Five Takes on 800 Pounds

Hard as one may try, it's impossible to ignore the 800-pound gorilla, or in this case, the 450,000-server computing network, as The New York Times estimated last week.

 The latest announcements from Google have been released at such a frenetic pace and cover such wide territory that it helps to review all the pieces in one place, deconstruct what the real meaning is for marketers, and understand how they affect the competitive landscape. To make this easier for marketers and their agencies, we'll use a four-tiered scale to measure the impact:

  • Act: this could affect you immediately
  • Prepare: you're safe for today, but do your homework
  • Play: it's fun, it's cool, it's great for the blog, but it won't matter for your day job
  • Consider: it's great fodder for the media, but there's no pressing impact for you

 Now, on to the latest additions to the Google line-up:



GBuy: Prepare, especially if you're processing transactions online (this shifts to Act on June 28).

Google is said to be releasing GBuy, its answer to PayPal's merchant tools, on June 28. Merchants will be able to process payments through GBuy, and the payments are processed off of the merchant's site, giving Google access to conversion data. Couple that with information from AdWords and Google Analytics, and it has an open window into the complete sales funnel. Some fear Google could use this information to raise prices for some of its services, such as the minimum bid price in AdWords for certain verticals.

RBC analyst Jordan Rohan, widely quoted in the press for his GBuy coverage, said Google could offer a "trusted GBuy merchant" logo on sponsored links from retailers using AdWords and GBuy. Such a seal could increase click-through rates from consumers. GBuy-Adwords advertisers would have a competitive advantage, and they could lower their bids to maintain the same AdWords ranking. Competitors would then have to either bid more (beat 'em) or join GBuy (join 'em) so as not to be at a disadvantage.

Those factors -- consumer demand, peer pressure, and the carrot of more favorable advertising costs -- could create a surge in GBuy merchants. Still, the fear of giving too much information could lead to some marketers holding out. If you're an AdWords advertiser processing transactions online, keep some time free on June 28 to sort through the facts once the service debuts.

Ad Scheduling (or dayparting): Prepare or Act

Google now allows advertisers to schedule ads by time of day or day of the week. This won't impact every marketer. Advertisers already can use paid search management technology interfacing with Google that has dayparting built in. Additionally, advertisers with an ample budget might not need the feature at all. I generally feel the same way about dayparting search ads as I do about using demographic targeting with search. If a consumer's typing in a relevant query, then any other targeting such as time of day or the searcher's age takes a back seat. Such targeting may be useful, but it's more of a way to nudge the needle on conversion rates for a well-oiled campaign.

That being said, there are situations where ad scheduling can have a significant impact. For instance, consider an advertiser whose budget tends to run out earlier in the day or the month. This advertiser might run TV campaigns from 8pm to midnight, but if it blows its ad budget by 5pm, the campaign won't benefit from the large volume of searches triggered by the offline campaign. Similarly, a marketer budgeting for search monthly could, for example, be at a disadvantage if the budget runs dry on June 23, but the advertiser's running a major multi-channel campaign for the week leading up to July 4. Turning the campaign off certain days and times can serve to better manage the campaign holistically.

Google Earth: Play

Google has taken new steps to open up Google Earth to developers. Anyone can add their own notations to the 3D maps and build 3D models of 2D landscapes using SketchUp, the design software Google acquired in March. It's also integrated into the new Picasa update, where users can tag photos with geographic information. Google is working on integrating Earth more with Google Maps, so you can expect a whole new generation of mash-ups to emerge.

Picasa Web: Play

Of all the Google announcements that came out, this one's my favorite to toy around with. Google is testing web-based photo sharing integrated with Picasa, turning its photo editing and organizing software into a Flickr competitor. For Picasa users, it's a stupid-simple way to share pictures, and it's good enough to provide a viable alternative to other options.

Google Shakespeare: Consider

My brother, author of the book Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage, might find a reason to act on this, but for marketers, Google Shakespeare should be little more than a curiosity. There's some buzz behind it since Google's publicizing its commitment to its book search program, which book publishers love to bristle at, but Google can borrow a line from Othello: "Thou know'st we work by wit, and not by witchcraft."

The challenge that remains is for marketers to keep their wits about them.

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