What’s A Google?

Last month I learned that 96% of the money Google earns is from advertising.

Check out a few more Google Facts in this piece from Mediapost:

Google introduced a new privacy policy last week — and while it is essentially a practical move on its part to simplify more than 60 separate policies into a single, overarching policy, it says a lot about the company Google has become.

Ask anyone to describe Google and they will immediately respond, “It’s a search engine.” While Google still derives a ridiculous amount of revenue from this core product, the company is so much more than its founding product.

The new privacy policy confirms this and, if you read between its lines, shows you just how much Google isn’t “just a search engine” any more.

First and foremost, Google is an ad-serving engine. But it is also a publisher — YouTube, Maps, Picasa, Blogger — and a group of productivity applications, including Email, Calendar and Docs.  And, it is a provider of operating systems and, in a more limited way, hardware (Chromebooks and, soon, Motorola Mobility). Google has unified nearly all its products under a single sign-in governed by a single privacy policy in recognition of these realities.  Just as you sign in once to Facebook or Apple or Amazon to use a full collection of features and products, you now can do the same at Google.

What’s central to the new privacy policy — and the main reason why search marketers and all users of Google’s advertising products should celebrate it — is the fact that Google will use information gleaned from activity in virtually any one of its services by a user to inform how ads will be targeted to that user across all Google services.

In emails and blog posts announcing the new, simplified policy, which goes into effect on March 1of this year, Google says it will use data collected from user activities to personalize its services.

“We can provide more relevant ads,” Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering, said in a blog post. “For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you.”

She goes on to point out that, beyond just better- targeted ads, “We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day.”

In this last example, Google could also serve mobile ads that show you a great restaurant at your destination for lunch or offer coupons for retailers in the area. How could this be anything but good for advertisers, for the consumer, and for Google?

While consumers may not opt out from the new privacy policy, they can choose to log out from Google and use search outside of the logged-in environment. Consumers can also choose to forgo using Google products and services altogether — there are, after all, alternatives to every single Google product or service out there for folks to turn to.

At least two Capitol Hill lawmakers — one on the House side and one on the Senate — are making noises about investigating whether or not this new policy tramples on rights to privacy. Given that Google provides nearly all its services for free and consumers do have a choice of which services they use for search, email, photo sharing, videos and more, I can’t see how Google is doing anything out of the ordinary.

Indeed, Google is transforming itself in a way that’s good for everyone.

Derek Gordon is an independent consultant & partner, Re:Imagine Group. He recently co-authored the eBook “The Link Economy and Why It Matters to Small and Growing Businesses.” Contact him here.

Scott Howard aka ScLoHo has 25+ years of experience in marketing , advertising, media and works directly in the radio and digital world from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Contact him at Scott@ScLoHo.net or 260.255.4357.

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