google rise to the challenge and focus even more heavily on this space. Thus with Bing now powering Yahoo, and plans for expansion into vertical search, along with Google’s progression in the area, vertical search engines – such as product comparison sites may decrease in popularity as search engines start to win back vertical search categories.

Want to know more about Bing? View this 2 minute overview

What else are these giants getting up to?

Google AnalyticsHere are some of the other tools that have recently been released or are in the pipeline;

Google Natural Search Ranking; Launched earlier in the year, but somewhat under the radar Google now provides the ability for Google Analytics users to not only view organic keywords which bought traffic to a site but to determine how those keywords ranked. As personal and local search has made ranking measurement tools less accurate, this provides SEOs with added intelligence to improve for their organic search strategies. For more information on Google Natural search rankings click here

Google Voice; Whilst in beta for a number of years, Google voice lets users manage their voice services online. With a single phone number, users can manage their voice services online – and the beauty of the tool is that the number is tied to the individual not a location like a home phone number or a device like a mobile. At this stage Google Voice is a free service, but is only available in the US. It is unclear when Google voice could make its way to our shores – but if it does one thing is for sure – Google need to find a way to monetise this product so no doubt there could be some interesting advertising models surfacing here.

Bing Tweets Results; Real time search has received a lot of attention over the past few months because of Twitters rise to fame. In early July Bing announced its first steps towards integrating real time tweet from prominent individuals into their search results. In addition Bing has announced that this is the first way they are dipping their toe into the water. Thus there is no doubt that this is one of the areas they will continue to innovate within in the coming months.

Have you come across any other key innovations by the search giants? If so add them below.

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