Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Microogle or Goosoft

Google, are they turning into the new Microsoft?

When I first started using google (I was the first person I know to do so) it had a wonderful brand personality (The Goooooooogle images were one great touch). It was renowned for being a great tool designed by students, which made searching so much easier.

However now I worry that they are simply turning into the next conglomorate. They produce lots of useful consumer tools, but they appear to be fleecing businesses for all they can get.

The google ad words system, whereby businesses pay to appear on search results is the big point here. Their new system has just appeared which pushes the already massive costs of using the system even higher under the guise of improving results for consumers...but it is most effective at raising costs.

Google are literally printing money with ad words, some terms make them over £10 per click; with up to 10 people advertising on that one term. Yet:

Google know a large number of their clicks come from competitors clicking terms to raise other competitors costs. But they tend to ignore it.

They allow dodgy ads on terms. Including those which quite literally steal chunks of other sites to make money. Helping consumers?

For the particular terms we use, we currently find other search engines to be upto a quarter of the cost for the same results!

Google know they have so many visitors they can keep raising costs as much as they like; but in doing so they are seriously risking their brand image. I hope they see sense soon.

[Ironic of course that Blogger is owned by google...]


Rob @ Cynic said...

I really like this post even though I don't totally agree with all of it.

True - what google WERE and what they are now is different, but I still think they are doing a better job at maintaining their original personality/philosophy than most - especially to the everyday user.

Infact, the thing I find the most exciting/interesting about them is their foray into a more political arena. OK - so it's not exactly hardline and it is still within their 'The Answers To Life' philosophy, but their whole 'celebrating different views' [as demonstrated by the Loose Change doco promotion] is worth congratulating - especially when their closest competitor, Yahoo, have sold their values and soul down the river.

Maybe you will disagree, but my view is that for a pretty massive organisation, they are doing pretty damn well. Sure there may be a couple of things they could STOP doing, but all in all I think they're doing quite well especially because if google was owned by Microsoft, you can bet your bottom dollar their search site would now contain ads all over the page and probably have some 'all encompassing' hub element to it.

Sure google might not be as pure as they once were - but when you consider their growth, I think they are still a long way off Microsoft arrogance and blind money making obsession.

Saying all that, I do love the post.

Marcus Brown said...

Agreed, this is a good post.

Some thoughts from me.

Isn't it just a case of Google knowing the value of the service they own? And let's be honest, they have build up a very simple model to generate revenues without hurting the people who use their site. The model is simple, clever and effective, which pretty much sums up how google work. I think AdWords is just the tip of the iceberg and we will be seing services from google that will change the way communications happen (think twittervision, but brand related).

As far as I know, nobody, was ever really a big fan of Microsoft. Google really does have fans, and the module, consumer focused services that they offer underpin their understanding of their kind of functionality that their fans expect. Saying that, they are a business, and they have the responsibility to their staff and investors to make sure that they are financially stable.

Growth is a bitch and I would tend to agree that with Rob that they seem to be managing it rather well.

On the darker side, look at all the information that they "own". That's a big responsibility and the old and cynical amongst us may just start to worry if, morally, google have created a monster.

Bit of a ramble. Bit grown up too.

Hari said...

Good post. I agree with Marcus,

Is Google the new Microsoft? Yes in terms of size.
Are they fleecing businesses? Yes, and they should. I think as long as Google doesn't make the end users i.e. us the plebeians, suffer I think they're still a good company.

The simple truth is that innovation costs money. And for Google to be able to do things like create an alternative to Microsoft Office they need copious amounts of money, so I don't mind them fleecing their paying customers. Google will be evil MS only when they start doing things like making the ads look like real results i.e not indicate them as ads.

And this isn't even about relative evil, it's a tribute to the brand that we've almost forgotten that they're a business and not a social service project. It's no different from Ben & Jerry's with their 'Corporate Citizen' image, if they really cared, one could argue, they shouldn't even be selling diabetes and obesity inducing ice cream in the first place.

So Google makes more and more money which is needed to create more and more solutions that's given to people for free in a honest fashion to end their reliance on MS, so it's all good... so far.

Hari said...

Hi Rob,

I hope this isn't too late for your FMS but here are some things I'ld like answered:

1. Are companies like P&G really going to change the way they market their products or merely find the new mediocre in new media?

2. The theme is 'Integration' , the definition once again seems to be restricted to taking one idea and spreading them across media. Is this really different from what has been happening all these decades? Wasn't the coca cola Santa the earliest example of integrated advtg.?

3. When companies have positions like "Head of Innovation Marketing" doesn't it imply that the rest of the marketing dept isn't innovative? So how true can the future of marketing be truly revolutionary?

4. What's the future of small agencies like Mother, which all claim size to be a key aspect of why they're different and then go and pitch for big clients like Siemens?

5. The world's top 15 agencies are owned by 4 holding companies. Can someone from Saatchi & Saatchi and BBH explain the difference between their brands and how they plan to be different in the Future?

I have obviously written these question with the speakers in mind. And I took what they said on their website seriously that this isn't a time for polite discussion.

All the best mate and have fun.

Seb said...

Hm. Good thing, Rob.

But I don't think that this is their biggest problem. In fact the main service that Google offers - the search engine - has lost its quality. They simply missed to be up to date or beta or 2.0 or whatever. Just because Google was putting all their effort in developing new services. An article in one of the magazines that are laying out at our reception, forgot the name, sums it up to the number of 90. Imagine that: 90 projects like Google Video, Google Mail, Google Toolbar, Google whatever. Most of them we have never seen or even barely used. Don't get me wrong: I think this is one of Google's greatest qualities. They always try new things. But while putting all their work in this new visions they simply forgot what they are famous for: the search engine. Right now there are engines that work way better, provide better results and you don't have to add "-ebay -auction" to everything you are searching for. At Google you have to.

Google should return to its roots first. Because if your house is in perfect condition you can go to the garden and play. And people - I think - will appreciate if Google will provide the quality they once did.

By the way let us not forget that Google is a brilliant entrepreneur. The offer a lot to their employees: design your office the way you like it, gym courses, massages and stuff. And they have this great open source wall in their cantina where everbody can post ideas and others may comment on it and develop it. And I am not praising them just because it's on of our clients.

lauren said...

hey rob - great post.. and i'm inclined to agree with Seb.

There aren't many brands that have made it into
the vernacular like Google has. It's in the fucking dictionary as a verb, for crying out loud.

To have that much of an impact on society must, indeed, be overwhelming, but it's important to keep the focus on what got them there in the first place.

You only have to check your site referrals to see the sloppiness of the google search engine - like people coming to my blog from 'two dogs fucking' (i don't promote bestiality and don't drink alcoholic cider, so they're way off).

Maintaining a way to sustain business growth is fine, so long as there is an authenticity to it and if they're fleecing on terms, then that money needs to at least go back into optimising their search engine.

I also think it's a testament to their brand philosophy that we feel so 'attached' to them that (apart from all being opionated) we care about their direction and have opinions about it.

Well done for bringing it up rob!

Hari said...

And one final thing to think about for the Ad Planners amongst us. Google has generated this amount of affinity and loyalty without ever releasing a single ad...

Rob Mortimer said...

Thanks peeps.
I didnt see these comments til I got back from the FMS.

Seb: One thing that is clear to me is that google has got where it is by having the best understanding of end-user functionality in the software world.

I think you are right. Though you say it isnt their main problem, but it might become that. They are becoming pretty much a monopoly, and this new system seems (from what our company's ad words specialist tells me) wholly anti-competitive.

Rob: I think you are right, but the danger is that we dont know what is going on. Its all behind closed doors. As they say, better the devil you know...

Marcus: The thing is, they know too well the value of their service to consumers; but they are starting to fleece the businesses, which are actually the ones who pay all that money to provide consumers with it for free.

Of course they have to look after the company, but this is different. Their ad words is closed bidding, they can pretty much raise your ad words costs without you even knowing they are doing it.

Hari: I think the problem is here, its not big businesses that google are fleecing, its the small and medium sized ones (who I write for) who cant afford to pay inflated prices on small margins. This leaves only the big boys and arseholes who break the rules (of which there are hundreds, I spot three a day on our terms) able to be up there which ruins choice and the whole idea of using paid terms for consumer benefit.

They have done a joint ad with BA in the uk, which was talked about at the FMS (to be posted on later!)

Wow, I might (possibly) stand a chance of being nominated for Russell post of the month thing with this one. Go pissed off me! ;)