What My Day with Google Means
By Matt Dickman, DigiKnow, Inc.
I wish I had a crystal ball to see where the online landscape will be in 5-10 years. The only thing I know for sure is that it will look very different than it does now. Google's invasiveness in my life will certainly change, but it's not a bad thing right now. They are adding value to my life and making my day easier. They're friendly and colorful and people go out of their way to evangelize their products and services. But this may not always be the case. I can think of a couple other companies who are/were this invasive.
Hindsight is 20/20 the old saying goes. I see parallels between Google's current path and a couple other companies that go by the name of Yahoo and Microsoft. Each of those companies attempted to be and, in each case, had a chance to become what Google is today before taking a back seat.
Microsoft has had an incredible ride in the software world. Just think about the advances that the company has made over the years. They developed one standardized solution for word publishing, spread sheets, presentations and interoperability between them. Microsoft's problem is that they based all of this development on their operating system. The web browser now allows these same applications to be run free of the operating system and companies like Google have capitalized.
The examples I used in my story about using Google's Docs and Spreadsheets applications are based on Microsoft's standardized document formats. Microsoft became so embedded in people's lives that users started to actively look for ways to get some distance and search was one of those outlets.
Yahoo is the other company that had a chance to be positioned where Google is. Yahoo was, at one point in time, the young, hip forward thinking group of search experts on the net. It seems, however, that Yahoo lost their focus and diversified away from search just as search became the driving force online. Just take a look at Yahoo's home page vs. Google's.
There was a day when I only used Yahoo. They hosted my email and I did all of my searching and shopping in their network of sites. Then the day came when I jumped. Google seemed cooler, more hip, more useful and more focused. Just like that Yahoo was out of my life and the same thing happened for millions of other people as well.
Hopefully Google can learn from the mistakes of others. Adding value is the key to staying relevant in this space. The moment that making money out weighs making your user's lives better, you're days in the leadership position are numbered. Yahoo has made recent surges to keep pace with Google and seems to be getting a little of its Mojo back, but they need to start adding value again. Last week's rumor of Microsoft acquiring Yahoo could have future implications on search as the two company's partner up.
This surely made Google take notice.
Right now Google is moving to acquire more advertising distribution channels as part of a larger plan. Currently their offerings are a little disjointed. You have to place search term buys separately from radio and TV ads. But, you can count on this changing.
Google may even get to the point where they can target your ad buys better than you can. You may just need to tell them what your message is and who you target is and they'll do the rest. Place the ads, integrate tracking, give you real time measurement stats and adjust campaigns on the fly with little outside interaction.
Ads will need to become more fluid, more dynamic. If you can target by geography you may need to create a hole in your ad where Google will plug in the city of the user you're reaching. You can create ads which feed in live weather or traffic data to be more relevant to your customers. The possibilities are endless and Google will enable more advertisers to realize the dream of hyper-targeted advertising.
What about you and me?
Google is absolutely in the driver's seat right now and it's up to them to keep focused and maintain their value proposition to stay there. Through 2005 Yahoo was the clear online leader. In the span of two years that position has changed. Before that a host of other search companies thought they would take the lead. Remember WebCrawler, Infoseek, Lycos, Dogpile, AltaVista and Excite? Those companies had at least a three year head start on Google and most were acquired by Yahoo and other engines. Can you imagine saying to somebody "Just Lycos it"? Doesn't have quite the same ring.
That being said, there is nothing stopping the next Google from coming up and taking over. The next company could come from a range of sources from Yahoo/Microsoft to a yet-to-be-named company currently forming in somebody's garage. That is the fascinating, exhilarating nature of the Internet.
Change is the only constant.
Matt Dickman is an interactive marketing strategist, speaker and technology evangelist working at DigiKnow, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio. His blog, Techno//Marketer (http://technomarketer.typepad.com) explores the convergence of marketing and technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.