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Web Marketing Insights from Google Ventures (Part 1)
Actions speak louder than words. This holds true whether you’re trying to raise good kids or get your employees to do the things required to be a high-performance company. This timeless adage also applies to the world of marketing. Take Google for example. One of the funniest examples of a company saying one thing and doing the opposite was when Google punished itself for investing in advertorial blogs (paid links) to promote Chrome, its web browser.
Let me explain.
Google has been telling marketers for years not to use paid links and/or advertorials to manipulate their search ranking. According to Google, you’re supposed to get links to your website “naturally” by creating great content and hoping people will link to it without incentive. Google’s advice is easy for companies in certain industries to execute.
For example, if you create accessories for Apple products, there are thousands (maybe millions) of bloggers that love to write about, review, and promote anything related to Apple. When you create something new, all you have to do is tell them about it (and/or maybe send them a sample with a press release) and they’ll review it. Not all of them will link back to your site, but most will.
As you can probably imagine, the same strategy is virtually impossible for the local plumbing, heating, and cooling company to execute.
So the great and all-powerful Google, organizer of the world’s digital information, tells us all not to use paid links and/or advertorials to “game” it’s organic search results, but for its own product it goes and does just that. When I read the Google story, I felt like I had just caught a die-hard vegetarian happily participating in the 72oz steak challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch or had my Sunday family dinner interrupted by a telemarketing call from Brian Halligan.
Google did exactly what it tells business owners, marketers, SEOs, and webmasters not to do—create “thin” content sprinkled with (paid) links—in an attempt to improve its organic search rankings for target keywords related to Chrome.
All of this makes you wonder…
How Would Google Market Your Business?
Think about that for a second… What would the most powerful company on the web do to market your business online if they owned your company? My mind immediately starts racing and I wonder:
- What would their goals be?
- Would they work off of your existing website or blow it up and start fresh?
- Would they create multiple websites?
- Would they use anything other than Google Analytics to track your website activity?
- How would they drive traffic to your website?
- What would their SEO efforts look like?
- Would they invest in AdWords? And if so, how much would they spend?
- Would they also run ads on Bing?
- Given their rocky relationship, would they invest in Facebook ads?
So many questions that we’ll almost certainly never be able to answer because the odds of Google buying your company are about the same as winning the lottery. You might scoff, “What’s the point of asking rhetorical questions that can never be answered?” On the one hand, you have a point, but don’t stop reading yet.
What if I told you that there is a way to
spy on see what Google might do if it owned a piece of your company? Wouldn’t you want to have a look?
Of course you would!
Seeing what Google would do to market your business online should give you all sorts of interesting insights and help you think about your online presence in a new way.
Enter Google Ventures
In the first quarter of 2013 alone, Google spent $291 million on acquisitions. Wha wha what!? In addition to its acquisitions, Google also has a venture fund called Google Ventures. In this blog post, I’m going to take a closer look at the websites belonging to a few companies under the Google Ventures umbrella. In theory, these are companies where Google has some ‘skin in the game.’ By reviewing companies where Google has a stake in the outcome, I think I can provide at least a couple insights you can use to improve your own website and web presence.
If Google owned your company…
What Would Your Website Look Like?
The companies under the Google Ventures umbrella come from a variety of different industries—from app developers to software and Internet marketing companies to HVAC controls. As you might expect, there is no single, over-arching website type or layout seen across all the companies under the Google Ventures.
However, many of the sites look like these two examples:
I’m not a web designer, so I don’t know if this layout has a name. To me, it’s kind of the 2013 web 2.0 standard layout.
If your business generates leads from the web and Google owned your company, I think it’s safe to say that your site would have your company logo in the top-left corner, a phone number in the top-right corner, a horizontal navigation above the banner, a large banner with at least one call-to-action (CTA), a pretty long scroll to the bottom of the page, and a large footer with an additional navigation menu.
Your site would also feature social proof in the form of logos from recognizable clients (if you have them) like this:
As you look at the screenshot on the right, again, you see a top-left logo, the top-right phone number, large banner with a CTA, etc. Some people in the web marketing world used to give Google a hard time about design. Google’s product designs and websites were better than Microsoft’s, but not anywhere close to as elegant and clean as those made by Apple. Slowly, Google is changing this. In addition to being uber-smart, it’s getting a heck of a lot prettier.
Design and UX is prominently featured on the Google Ventures website. They’ve even launched an entirely separate website just for their blog about design. Now THAT’S interesting… I believe it was Matt Cutts who recommended that business owners build one strong website vs. multiple websites and yet, Google has built lots of websites for its own businesses.
How Would Google Track Your Website?
All of the websites I visited that were linked from the Google Ventures website had Google Analytics installed, but so does most of the web—owned by Google or not—so that wasn’t really a surprise. We know that Google is stocked to the brim with data-driven people. What other analytics tools would Google put in place to maximize your company’s website performance? It would definitely put that in place.
Based on what I saw on other Google Ventures backed companies, if Google owned your company, it would also track your site with:
Quantcast allows companies to gain a deeper understanding about their website visitors. For example, with Quantcast, you can see your visitors broken down by sex and age group. You can also see how the demographic makeup of your website visitors compares to the web as a whole.
Take a look at this:
When the goal is to increase website leads, most businesses focus on traffic. That’s great, but it’s only one half of the equation. Google knows that there’s no point in paying to send traffic to a website that doesn’t convert visitors into leads and sales. If Google owned your business, it’d almost certainly install ClickTale and Optimizely to assess and improve the usability of your site and continually run tests to improve your site’s visit-to-lead conversion rates.
ClickTale allows you to record each visit to your site as a movie. By playing back each movie, you can see exactly how visitors navigate your site and look for clues and opportunities for improvement. ClickTale also has a bunch of other cool features such as heatmaps and funnel visualization tools.
Optimizely makes it easy to perform A/B and multi-variant tests. A/B testing is one of the easiest ways to improve website conversion rates, but it can be a pain in the ass to set up the tests so few businesses perform them. Optimizely takes care of all that.
In exploring the Google Ventures’ websites, I saw a variety of other website tracking tools (Clicky, KISSmetrics, and more). One tool I didn’t see, and I found this a bit shocking, was HubSpot. That’s right, I didn’t find any companies using HubSpot—not even the B2B folks. This is pretty shocking when you consider that the B2B web marketing space is HubSpot’s bread and butter. Optimizely is a Google backed company, so I don’t think that this has anything to do with it. Maybe Google doesn’t want them to have all that data?
Conclusion & Takeaways
If you own a company and you’re interested in growing it, it’s rarely a bad idea to take a close look at, and carefully review what those at the top are doing. If you’re smart about it, this type of competitor analysis can open your eyes to the actions, behaviors, and tools required to play the game at a higher level than you are today.
If Google owned your business and recognized the website as a potential source of leads and sales, you’d better believe that it’d be tracking your website activity with more than just Google Analytics. Armed with some very granular data (maybe not as much as Obama has – wink, wink), Google would adjust your website’s layout to make sure that it follows those it has proven to be effective and then it would focus on increasing your site’s traffic.
To learn more about how Google would get more qualified visitors to your website, stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series. We’re putting together a full online marketing assessment of all the companies in the Google Ventures portfolio. Contact us to get on the waiting list to receive a copy once it’s complete.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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