Is Google Good For Our Business Health
Google dominates our online lives. Fact.
A few more facts:
- In many territories, including the UK, Google now accounts for 80%+ of the search market
- There are a number of international markets where Google has an almost total dominance of the search market, including; the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France, Switzerland, Spain, New Zealand and Australia
- It now accounts for over 95% of the mobile search market worldwide which by 2014 is expected to overtake desktop searches.
- Getting a top rating for Google can transform your business overnight.
This article looks at just how central Google is to how successful our businesses are online. It also asks just how healthy this is and whether it is stifling online business marketing or actually pushing the boundaries.
Every week it seems Google is launching a new service designed, they say, to make our lives easier and help us work better. The latest of which is Google+, essentially an amalgamation of a number of its existing services as well as an attempt to compete head on with Facebook in social networking and Skype in social and business communication.
Like most people in the UK I am a frequent user of Google, through my work desktop and also my iPhone and iPad mobile devices; and on a daily basis also use its maps, mail, Google + and its business tools in managing business listings. And of course there is Adwords…
As a marketer I advocate clients to use its service and products but largely this is because of an ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ rationale.
Google is not free. Users may access its services at no cost but it is important to understand that last year Google took almost $30bn in revenue and kept $18.9bn in profits, nearly all from advertising.
Adwords, its search ‘sponsored’ advertising product and by far the market leader by virtue of its organic search dominance, is its major revenue generator, accounting for around 90% of its income.
It is common to hear many small businesses just use Google Adwords as their sole advertising strategy, spending anything from £10 to £1,000 a day. Often sites that have strong conversion rates can simply dictate the sales levels of their business through their daily spend. But prices are increasing with the popularity of the product.
Seemingly its supply and demand auction model actually sees a pretty consistent upward trend in costs per click to advertisers. Personally, I have never seen a cost per click decrease in over 5 years and this week saw an estimated Adwords cost per click at £44.50. In its infancy costs per click were, on average, a handful of pence. Yet today Adwords is still a cost effective marketing spend even at 50p+ per click – compared with traditional advertising hitting a broad market; without guarantee of being viewed by a potential customer you only pay for those, ideally targeted searchers, who click on your advert.
Google started life as a purely consumer focused service but today critics and purists say it has become more and more advertiser focused and is arguably not the best search engine for useful or, ‘the holy grail’, the most relevant results. Google is now a truly colossal corporation and has shareholders to satisfy, so can you blame them? – we all have to make a profit!
Marketers such as Think are constantly looking for better value alternatives to Adwords but this can vary from market to market we work in. Quite often it’s hard to justify moving focus to new entrants or asking clients to offer more budget at more creative solutions. Its greatest advantage is that Adwords is quantifiable and accountable. Pay Per Click also has the advantages of being able to quickly increase or decrease activity, focus geographically or demographically, or even target by device -these are hard to dismiss even as the cost per click rate increases.
Arguably what we need is competition to help provide alternative routes to market as well as impact the cost of Google’s Adwords.
There is an argument to say Google is about to peak. Perhaps even they are going to find it impossible to strengthen their grip on the search market. It is after all human nature to knock the leader and they become a natural target for criticism, some may say jealousy.
In North America Google is slipping rather than improving, so are we seeing them slip into the model of a colossal corporate which is slow to move and innovate and where perhaps the best creative brains are drawn away from in search of ‘the next big thing’. Perhaps at that point we will see that new entrant to re-influence how we navigate what the web has to offer.
In my opinion, the question of whether Google’s dominance has helped push web marketing, in hindsight, is arguable as nearly all of its services were provided first or are also provided by other companies. Unlike tech giant firms like Apple is Google helping push digital boundaries or is its brand and financial might a huge barrier to entry for innovative start-ups? Critics say should any real competitors crop up Google has the power, and has demonstrated the will, to swallow them up.
Whether or not Google is the best search engine you cannot hide from the figures which prove its current increasing popularity and dominance around the world.
Currently we are all dancing to its tune and with their wealth, and polarising of silicon valley talent for new innovation drive, you have to wonder whether that dominance will actually waiver in the coming years. I am not sure we have seen anything so mighty as Google yet. Can Facebook impact Google’s business with its increasing focus on content aggregation and linking? Can Microsoft fight back with Bing or through its OS and software market share? Can Apple start to make an impact into search through its dominance in the mobile devices market? Can an MIT graduate like Drew Houston (DropBox Story – http://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriabarret/2011/10/18/dropbox-the-inside-story-of-techs-hottest-startup/) come up with something revolutionary nobody else has conceived and yet is so intuitive and in tune with our online lives we can’t live or work without it? Whatever the answer for now and at least a few years ahead Google dominates our online marketing agenda and plans.