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Google's Caffeine -- They've Gotta Learn About Marketing

Google is one of those companies that markets by use. It gets more ad dollar share because people use the search engine more than others. Pretty simple, and helps control costs. But although that has worked in the core business, the company has assumed that it will work the same way in everything, including its "new" search engine version, code-named Caffeine. Hate to point it out this harshly, but in terms of promoting a supposedly improved version of its core service, Caffeine is a snooze.

There may be something significant going on, but danged if I can figure out what it is. On the surface, the new Google looks like the old Google. But when you search for something ... it still largely seems like the old Google, There's some shift of what appears at the top (How many people go past, say, the second page of results?), but if you're searching for something, you're not necessarily going to notice the difference.

I tried a search on both old and new versions for Tristan Tzara, one of the co-founders of the Dada art movement. Was one of the results notably better than the other? If I knew enough to give a definitive answer, I'd probably not be doing this search in the first place. Now, I think there is a bit of genius at work in the simple layout of the Google search page. Who wants the feeling of a cluttered screen when you're trying to find something? I suspect that might be a larger-than-you'd-think reason why Google pulled ahead of Yahoo. When the screen is filled, it feels like you're trying to find something in a cluttered office. And it's bad enough that my physical surroundings are messy. Why put up with virtual oppression?

Maybe Google is only interested in feedback. But when it comes to new products and versions, everything becomes marketing, and this is a company that isn't good at it. They tried to come up with a browser, attracted curiosity users in the first week, and never moved beyond that market share. The "build it and they will come" mentality did so badly on Google Apps that the company is actually taking out billboard ads to try attracting users. When you boast 1.5 million businesses, meaning multiple more users, but only a few hundred thousand actually paying, the law of attraction clearly isn't working for you.

In general, Google has to start doing better selling people. The "do no evil" image has been tarnished, regulators are swarming over the company like freeloaders at an open bar party, and the business is still completely and utterly dependent on search advertising revenue which, while still large, is still a point of strategic weakness. And by releasing the "improved" version of its commercially most important offering without anything that looks different is to dangerously minimize keeping customers happy, or at least interested.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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