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Google's stated mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful".

The genius of this statement is that it sounds quite innocuous, indeed philanthropic, despite its obvious grand ambition, but actually allows pretty much anything within its scope.

It is interesting to see just how much of the online customer journey (from search, to research, to purchase) Google is taking hold of. Will we all end up as "wholesalers" to Google's customers?

There are all sorts of variations on the marketing funnel or customer purchase cycle. For example, there's "AIDA" (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).

Online we certainly know that people search for things (most purchases online start with search); people research products and services online (using product/price comparison, reviews and ratings etc.); and they buy them online.

In the AIDA model online, attention might be driven by an online ad or an article perhaps, interest would be indicated via search, desire would be elicited following research and action would be the last click and purchase.

I think it has been long assumed that the role that a search engine like Google plays in all this is to help relevant customers find your site – you may already have won their attention and they want to find you; or perhaps you can get their attention using paid search ads.

But it's intriguing to see just how far along the customer journey Google is now going.

Let's assume that a company has managed to pique your Attention (via a Doubleclick - aka Google - served ad)...

You do a search to find out more. And let's face it, we all know search is actually used as a navigational tool as much as it is to actually *search*.

Below is a screengrab showing the search results for 'flowers in Hertford'. The top 'natural search' result, as you can see, is actually a load of listings from Google Local. (and note the Google Checkout icon on the Serenata Flowers paid ad - more of that later).

Flowers in Hertford Google Search  

This is fair enough perhaps? It's helped get rid of the affiliates who were polluting such natural search results.

But it's starting to go further.

Have a look at below which shows the Argos natural search listings - top of Google for a search on 'Argos' as you'd expect. Except now there is a site search feature there. However, the search results you get are still within Google, not on the Argos site.

Argos search on Google

...which is great for Google as it gets a load more page impressions (and therefore can serve more ads).

Not sure how happy I would be if were a retailer who had spent a lot of money on my own site search to return results the way I (rather than Google) wanted to. Then again, they are showing, and linking to, my product sub-categories, and they are Google, so who am I to complain?

And how about the one below. This is a search on 'flights london to new york'. The top 'natural search' result is actually more like a price comparison tool built directly into the search result itself. 
 Flights from London to New York Google search

Imagine this:

  • You are using Doubleclick/Google to do your advertising to drive attention/demand (and if you own a site, of course you're using Google's recently announced free ad serving platform, Google 'Ad Manager')
  • You use Google Adwords to drive traffic to your site when people search following exposure to your (Google-served) ads
  • You use Google Site Search on your site to help people find things
  • And you use Google Optimiser and Google Analytics to help boost conversion rates
  • And Google Checkout to help 'your' customers pay (which, incidentally, helped your Google paid search ads perform better, for less money, in the first place)
  • And all hosted on the Google Apps platform using Google tools like Google Page Creator to actually create and manage your site...

In fact, do 'your' customers ever really need to leave Google world? Google already owns the start of pretty much all customer journeys online, so, in the name of making the rest of the information journey more 'useful', why shouldn't it deliver the rest of it as well?

And when all your competitors are tooled up with Google, so Google also has a perfect view of your market place, and they roll out PPA (Pay Per Action) then at the beginning of each year/season we can all just agree with Google how many customers they will give us, at what price, and then all we need to do is sort out the fulfilment, delivery and customer service.

Ok, I'm pushing things to make a point, but it will be interesting to see how far Google goes.

I'm not even necessarily against Google doing this - it might just be something we all have to live with and adjust our business models accordingly?


Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein

Published 15 March, 2008 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

86 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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James Vinall

We all loved Google when they first appeared as we got pure search results, unsullied by paid priority content on Exite, UKplus and Yahoo. All the search engines have made sure we now see whatever highest bidder has paid them to put in our faces. The balance for consumers of wading through paid content before getting to what they really want is coming down on the side of avarice as usual.
Search engines facilitate the deepest corporate pockets to get first eyeball for their products and services at the expense of the long tail of the web. Disenfranchised local businesses of the Google era see no value in key word, ad-words or banner-ad internet advertising. They need another location based services platform to compete for their nearby, highly valued customers with a more effective, low cost, location-targeted model.

Search has to become much relevant, and location based to cut out all the chaff

It is possible to have a local interactive, e-commerce version of “Yellow Pages” over wireless networks where we only get results from a specific area without needing the internet and Search Engine opportunistic “pushed content”.

You have to approach the internet like a logistics company, where it is much more efficient to store goods closest to the people who want it. The internet distributes information out from the middle to the users on the edge of the network, which requires “big roads” to transport all that data traffic. The critical factor is to deliver data highly relevant to the user within the parameters of time, space, location and profile. What if we turn the internet “inside-out” by pre-positioning the data people want in their area at the edge of the network within cached memory inside local street side WiFi transceivers. Users can have access to virtually unlimited information on the products and services of local enterprises and the community through a wireless device without necessarily going on to the internet.

Information, entertainment and communication can all be conducted in the wireless transceivers at the edge of the network closest to the end user instead of embarking on a long trip around the internet. All of these wireless caching transceivers can be linked into a common global network for entertainment, interaction, location specific search and content discovery.

These wireless transceivers are ultimately scalable as they can distribute global content locally and also send local content out to the world. This would be a wireless location-based services platform to enable the “arterial” mobile operators to get right into the “capillaries” of focused local delivery.

If you cache relevant, local data right next to the consumer, they only take a short journey and don't need Google to do it.

over 8 years ago


Tomasz Gawlak

It is quite interesting point of view, James presented. Sort of a 'hardware solution'.

I'd like to present in just a few words another aproach to consider as an alternative to google hegemony. If f.ex. you are a florist from Hertford you can 'omit' google by building your 'website address awareness' (like brand awareness) among local society. How to do it?
1. Utilizing ROS display campaigns on the most popular portal in the local area.
2. Clearly and firmly exposing your address 'SerenataFlowers.com' on your banner.
3. Making alliance with the owner of the portal against google - promising constant advertising exposure on the portal (constant income for the owner of the portal) negotiate the maximum lowest cpm.
4. Track and measure both post-click and post-view sales of your display campaings.

In the long term you can achieve people (both customers and future customers) typing your address in the browser instead of the google search box
and independency from google.

I know, it is not the reach-exactly-targeted-audience-in-the-time-where-it-is-searching-for-the-product-and-pay-only-for-clicks type of thinking but in the end when you compare your marketing expenditures vs sales income, believe me, it can be worth it to look for alternatives to google.

over 8 years ago


Julian Baring

The point raised about people using Google Analytics as a free tool to measure conversions on their site is one that surprises me the most. To my mind a good website analytics package provides the most valuable insights into marketing equation because it truly links the return part of “ROI” to the investment in marketing activities to drive traffic to a conversion of any sort.

When taking the Google Analytics package – websites that invest in driving traffic the myriad of ways to their site, are giving Google insight into exactly what the relative value of that traffic is worth. Is it such a stretch to imagine a situation where Google uses variable pricing methods for inventory that match precisely the relative value of the traffic to a website or individual?

As the economist Milton Friedman famously said "there is no free lunch."

over 8 years ago



The article is well written and makes some good points. However, when it comes to converting web traffic at the point of sale online, we have an incredible body of evidence to support that just implementing technology like Google Optimizer or Google Analytics will hardly boost conversion rates.

In fact, most of our prospective customers didn't even know what their cart traffic or abandonment rates were when we first started talking with them, and even if they did know, they either had no idea or a million ideas as to how to improve conversion rates and couldn't figure out which direction to go.

It seems for some businesses if you put a gold solution on a silver platter in front of them it seems they still procrastinate taking any action despite how quickly we can deploy our infrastructure to begin delivering revenue to them.

In our experience and opinion, technology is not going to improve conversions. It's going to be good old fashioned selling that will improve conversions and that's why we believe (as do our partners now enjoying new revenue where there previously was none) we are on the right track.

Technology will facilitate the connection between customers and sales people, and it will help sales people pre-qualify prospects, but technology alone really cannot itself improve conversion. We think companies like ours hold the power when it comes to technology that can make selling more efficient and effective. For example, our chat rules engine constantly gets more sophisticated so our sales reps time can be spent on the most qualified prospects possible. The more we can deploy 'self-managing' technology solutions like this, the more we can deliver winning technology pieces.

As for what or how we can integrate with Google, we have made the decision to being technology agnostic as much as possible and supporting whatever technology our partners currently use now or want to use in the future.

Because of this, we are increasingly familiar with most of the analytics landscape today: Webtrends, Omniture, WebSide Story, Google Analytics, etc. Google's analytics solution is not as sophisticated as some. It lacks some critical cross reporting features such as identifying what sources of traffic are converting. It also does not offer an API at this time to allow anyone to extend or integrate with it.

We think the best element we can leverage from Google is the referring search terms and use our chat platforms capabilities to launch targeted chat invitations to inbound traffic from certain origins or search terms.

Now that's smart.

We believe Google's priority will continue to be driving traffic to sites and getting paid to do so, it should be our job to enable the connection between the most qualified prospects and the right sales people.

That's where we come in and do the REAL selling.

over 8 years ago



Google's overiding USP and why it can facilitate some of the methods mentioned in the article is everyone's over riding "trust" in itself. People know Google deliver the most relevant search results so everyone uses Google. I have asked many people to check my organic rankings in other locations. When they tell me I'm number 4, they really mean number one, as they are unaware that the top three results are paid for listings.

Why else the Google checkout ads get higher CTR than ads without the logo in them?

Users also believe that entering the flight departure dates in Google *will* give them the best deal on their flights because they trust Google's accuracy.

over 8 years ago


Paul Blunden

Interesting observation but I think it is just a natural consequence of business evolution. Power currently sits with Google and that power will increase for a while. Prior to Google it was superstores like Tesco and Walmart and prior to that it was the brands themselves that held the power. Access to information has driven the evolution and Google is riding the current wave. I predict they will be disintermediated themselves and that power will eventually reside with the consumer.

about 8 years ago

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