Becoming Google – The ‘How’
The path and process we’ve witnessed Google undertake over the past decade or so has been nothing short of astounding. Continuing the three-part series “Becoming Google” we address the topic of HOW Google has become what we see today.
Publicly, Google touts the relevance of the results its algorithm returns to searchers as the driver of success. And it’s true – internet searchers continue to search with Google because it reliably provides relevant results. What does relevant mean?
If you’re looking for pizza restaurants in your area, Google will show you a map nearby pizza restaurants with reviews and photos. If you’re looking for a pizza recipe, Google will do away with the map and show you a list of recipe sites and blogs. That may sound simple enough, but it is actually quite the opposite.
Think about it:
- You type a word or phrase into an input field
- A collection of 0’s and 1’s organized into lines of code and logic patterns (Google’s algorithm) analyzes the words you entered
- The algorithm somehow grasps the context surrounding the words you entered
- You are returned a set of results
- Those results contain exactly what you were looking for with amazing consistency
When you break it down to the binary source of all internet life, it really is quite remarkable to think how far we’ve come in training the 0’s and 1’s to give us what we want. The cool part? It’s going to get much more relevant.
You see, Google has pretty much mastered the task of catering search results to the searcher’s geographic location. Catering search results to shopping habits, social preferences and interests however, is still being pioneered. In the coming years, internet searchers will be receiving results personalized on the basis of geography, psychology, sociology and any other anthropologic data set which will help deliver what a user expects.
In Google’s short history, it has displayed a remarkable capacity for timing, accurate guesses and improvement on existing technologies. The algorithm is the best example of this, though it is surely not the only one. After observing a few search engines and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, Google produced an amazing algorithm which blew everybody out of the water in not much time at all.
Likewise, there was a time in the not-too-distant past in which the likes of Juno, AOL and Hotmail ruled the email world. In fact, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan made a movie whose title was based on AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail.” Since then, however, the email landscape has shifted significantly. In the late 1990’s, Google took the best pieces of each of the top email platforms and created Gmail – which now enjoys a very comfortable lead over its closest competitor.
Remember MapQuest? What ever happened to it? Google Maps happened. With a much improved user interface and more accurate directions, Google Maps was a breath of fresh air for frustrated MapQuesters. Google is currently in the process of rolling out a completely revamped Maps platform which is it is touting as “A map that gets better with use.” Stay tuned though – in light of the recent acquisition of the social mapping app Waze, even more improvements are sure to follow.
The point here is that Google will rarely (if ever) invent and build a product from the ground-up. Why take the risk with completely untested ideas when you can improve upon and sell something that already exists?
Lots of Cash
If you’re starting to get nauseous from all the Google worshipping, don’t worry. While it’s true Google has done very well for itself, it has also had its share of blunders. Well documented are the poor investments and failed product launches. So, how does a company that has failed so many times remain so far above the rest of the pack?
Monies. Billions of them. $48 billions of them. Yes, it’s true that Microsoft (the creator of Bing) is sitting on $20 billion more in cash. But Microsoft’s roots are in software licensing which comes with packaging, manufacturing and shipping costs. Google’s avoidance of manufacturing facilities and other similarly enormous capital investments allows them to spend more on experiments.
Because Google’s algorithm has amassed the largest pool of consumers eagerly searching for things to buy, the revenue from AdWords provides ample play money. To give you an idea, Google’s total advertising revenues in 2010 were $28 billion. In 2012 that number grew to $42 billion.
So, while AdWords is writing the checks, the rest of Google can play around with augmented reality (Google Glass) and self-driving cars.
A while back I interviewed for a job at a digital marketing agency. There were two individuals probing into my professional credentials, trying to decide if I was a worthwhile investment. Having recently graduated from college, I was definitely lacking in experience but very eager. Luckily for me, the individual who ultimately made the decision said, “I can see that you ‘get it’.” Naturally, at that point I knew that I was hired. I still had/have much to learn but, like many of my peers, my brain is wired for a digital, hyper-local world.
You might say that Google “gets it”. It understands that when I type “plumber” into the search bar, I not only expect to find a plumber near me, but a reputable, trustworthy plumber. It understands that Google Voice may not ever be an apples-to-apples competitor with Verizon. But the voicemail transcription service offered by Google Voice is surely helping to improve its voice recognition technology. Google understands that driving a car is really annoying and really dangerous. Seeing self-driving cars as the future of transportation, of course Maps technologies and voice recognition technologies are a must!
The genius here is that Google is creating human infrastructure as well as technological infrastructure. While using us to crowd-source its research and development, Google is also constantly reinforcing their own importance in our lives. Google apparently understood very early that email would be the new milk and eggs that kept us coming to the grocery store. The amazing growth of Google+ is largely due to an already enormous base of Gmail users. The same goes for Google Calendar, Google Drive and a host of others Google products.
Google understood that the internet changed consumer behavior and marketing strategy. They proved this understanding when they publicized and promoted their Zero Moment of Truth theory. With ZMOT as their guiding principle, Google is leading the transformation of marketing strategy and consumer behavior.
I hope you’ve been taking notes, because it’s not over yet. With a foundation of relevance, patient understanding can bring you lots of cash.