Have you used the Google search engine lately and seen more content than you expected on your first screen? I recently Googled (yes, it’s a verb) seeking hotels in Prague’s city center and saw the expected Expedia ad at the very top but a lot more on that same initial screen. It’s Google-driven content and it is creating a bit of uncertainty in a marketing environment where search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming a key component in integrated marketing communications programs.
Google was invented as the best tool to bring you to the most popular and useful sites and it has worked beautifully, making Google one of the most valuable companies in the USA. Trouble is, things are changing and the PC, which has helped to build Google into a powerhouse, is no longer the device of choice. It is the smartphone, and users just don’t surf the web on the smaller screens on their phones as much as they use apps to get specifically want that want. That makes Google search related advertising less attractive and less profitable. Hence the transition to more Google driven content. Most web experts will tell you that in today’s environment, it is all about the content. It is your only differentiator.
The trouble is, some of Google’s best customers are being affected the most. Expedia is one. When you compete with your largest customers, something has to give. When you own a large stake in Uber and your customers might include similar car-hailing services such as Lyft or Sidecar then the conflict becomes even more challenging.
Rolfe Winkler of the Wall St. Journal wrote an interesting piece on just what this means to Google, its advertisers and users of Google services. You can read it here on the WSJ subscription site.