9. Follow the law of averages at your own peril. This one was sparked by David Gould of Resolution Media, who responded to my very first column in this series with this quip: "How about the 'Law of Averages.' Build and market enough 'stuff' and some of it is bound to succeed."
Google is certainly the poster child for building lots of "stuff." I think had Mr. Gould not been commenting in a public forum, he might've used the old saying, "Throw enough crap against the wall and some of it's bound to stick." However crass you want to be, the point remains that Google bested its rivals in search largely due to its willingness to experiment and its quick product release cycle.
Per Wikipedia, "As invoked in everyday life, the 'law [of averages]' usually reflects bad statistics or wishful thinking rather than any mathematical principle... For example, 'The roulette wheel has landed on red three consecutive times. The law of averages says it's due to land on black!' Of course, the wheel has no memory and its probabilities do not change according to past results."
Now, I can tell you with certainly that the law of averages can be very misleading, especially as it pertains to roulette. I once had my "doubling theorem" blown up by five consecutive red spins before reaching table max and then the next two spins immediately following. (Oy, how I wish I'd never seen "Passenger 57"!)
There's another famous quote that's applicable here: "Live by the sword. Die by the sword." Google has fallen flat in almost every area outside of search. Silicon Alley Insider nicely chronicles the various Google products that have come and gone over the years.
One company that's proven to respect the law of averages without swallowing its sword is Zappos. While it has expanded outside its sole (pun sadly intended) original offering, Zappos hasn't strayed from e-commerce, where it's able to put its "WOW philosophy" of customer service to good use.
10. Find your golden goose, then give away the farm. In looking at all the various investments Google's made over the years in product development (and even PR and public policy), there's one common theme: Google is relentless in its effort to create more Internet page views. Witness its steadfast commitment to cloud computing through products like Gmail, Docs and Spreadsheets. See its "gift" of WiFi at US airports. And, of course, don't forget its lobbying for net neutrality. Heck, Google just launched Google PowerMeter in the U.K. to drive people online to monitor home energy consumption.
So, beyond driving Internet page views, what's the other common thread across all these initiatives? They're free. How can Google afford to release all these free tools? Very simple. Someone at the Googleplex has calculated the amount of money Google makes for each new Internet page view -- not page view on a Google property, page view anywhere on the Internet. And I can assure you that amount is more than any other company in the world. I can also assure you that amount multiplied by all the new Internet page views generated each day is not less than what Google is spending on these programs. Have you seen Google's quarterly earnings reports?
Bottom line, with AdWords and AdSense syndicated far and wide, the only way Google will stop making money hand-over-fist is if people stop using the Internet altogether -- or somehow kick the Google habit.
A great comp here is Intuit. Tax prep has been Intuit's cash cow since inception. And to feed that cow, it launched an array of free tools for small businesses including accounting software, Web site development platforms, etc. Sure, it charges power-users for premium versions of those products but, then again, so does Google. More importantly, Intuit knows that its install base of small business owners will be more likely to use Intuit for tax filing if the rest of their back offices are running off Intuit products.
11. Make yourself very profitable for other businesses. What better way to finish up this list than with another Chu-ism? Dave Chu of Eton, as you'll recall, has weighed in with a number of lessons learned from Google, including marketing, product development, and business.
As far as this business lesson goes, Dave elaborates, "I would know. Google created my job. SEO/SEM. Adwords experts. How many new media professional jobs did Google create? Who do these new media pros love to talk about?"
Not only has Google sustained an entire profession, it's made incredible sums of money for businesses across myriad categories. I think Reach Local is the poster child here. On one hand, it's a company that is thriving based on reselling Google listings. On the other hand, its customers -- local restaurants, lawyers, dry cleaners , etc. -- are also profiting from Google and, in turn, Reach Local's services. How's that for perpetuating an ecosystem?
Google Your Date
Alright, folks, that's a wrap on business lessons learned from Google. Join me next time as we explore what Google can teach us about dating. Tweet your suggestions to @LearnFromGoogle. And thanks to the recently rebranded Janel Laravie for the first submission, urging people not to wear black hats on first dates.
Google Me at SIS
Hope to see many of you in two weeks at the Search Insider Summit in Park City where, as always, I'll be keeping track of all the buzz and assorted tweetables. Also, for the first time, we'll be putting on Search Engine Idol and I'll be doing my best Ryan Seacrest. No word yet on who will be playing the role of Simon Cowell -- but I can assure you we'll find someone with an accent. I'm looking at you, Olivier!