Who is Google’s real customer?

One of the first things a new Internet business owner needs to understand when starting in the game of Internet marketing is the real end game for search engines. How can a business index and rank “billions” of websites for FREE?  The short answer is that they don’t do it for free, nor are they doing it for YOU, the Internet business owner.  So, why are they doing it?

The answer to this is not new, and has been discussed ad nauseum on various tech and marketing forums, but might be a revelation for the new business owner. But more importantly, understanding the real business model of search engines will help you position your company in that “game” for better long term results.

Google is the leader of the pack right now, so we will limit our focus on understanding Google, but generally the same ideas also will apply to all search engines. Understanding who is the customer, should be a big part of the underlying core of everything you try to do when interacting with Google.  Therefore, if what you are trying to do conflicts with Google’s business goals then you are swimming  upstream and this will lead to poor results and significant frustration.  One of the first topics toward understanding Google is: Who is Google’s real customer?

Finding the real customer

If  you thought it was you, the business that wants to rank in their search results, is Google’s customer, then “you” would be wrong.  The right answer is found by following the money, and the money comes from the businesses that are purchasing the ads.  The value of those ads has to do with “high quality and relevant eyeballs” (the users), which is the traffic that is generated by people using Google to find “stuff”, and that “stuff” (products, services, and information) is what attracts those search users.  When a user (the eyeball) lands on a search result, Google’s goal is to then to provide ads that match that search and increase the likelihood that this user (the eyeball) will also then click the ad.

Google maximizes the value of that ad space by how well it matches the user’s (the eyeball) demographics to the presented ads, which makes their “eyeball” exposure more relevant, of greater quality, and this in turn increases the value of the ad space.  To do all of this Google has to maintain a balance  between offering reliable and high quality search results for free and how it leverages, defines, and filters that traffic demographics to match the  ads. Basically the search user is the product and the real customer is the advertiser. Where does that leave you?

This is not a unique concept to the Internet, but has been true of all media from the beginning.  If you listen to music or talk on the radio, you are probably not the customer — you’re the “ear” for the advertisers that are targeting your demographic. The music and talk is just the bait to get you to listen. If you watch television, again, you are not the customer — you are the product and the bait is the programs. If you read most magazines (even if you pay for them), you are not a customer — you’re the product, the bait is the articles and pictures.

The search user is the Product, your website content is the Bait

There are three players in the search business model, The search user, the search listing (your webpage content) and the ad purchaser. As mentioned above, many SEO commentators have referred to the search user as the product.  The point here is that the product (the search user) engages the search system to find “stuff” and if that “stuff” is delivered reliably and of high quality, then the customer (the advertiser) gets the opportunity to have their ad presented to a highly qualified and motivated audience.  Thus, your  website content listing becomes  “bait” to the product, the search user, so the customer, the advertiser, can sell the user something that relates to their search criteria.

The eye opener for many new Internet businesses is understanding that you are only the bait. The problem for both you and Google is that YOUR motivations can come in conflict with Google’s.  All that you care about is getting on the first page so that the chance of a search user clicking to your website goes up.  Somewhat like the ad purchaser, you want the “eyeball” but you want it free. So, from your point of view, ANYTHING and ANYWAY you can get on page one is a Good Thing. Gaming or hacking your way to page one is fine with you.  Unfortunately, you are on a collision course with Google because they want quality bait.  If they don’t provide quality bait for the search user then that searcher will go elsewhere and Google’s ad revenue will suffer. They loose their real customer.

Google has to keep the quality of the search results high.

The value of that ad space depends on high quality search users.  Users that keep coming back and searching repeatedly and get the results they need will become a reliable product.  Metrics can be gathered as to their preferences and habit, needs and desires. This then allows Google to deliver the right audience for each ad.

What this boils down for you, the online business that seeks free exposure by getting higher on the page ranking, is that you have to become “quality bait”.   Frankly, Google is always trying to show everyone who will listen how to be “quality bait” and their latest attempts are called the “Panda updates”.  We will cover many of these concepts as we go through this series of articles, but for now it is important to understand where you fit in so that what you need to do to become “quality bait” will make more sense.

So, if you want to be Google’s real customer, buy ads (AdWords, AdWord Express, and Adsense). Otherwise, you need to understand the game  which is that  your website is bait to attract search users. That is the real Google product that Google then sells to advertisers.

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About John Moore

John Moore is the co-founder of SonicSpider, LLC in San Diego County, California. John is our head Internet developer, overseeing the direction of our technical services. He has been programming in a variety of languages for more than 25 years, first as the owner of the consulting and system architect/design company, Micro-Phyla Systems, which provided services to enterprise level companies, and then as a principle with SonicSpider LLC. SonicSpider has two primary divisions, SonicWebTech for programming, ecommerce solutions, and general web oriented technical assistance - and RightStart Websites, specializing in WordPress, which provide low cost web packages and website enhancements that can span your needs from "do it yourself" to "do it all for me". John is also a PayPal Certified Developer and has extensive experience with many payment gateway solutions.
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