In Google We Trust?

What’s Google’s Impact on Your Strategy?

July 7, 2005

Google has become much more than a search engine. Google’s strategy and services will impact your company’s future, whether you pay attention or not! Here’s a look at Google’s current set of functions and features, some thoughts about how they’re likely to impact your business, and some predictions about new functionality from Google that could dramatically change your own business strategy.


What’s high on customer-centric Visionaries’ radar this year? They are concerned about the impact of Google’s strategy on their strategies.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s in-formation and to make it universally useful and accessible. The strategy for achieving that mis-sion involves digitizing, indexing and filtering lots of information—information that is public and free as well as information that is private and protected by copyright. Google wants to make it easy for people to find, access and use information—whether that information is on their desktops, behind their firewalls or out on the Web. Why should you have a Google strategy? Your customers increasingly use Google as the starting point for many of the tasks they undertake in a wide variety of contexts and set-tings.

We predict that Google will play a major role in digital rights management and in creating a de facto standard for pay-per-use of information. It’s also possible that Google will play an in-creasingly important role in consumer and busi-ness retail.


Since 1998, we’ve met twice a year with a hand-picked group of customer-centric visionary business leaders who work in organizations in a wide variety of industries around the world. These are the people whose breakthrough work we chronicle in our books and in our case studies. We call them customer-centric visionaries be-cause unlike other business and technology executives, they invariably put customers’ concerns and issues first in their thinking, in their strategies and in their operations.

Developing a “Google-Strategy”

At our most recent meeting, in June 2005, one somewhat surprising discussion was the role of Google in each company’s strategy. The discussion was spurred as one of our Visionaries, the director of strategic planning for a major publishing organization, sounded an alarm. “Be careful when you dance with Google. They’re a 400-pound gorilla and you may get crushed!”

But before we discuss the potential perils of working with Google strategically, let’s first set some context. Never before, in the 7+ years we’ve been holding our semi-annual Visionaries’ meetings, has a single technology supplier been the focal point for much of the group’s discussion. In the past, members have mentioned particular nifty tools or technologies that they’ve found useful in monitoring and improving the Quality of the Customer Experience they offer to customers. Visionaries have discussed their own technology evolutions and described ways in which they’ve leveraged the use of certain technologies to better understand their customers.  They’ve described the ways in which they use premium search engines on their own Web properties to carefully control the quality and relevance of the search results visitors receive once visitors arrived at their sites.

For the past few years, however, more and more of our Visionaries’ discussion centers around the use of Google and other public search engines to acquire new customers. Visionaries compare notes on search tactics. They pride themselves on their ability to appear within the first ten search results on Google for their most important products and offerings. Each of these companies already has a Google Strategy—a strategy for managing their relationship with Google to acquire and to retain customers.

Using Search Effectively to Acquire Customers

Google, in particular, and public search engines in general, is always a hot topic for sharing best practices. How many people do customer visionaries’ companies use to manage and monitor their search engine placement and keyword purchasing? In most of our visionaries’ companies, at least one full-time person manages the relationships with public search engine suppliers and oversees both the optimization of search placement and the purchase of keyword advertising. “Google-gaming” has become a full-time job.

In fact, given the critical importance of search in driving prospective customers to the right place on each company’s Web sites, we anticipate that companies will be investing more, not less, both in search optimization and in keyword purchases. If you want to compete with our Customer Visionaries in driving traffic to the right places on your Web sites, make sure that you have a dedicated Google Gaming team!

Partnering with Google on Strategic Initiatives

In addition to discussing Google’s search and keywords as a required part of their customer acquisition strategies, several of our Visionaries also had cautionary tales to tell about working with Google on strategic initiatives. Google is by far the most dominant and predictable driver of traffic to companies’ Web sites. Visionaries and strategic planners are therefore open to working with Google as it pilots new services that would be of value to their mutual customers.

Google’s R&D organization consists of hundreds of empowered teams, each working on specialized search for specific collections: geographic search, image search, 3D search, catalog search, apparel search, TV search, movie search, music search, technical search, medical search, people search, and so on. Each of these initiatives starts out as a skunkworks project. The project leaders recruit visionary customers to work closely with the team in order to provide both content and context.

Yet, early reports from these pioneering Visionaries, tell us that working closely with Google can be a dangerous proposition. Before we delve into the specifics of the partnering issues that a few publishers have had with Google, here are some predictions and provocative questions...


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