Google's Unhealthy Obsession With Speed

  |  June 21, 2011   |  Comments

Are the new Google Instant Pages short-term responses when consumers need long-term solutions?

Last week, at the Google Inside Search event, the online advertising and search giant introduced several new features specific to mobile and desktop search. Google product events always have a curious cadence and this event was no different. Between raucous employees in the crowd and the painstaking effort to explain the smart technology behind the innovation, Google events can often obscure the real potential of the new features. One brief and obscure event element was Google's definition of search. Bing has positioned itself as a decision engine and Google has stepped forward and proclaimed that search is about removing barriers from what you seek, preventing your train of thought from being derailed.

One newly announced feature designed to do just that is Google Instant Pages. Instant Pages takes the Google Instant feature (launched last year) and moves the concept forward by anticipating the most popular searches and producing cached entry points with no page load delay. Not since Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards proclaimed their undying need for speed in "Top Gun" has a duo seemed so singularly focused as Larry Page and Sergey Brin are with improving the speed of searching on Google.

Google Instant pages is the latest advancement designed to shorten the amount of time an individual user spends on a single query. There are billions of queries every month on Google, so the idea that a vast majority could be impacted for the faster is a compelling feature for Google and a technological advancement worth trumpeting. The problem is that Google is inexplicably obsessed with the immediate gratification moment of the individual search rather than viewing the lifecycle of a search journey.

Apparently, the way Google feels it can best assist in this manner is to speed up the search process for a user. That is helpful if what I am seeking is of a nature that one query or even one session is enough. But what happens when I need multiple data points from different sources to further my decision? Or when the realities of life, work, family, etc. interfere with my ability to drill into a topic. As I've said before, search is an output that comes from a personal desire to either discover new information or to reach a destination in our decision-making process. Either way, search is often a process or journey, and three seconds saved here and there are nothing to dismiss, but it is not what people ultimately will reward with future behavior and usage.

What people want is a search service that enables them to store and accumulate knowledge as they progress through the process. When conducting our latest Search and Social in the Purchase Pathway research, we found that consumers say they use search for pricing and product research. We also found that the average purchase in high consideration categories such as consumer electronics and cellphones had nine to 11 touchpoints between search and social media. This suggests that consumers will repeatedly search and use the channel for refinement as they become more educated.

Our findings also revealed that in the abovementioned categories, it was taking on average two months to reach a final purchase. And that data point is the one that suggests what Google is trying to do with Instant and now Instant Pages are short-term responses when consumers need long-term solutions. What users of search engines need is the ability to catalog their knowledge as they accumulate it. As people move from search to search over the course of weeks, not seconds, the ability to reference what they have found previously and what they clicked on can enable a more fluid and positive experience.

Google Instant Pages further enhance the destination phase of a searching pattern. I want to know the weather or events taking place in London next week and it will help me. But, the discovery phase that exists in an overwhelming majority of searches is still being underserved. Google states that it wants to help avoid the derailing of your train of thought, but it is building the track for the set with a short attention span and need for instant gratification. Enabling the track with a run long enough to serve this multi-step, multi-session journey consumers are taking to a conversion decision would be a truly ground-breaking effort worth speeding up development on for the market.



Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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