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August 6, 2008

If I Were Running Google

Searchery Rhymes had me wishing Sergey Pagerhoffer Schmidt were my name too. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been living out that fantasy — strictly in my head, of course — and came up with a Top 10 list of things I’d do if I were running Google. And, since we’re dreaming here, I’m assuming money’s not an issue — although, with a $145 billion market cap, it’s really not much of one. 1. Update the mission statement. Who are we kidding? “Organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful” ain’t the half of it these days. I’d go with “Optimizing the world.” That would cover all the investments being made in the ads and apps, not to mention projects like Google.org.

2. Give everyone in the world a computer. That’s right. I’d beat Bill Gates to the punch on this one and give everyone in the world a computer dressed to the nines with Google products. This would serve both an altruistic purpose of helping those less fortunate but also bolster search volume and, in turn, revenue. Gotta love the win-win!

3. Blanket the globe with free WiFi. Giving everyone computers is great but pointless if they can’t access the Web — and, of course, search. I realize what a logistical nightmare this would be, but with Google now powering Yahoo search ads, the only way it can grow query volume is through a deal with Microsoft. I have to think it would be easier to implement worldwide WiFi than to get Steve Ballmer to do a deal with Google.

4. Buy Tivo, Comcast, Spot Runner and Blinkx. There’s no question the biggest uncracked nut in the digital world is monetizing video assets. YouTube is not the answer, though. Nor is Omnisio. The answer is aggregating high quality video (Comcast), making it truly searchable (Blinkx), creating higher-impact and personalized advertising (Tivo) and making it easier for advertisers to buy (Spot Runner). There, that was easy.

5. Buy Motorola, JumpTap and Sprint Nextel Now that we’ve taken over the video world, let’s conquer mobile. It won’t be long (10-20 years tops) before more Web activity is conducted via cell phone than PC. Android is a nice play but won’t deliver the scale required to capitalize on the opportunity — certainly not in the short term. And the iPhone is a huge step forward in making mobile web surfing more intuitive, but there’s no guarantee Google will be the search default on that device forever. To ensure a leadership position in the space, we’ll need a Google phone to make it easier for people to search on the go (Hello Moto), a robust mobile ad platform (JumpTap) and a carrier (Sprint Nextel) to garner distribution while we bide our time waiting for all the U.S. carriers to open their decks.

6. Buy Facebook. I’m tempted to do this just to see Ballmer’s reaction. But there’s more to it than that. Out of the 17 potential Google killers I evaluated, Facebook was one of two that I think actually have a chance at pulling it off. The social graph is the key to taking search to the next level in terms of personalization, and I’m not sure Open Social will get Google the necessary traction — at least not until FB joins up.

7. Introduce display ads on the SERPs.. Nearly a year ago, I predicted that Google would bow display ads on SERPs following the close of the DoubleClick acquisition. So far that hasn’t happened, and I’m not quite sure why. What better way to crack the 60% of online ad dollars not spent on search than by offering the marriage of rich creative and keyword targeting? People are used to images on SERPs now and, as long as the ads are relevant, I don’t think there’d be too much pushback.

8. Launch a full-blown marketing campaign. The time has come for Google to step out from behind the PR veil — not to drive usage but to be proactive and wide-reaching in addressing privacy concerns. The biggest threat to innovation for Google is the inability to collect personal data and use it to improve results. We’ll never realize the true potential of the semantic Web if we can’t differentiate between users and know their preferences. I’d do a marketing blitz to educate consumers on how Google uses their data and the value in sharing it in a non-personally identifiable manner (for now, that is… then, once people get used to that, we can make the case to use PII to give them even more value.)

9. Poke under the hood of the algorithm. Who hasn’t wanted to do this? As BMOGC, I wouldn’t be able to resist. Just what are the most important on-page factors? What are all the components of Page Rank? Something tells me this will be a bit of a scavenger hunt — it’s unlikely there’s a doc stashed somewhere outlining the algo. Maybe I’d just move Matt Cutts and some of his engineers into my office and pepper them with questions all day until I’ve got my arms around it.

10. Google myself, over and over and over and over. Can’t see that ever getting old. And, while I’m at it, I’d put out the word that it’s ok to use Google as a verb. Not sure why they’re so against becoming the Kleenex of the category. I think it’s the highest compliment and can only serve to further entrench the brand and prevent switching.

So there you have it folks. One man’s dream of life atop the Googleplex. What would you do?

Aaron Goldman is Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group Company. Resolution Media helps marketers connect their brands to their audience through queries. Aaron blogs at FindResolution.com and GoodURLBadURL.com and can be reached at AGoldman@ResolutionMedia.com.

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