Googles Achilles’ Heel

Google are, obviously, a strong company.

Their lead in the search space is huge. They look set to own online video. Their advertising engine is devouring traditional media revenue streams. Their share price is through the roof.

However, they have a weakness.

Their vulnerability is public perception. Google have long been perceived as the good guy, but as the company grows, that image is going to get harder to maintain. Mega-corporations are seldom looked upon fondly, for long, even if they are well intentioned. It is hard to get big without crushing smaller people underfoot.

Unlike Microsoft, who could afford to be “difficult” due to significant consumer lock-in in the shape of the OS and industry standard software applications, Google has a relatively low exit cost. (i.e. a change in URL). So you’ll often see Google bending over backwards to manage public perception.

This weekend, Google spoke on the topic of censorship in China:

Brin: “On a business level, that decision to censor… was a net negative.” The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Mr Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe“.

Emphasis mine.

And again, in regards to Googlebombing:

What’s particularly revealing here is Google’s explanation for why it has finally decided to tweak its search engine to defuse googlebombs. Did the company act out of a desire to present better search results? Nope. To counter the willful distortion of results? Nope. To serve the public interest? Nope. The driving reason is that the company had come to fear that googlebombing was tarnishing its image

A delicate art.

As Brin also points out, Google are also about sharing revenues, something you don’t get from other mega-corps. This has, no doubt, kept many people on side, and should continue to do so when YouTube is commercialized.

Do you think Google have managed perceptions well? Do you feel the perception of Google matches the (a) truth?

  1. Florin CostacheFlorin Costache01-29-2007

    Like many have said before, Google is reactive rather than proactive, and many of us webmasters have our pet peeves with them mostly because of this.

    The difference is that to the common internet user Google is the best and can “do no evil”. The problems webmasters and SEOs run into don’t really exist for the rest of the world, so I’d say that they do a pretty good job marketing themselves to the average Joe…

  2. Peter Da VanzoPeter Da Vanzo01-29-2007

    Good points, Florin.

    Webmasters do look at Google differently, often depending on how the delicate symbiotic relationship is balanced on that day 🙂

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