In a progress report after a year in the CEO chair, Google co-founder Larry Page takes a shot at critics who say the company's best days are behind it.
Google search is far and away a top channel for Internet marketing, so a statement of strategic intent by Google is a big deal for CMOs. Let's dive in and see what Page had to say:
Page's letter, posted to the Google investors page, doesn't say a word about the company's critics. It's entirely upbeat. But the letter just so happens to address the main points that skeptics take the company to task on, starting with Google+.
Page said Google+ has well over 100 million active users. That's a different story from critics who call it a "virtual ghost town." Leading the skeptics: A recent comScore study said the average Google+ user spends three minutes per month on the site (a study I find simply unbelievable based on the level of activity that I see in my stream daily).
Page took an opportunity to reiterate Google's strategic direction for Google+: One purpose is to make it easy for people to share content and recommendations on the Internet
When you find a great article, you want to share that knowledge with people who will find it interesting, too. If you see a great movie, you want to recommend it to friends. Google+ makes sharing super easy by creating a social layer across all our products so users connect with the people who matter to them.
Page is being obtuse here. Before Google+, "Sharing was working fine and dandy, Google just wasn’t part of it," carped disgruntled ex-Google engineer James Whittaker after leaving Google.
Even without Google+, it's plenty easy for people to share content -- including favorite products and marketing information -- on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, and a thousand other social networks.
But it's also easy and fun to share on Google+, and (contrary to comScore) people do a lot of it.
Another goal for Google+ is to use it to bind all of Google's products together. The company has done more than 120 Google+ integrations, including Search, YouTube, and Android.
Marketers need to bring their brands to Google+, if they haven't done so already. We talked about Google's apparent strategy for Google+, and what it means for brands: What the Future Google+ Will Mean for Brands.
Page stated Google's strategy on search, most of which has been discussed before. "Today, most search results are generic, so two strangers sitting next to each other in a café will get very similar answers," the CEO said. Yet people are different. Page said that with his computer science background, information he needs won't be helpful to a relative novice, and vice-versa. "If you’re searching for a particular person, you want the results for that person -- not everyone else with the same name. These are hard problems to solve without knowing your identity, your interests, or the people you care about."
Google is personalizing search.
This is a huge and important change, and there’s a ton more work to do. But this kind of next-generation search in which Google understands real-world entities -- things, not strings -- will help improve our results in exciting new ways. It’s about building genuine knowledge into our search engine.
Personalized search makes search marketing harder. Until now, search marketers made sure their brands came up high in results on search terms important to the brand. Clothing retailers wanted to come up high on searches for "jeans," airlines on searches for "plane tickets." Now, search marketers need to worry about search terms and also demographics, making sure their brands come up high in searches executed by their target customers for their key search terms. JCPenney's doesn't just want to come up high in searches on "clothes," it wants to particularly focus on value-conscious Moms.
Google is moving answers to its search page, rather than pointers to pages where you can find answers. Type "movies" or "weather" into Google, and you get movie times and weather forecasts on the search page, rather than links to movie and weather sites. Google purchased ITA Software to do the same with airline schedules, and it's experimenting with Hotel Finder for comparing prices and booking rooms directly from the hotel page.
If Google does the same with your industry, you want to be sure that your brand gets top billing in the new results.
Page described how Google is integrating commerce into its Android phones, allowing consumers to find businesses on the Maps app and pay using Google Wallet. The CEO also described momentum behind Android: more than 850,000 devices activated daily.
The CMO Site talked about Google's mobile strategy earlier this week: Hollywood Leads at 'Four Screen' Marketing, Google Says.
Page addressed skeptics about Google's big bets by noting past big bets that drew skepticism, but proved successful: the Chrome browser, Gmail, the YouTube acquisition, and even search itself (when Google launched, the common wisdom was that search was a solved problem and no new search engine had a chance at success).
Google+ critics, are you listening?
There's a lot more to the letter; the whole thing is worth reading: "2012 Update from the CEO."
What do you think? Will Google continue to be a powerful platform for marketers, or are its best days behind it?
Google+: The Liveliest 'Virtual Ghost Town' on the Internet
Hollywood Leads at 'Four Screen' Marketing, Google Says
What the Future Google+ Will Mean for Brands