Commentary

Google Search Petition Addresses Bigger Agency Problems

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Search engine marketers are a vocal group. There's nothing wrong with that. They understand the nuance to bring attention to a cause or a campaign. So when Paul Burani, partner at Web Liquid Group, heard that Google decided to shut down Google Sets on Sept. 5 from Google Labs, he refused to accept the decision and go home. Instead, Burani started an online petition to bring the tool back.

Google Sets, one of the first applications in Google Labs, allowed marketers to automatically create sets of items from a few examples. Sets identified groups of related items on the Web and used that information to predict relationships between items. A technology-related patent filed April 30, 2003 links to another from Google that detects duplicate documents across the Web.

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A Google spokesperson pointed to a blog post from July that explains it will wind down Google Labs in an effort to focus on "extraordinary opportunities," but that its keyword tool, which helps advertisers generate keyword suggestions and ideas, is hugely popular and remains available. Burani said Google Sets allowed search marketers to quickly build a competitor keyword list, fuel ad copy for brainstorming, and generate extensive keyword variations. Google Sets also was a good tool for strategic insight into paid-search account structure. It provided a broad view on the key themes within a category or industry, which is critical when building out campaigns and ad groups for maximum reach and management efficiency.

"The product largely flew under the radar, but in going through forums over the years, I saw a lot of people who swear by it," Burani said. The tool's following may be "small, but very loyal -- and I suspect, vocal," he said. But it really speaks to a "bigger issue that concerns a whole lot of Google Labs products recently discontinued in the past one to two weeks."

That problem points to a learning curve that advertising and marketing executives must continually go through each time a tool is discontinued. Google Labs provides a forum for its engineers to explore technology and provide a series of tools to support goals. Larger agencies can talk about issues with reps, but smaller agencies have big clients also, and need the support.

Web Liquid, for example, spends a substantial amount of its annual media dollars through Google for paid search and display, but when tools are discontinued they don't have a say. Monitoring comments in the feedback section of each post would certainly give Google insight into the issues of removing specific tools, but typically the words and sentiment are overlooked for bigger issues, such as Java lawsuits,, search bias, and keyword squatting. Yes, Google has become the latest Microsoft in terms of defending interests against government allegations.

It does not appear as if Google brings back tools based on poplar demand or petitions, but typically build the feature into other products. Burani believes it doesn't hurt to try.

Update: A Google spokesperson said Google Sets was a consumer experiment hosted on Google Labs. It was developed as a demo of a general Google technology, namely an ability to find associated terms on the Web. Also, agencies, small and large, can find tools and training here.

 

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