Monday, December 8, 2014

Are we too reliant upon Google?

In my posting at the beginning of this year I wrote Never bet against Google in 2014, I explained that despite the search giant’s mantra of “Don’t be evil”, its very size and might in the online world meant it was highly disruptive in anything it did.

I also stated that:
What this means is that betting against Google in anything it decides to do is an unwise move. 
A year on I still stand by this comment and furthermore have started to ask myself the question of whether digital marketing and online business as a whole has now become too dependent upon Google.

To paint the picture of its huge role, here’s some typical examples of its use in my life:

  1. Search
    The current industry figures state that Google has an approximately 90% share of the search market in the UK. For me, that’s a lot closer to 100%.
  2. Gmail
    Now the biggest global email service, I use Gmail for all my work emails. 
  3. Android
    The open source mobile operating system runs my phone and integrates with my Gmail, calendar and contacts.
  4. Analytics
    This free service helps my consultancy’s clients (and me) track a range of visitor, usage and conversion statistics. Even to the point of being able to provide inferred insight about user demographics and preferences.
  5. AdWords
    Provides a (mostly) cost effective means of raising awareness, building traffic and re-marketing to your target audience. If someone is searching for something, then it stands to reason that they might be receptive to seeing an advert about something associated with that term. The fact that advertisers only pay when a prospect clicks on an ad means it is possible to quickly identify interest, track budgets and optimise promotions to get the best ‘bang for your buck’.
  6. Maps
    I use this service more than I initially realised. From looking up locations, to finding directions on my mobile phone and also as when used as a ‘mash up’ (when a map is integrated with other data services) on any number of other sites, such as a store locator on a multichannel retailer’s site. I bet most of us use Google Maps a fair bit more than we realise.

Overall for me there is one reason why I have adopted these products … it is because they are so useful. And therefore any new entrant to any of the areas that Google has a dominance in will not just have to provide them for free (obviously with the exception of AdWords, which is free to the person clicking on the ads, but costs the advertiser) but will have to provide a better user experience somehow…

But all these services have not just become second-nature in my use of them, they have also pushed out other products or services (anyone remember: Freeserve, PalmOS, mapquest.com , etc ?). The list of dotcom and technology casualties caused by ‘The Big G’ are proof that this company doesn't just enter a sector, it tends to own it… with perhaps the exception of Social Media, which Google has never really cracked, despite the different tools it has released over the last few years. Orkut, Waves and even G+ haven’t really reached the tipping point that they were hoped to achieve, despite being popular in specific user groups or even countries.

So are we really too reliant upon Google now?

In my opinion we are. However, I personally don’t have a problem with this right now, because on top of the usefulness argument:

  • I don’t have to pay for a lot of things I would have done I the past
  • The products and services provided work (the robustness of their service is only noticeable when there is very seldom outage)
  • They work at scale (10 Million visits a day is the current free limit in Google Analytics. A figure only breached by the biggest of sites)

And based on these factors… I’m happy to be a reliant and supportive customer.
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