Google’s Perception Problem

It has been so fascinating watching the AdWords announcement story develop in real time. I have really enjoyed reading so many smart people’s thoughts on the subject and their best guesses as to what is coming not only on 4/22, but beyond. I have my ideas about what I think it likely to happen on 4/22, but rather than go into detail on that, I have a little bit of a different perspective that I’d like to share.

Google has a perception problem. Yes, we all know that they get bad press from time to time, but that is not what I’m talking about. I am referring more to the way they see themselves vs. the way others see them – be it PPC or SEO professionals, local businesses or searchers. Google seems to view itself as being smarter than the rest of us, period. They know what we need, how we need it and the best way to deliver it. In a lot of ways Google, and the people who work there, are smarter than most of us when it comes to technology. But they are not omniscient or even all that emotionally intelligent.

They are a tech company and a really strong one at that. But, amazingly, they still don’t get people. Whether it is their labrynithian Places/Maps review process or their extreme control freakishness about not allowing anyone to influence search results, or their arrogance about people adopting Google+ just because it was from Google, or their revamping of Gmail or the massive changes to AdWords over the past couple of years – they seem to not have human factors as part of their internal calculus. This, ultimately, will hurt them, in my opinion.

At the core of all of their services are real people. Without people using their search engine, they have no advertising revenue. Without businesses participating in AdWords (or whatever it might be called after 4/22!) they have no revenue. Without people using Gmail, there is less advertising revenue. Are you sensing a theme yet?

If Google really is as smart as they think they are, they need to bring in some people with different skill sets and different perspectives and get better at creating and improving services FOR PEOPLE. When you have Google’s level of market dominance, it is easy to start believing your own hype and thinking nothing will ever unseat you. Maybe Google needs to brush up on its history and read about the Ottoman and Roman empires?

I think that Google has the potential to be so much better than it is now. I hope they are not too arrogant or complacent to make it happen. The end result could be amazing.

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