Google Maps, Analytics, Gmail, YouTube, and, oh yeah, Search are all free. Maybe it's time to stop whining about ads.
I've developed a slightly mystical belief: there is no free lunch. Or call it instead the Free Stuff Karma Syndrome. Better yet: Maybe You'll Do Me a Favor Sometime.
To sum it up, if you're an end user, and you cherry-pick all the best online content and services without ever paying a penny for them, and do your best to avoid engaging with the ads…well, you might be OK. There are slightly less than even odds of you being hit by a bus on your way to work at the local hospital.
If you're a marketer, though - if you take and take and take, and then try to get out of all the paid services and whine at Google whenever it makes a tweak to its (free) organic search algorithm that slightly disadvantages your for-profit company - well, let's just say that a "wrong turn at Albuquerque" via Google Maps' driving directions will be the least of your worries. Unless your idea of a wrong turn is off a cliff. It's just bad karma, man.
The interesting thing about all the free products and services Google develops for consumers - and some for the benefit of small and large businesses - is that they aren't all tied efficiently to revenues. Google just invests heavily in products. Sometimes it does a good job of monetizing them. But generally speaking, Google derives the lion's share of its revenues from the same old things all the time (search ads and display ads). Not all of them tie well to the investments Google has made. It's almost like Google's bad at monetizing (or doesn't care enough to monetize everything, since free stuff keeps you happy and keeps engineers engaged in worthwhile projects).
Here are five free Google things we're pretty much all using.
There is one free Google thing that went away a few years ago, and that's the annual Google Dance event held in connection with the Bay Area stop of the SES conference every summer. Hey Google, most of the attendees pay to attend the conferences; and they'll wear the dickens out of the t-shirts as they smile at the camera and post the results on Google+ so they can enhance their Klout scores, or on Pinterest (for reasons unknown). Bring back the Google Dance! Karma…
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Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.
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