Oh Where, Oh Where Has My One-Trick Pony Gone?

  |  November 5, 2012   |  Comments

Is today's Google Search as effective? If not, why and what can it do to regain influence?

There was a time when the majority of pundits suggested Google would never be much more than a search company. A nice technology company that figured out how to monetize keywords was the industry line used to dismiss the prospects for Google in the long term. My, how times have changed. Google now gleefully touts a five-legged stool of stable, revenue-driving businesses. And while that is great for Google and its shareholders, the question for some is, "What is happening to what was once the core product, search?"

Larry Page's Google has been on a steady march to transform the original Google search engine. While one could argue that the original mission to "organize the world's information" is still valid, I'm not sure that the new direction is an improvement. It suggests, in many ways, that a more actively involved Google is not a positive for anyone involved.

When Google first launched, it didn't try to reinvent what a search engine was, structurally. It provided 10 blue links, just like others, and eventually brought in the monetized element of paid advertisements. Google's best work was what took place behind the scenes. The algorithm made the difference. Through Google, consumers quickly found more relevant and thus better results for queries. This was true for the organic results. With the introduction of an opaque auction vs. the industry-standard-winner-takes-top-slot auction, it also became true for paid search.

Since those early days, much has changed with how consumers search and the information now available to shape a results page. The biggest change has been the inclusion of social signals as a data point. While Google+ is clearly about informing the core search product, it is far from being the only source utilized. Whether through its own acquisitions, like Zagat, or through the establishment of paid listings for shopping, Google continues to evolve what the user sees.

This shift - from simply changing behind-the-scenes signals to evolving the interface - is done with a great deal of thought and user testing, but is it good for Google's long-term brand engagement? At the height of its impact, Google search was the undisputed source for information gathering. Now, even Bing has its #BingItOn challenge because it believes it is delivering a better experience more frequently. Combine that, in the search space, with further fragmentation of sources and consumer options and you find a marginalized Google Search.

As consumer device usage and behavior change, companies have to balance adaptation of solutions with stability. Is Google Search still the best option for consumers in most cases? Probably. The question becomes, "In an age where change happens more rapidly, and Google itself is constantly tweaking search while focusing elsewhere, can the pony recall the original trick that made it so successful to begin with?"

What do you think? Is today's Google Search as effective? If not, why and what can it do to regain influence?

Pony image on home page via Shutterstock.


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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 MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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