All roads lead to Google
All roads lead to Google
What Would Google Do? is a book by Jeff Jarvis (1954), an American journalist, associate professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, author, and media company consultant. In his first book, What Would Google Do? (2009), he explains the revolutionary business of the tech giant that over 90% of today’s internet users utilize. The goal of this essay is to focus on the business model, economies, and tips, which at first might not seem directly connected to the topic of money, but prove to game-changing in Google, answering a rather similar question on the book cover- how does Google do it?
Firstly, to get deeper into this topic, we need to understand what business Google is. One of the aspects to be looked at is Google’s model of thinking. When asked “what does Google sell?”, the first thing to come into mind for many of its users (including me) is the search engine that satisfies the need for fast and precise answers. However, the search engine is just the means of gathering an audience for their real customers- pages, which use Google Ads. For example, every time a person with a need of an answer “googles” something, the top pages shown to the user have usually paid to be there, and with every click made, Google gets more money.
It is a search business, but it doesn’t profit from licensing its search. It is a service business, allowing us to send e-mails and make presentations, however, it doesn’t charge its users for that either. So, what is Google’s business? It might seem that Google is the one to have all the answers to its users’ questions, however, it is only involved in the organizational side of the content. It doesn’t own any of the information published, but it knows our habits, activity, and interests, thus understanding how to efficiently target ads. Google is an organization and knowledge business, which, simply put, makes most of its revenue from advertising.
Secondly, we need to understand what base economies Google uses, to deliver its proposition value and make a profit.
One of its strategies is abundance-based content economy. I found it personally interesting to compare last century’s dominating media- prints- with these days’ digital media way of thinking. Back in the day, newspapers and magazines had a hold on most of the information, hence the one they offered, the one its reader got a hold on. Printed media were developed on a scarcity-based content economy, which means that the main information businesses had a hold on most of the information, therefore controlling its flow, accessibility, as well as pricing. The power of media was centralized. What Google does is the exact contrary- it releases the information into the digital world and distributes it wherever possible. It focuses on abundance, rather than the scarcity-based content economy. Google users have all of the information and tools necessary, and Google trusts them on creating valuable content in return. By analyzing clicks, links, and shares, Google evaluates the “google juice”- how trustable, precise, shared and understandable the information is- of each page, thus getting even better at organizing the information flow and creating more specific and efficient suggestions.
Equally important to being kept in mind is the gift economy– the management of customer ideas and involvement. Every customer usually has at least one idea on how to improve some aspect of a business, and they are most probably willing to share this idea for free. The only thing left for businesses to do is to listen and apply their suggestions in real life. The gift economy raises customer satisfaction, that way reassuring the users to keep on utilizing Google services, as well as gives the company a free source of ideas. Gift economy lies in both parties gaining good by contributing a part- Google users share their ideas on improving the service, and Google listens by updating its business in more efficient ways.
In effect, this economy goes into hand with one of the tips I found very useful when focusing on improvement and innovation- your worst customer is your best friend. In this case, the worst customer is seen as a client who isn’t satisfied with the company’s product/service. In fact, the worst customer is more than unpleased- that person is ready to voice their bad experience. And though it might seem like a seller’s worst nightmare, the company has to be smart about this and use this customer as a base for improvement. An unsatisfied customer who speaks up will most definitely have many ideas on how to improve- listen to them and make the most out of this situation! Make this customer your best friend, because if you can make this person happy, that’s a good sign of the overall situation in customer service and free-idea generation.
Google puts a major emphasis on internal innovation, as well. The 20 percent rule shows how innovation isn’t something to do in one’s spare time if there even is a time like that. Google devotes 20 percent of their employees’ time for them to get creative, that way creating the culture of innovation in their business- finding new ways to deliver the services and communicate with customers in these ever-changing times is always an important aspect to keep in mind, that’s why Google enables everyone to feel free to generate and share those viewpoints.
Another suggestion to keep in mind is the “small is the new big” focus. As Lary Page, co-founder of Google, once said: “Small groups of people can have a really huge impact.” That is exactly what Google does- targeting huge, one-solution-fits-all masses isn’t working anymore, so they focus on the individual needs- niche markets. Every community has a place or at least a chance to create one online, and Google is there to help people satisfy their specific needs by organizing all the information flow efficiently and giving them tools to do the rest themselves. The target audience of Google isn’t its main customers, but the audience those customers want to have. They focus on the consumer (users of Google for free), as well as the customer (in ad services).
By targeting niches, Google collects a very dense traffic to provide the advertisers with, which allows collecting data, as well. Although Google has promised to not sell any of its users’ data to third parties, small niche communities still allow to look deeper into the users’ mind map while being online, which helps in building even more precise tools and ads: “The data of individuals is the wisdom of crowds.”
In conclusion, enabling others– that is Google’s way of opening channels and possibilities for them to be so reachable, it’s almost hard to avoid. Although this essay doesn’t directly focus on the financial aspect of Google, I believe the learnings from this book enable Google and many other companies to do better money-wise, as well. The base economies and business tips covered previously have resulted in one of the biggest tech giants out there- that’s how all roads lead to Google.
Jarvis J. 2009. What Would Google Do?