Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Rob Griffin, Havas Digital

Rob Griffin
SVP, Global Director of Search and North American Director of Analytics
Havas Digital

Which of my lessons resonates with you the most and why?

What resonates most with me is #10 Let the data decide and #20 Don’t rely on search engine marketing alone (as an advertiser).

What makes Google such a unique company? Why has it been so successful?

Google is such a unique company because they were at the right place at the right time with the right product. At a time when search rules that dictated rank were overly transparent, advertisers were able to bid jack and do other manipulative things to game the system. Google created a platform that, while it took away some transparency (we all only guess at the various weights within the algorithm), it increased relevancy to the searcher and did so with an enhanced focus on searching which brought about simplicity. Combined, this created user adoption and advertiser value.

The trick will be what they do moving forward because to diversify beyond AdWords and AdSense they need to change industries and make lightening strike twice. They might well learn a thing or two from Steve Jobs who has proven he knows how to make lightening strike more than once.

Do you have any case studies you can share from clients that used PPC [pay-per-click] and SEO [search engine optimization] together to create a 1+1 = 3 effect? Why is it so important to own as much of the SERP [search engine results page] as you can?

At Havas, we have seen time and again that the fundamental pay out of combined SEO and PPC efforts is the theory that rising tides lifts all ships. By using our proprietary database, Artemis, we have seen across a variety of top verticals, from travel to finance, that conversion metrics for sponsored and natural search trend in sync.

Most recently we did this for a financial services firm with a nine-month study. The math proved out [to the point] where a drop in sponsored search budgets reduced conversions from natural search. What is nice about these studies is it quantifies what we qualitatively already knew. There are plenty of studies in the market that show the speed of which you can optimize and test sponsored search, [combined with] the trust factor of natural search, benefits the other [sponsored or natural] throughout the entire searcher’s journey from discovering what they are interested in, to researching their refined interests, and then acquiring what they want.

What do you think of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto? What do you think of brands in general that try to sell their altruism?

Alright I get it, Google is trying to do right by their consumer user-base, but let’s be honest — their revolutionary algorithm and shift to an auctioned CPC [cost per click] from a CPM [cost per thousand] model equated to paying a premium CPM anyway in most cases.

This pans out when you see various verticals with super high CPCs. An eMarketer study that came out in 2008 showed that outside the top 4 or 5 verticals, CPCs on Google have remained flat. Google is able to pinpoint top spending verticals and affect minimums to play ball and as such SEM is no longer for the small guy to fight nose to nose with the big guy.

SEM is becoming the land of big budgets and big spenders. Google was directly involved with creating this. Now was this evil? Depends on your point of view. They certainly created value to a consumer, but [at the same time] created a business-to-business machine where advertisers and brands have to pay for that. This is why Gogole has become the darling of the consumer world, beloved by Wall Street, and hated by many that have to do business with them. Smell like AOL of 1999 anyone?

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