Less than a week after the blogosphere-proclaimed scandal of Google displaying “tips” right above search results, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) decides to run an article entitled “Google Steps Up Self Promotion.” Interestingly enough, there is no scandalous tone from big media; rather, the WSJ thinks its about time. Here are a few choice quotes:
“Google Inc. may finally have learned how to promote itself without compromising its principles. Like its own legions of advertisers, it is marketing its products on Google.com…slowly but surely, Google has been finding its own true-to-character techniques for pitching its expanding array of wares. Recently, it appears to be using its own immensely popular search site to invite users to try another product, typically in a way that is couched more as a helpful hint than a salesman’s pitch.”
True-to-character techniques? Right. Looks like an editor may have missed out on the blogosphere Google crucification. To recap: First there was Firefox cofounder Blake Ross who voiced his unfavorable stance toward Google’s latest move, then others followed calling Google evil. And finally, Google’s unofficial spokesman Matt Cutts responds even if avoiding the issue of hypocrisy.
Of course, the Wall Street Journal being the Wall Street Journal is able to get official rather than unofficial quotes. Here’s one from a Google spokeswoman:
“We are committed to the clean, uncluttered user interface of the Google homepage. From time to time we promote products on the Google homepage in order to help people continue to find and access information that’s important to them.”
Another interesting fact: Google seems to go with self-promotion late in the game. For example, according to Hitwise, Google Blog Search traffic more than doubled over a two-week period in October after Google included a link to the service on the Google News homepage. Accordingly, 60% of its blog search traffic has come directly from Google News since then, compared with 1% before the change. But Google Blog Search had been around for quite some time before October.
The WSJ wraps up the article by saying, “Indeed, Google’s own search-results pages could be the company’s best marketing tool.” followed by another Google quote from Vice President Marissa Mayer:
“The most effective way to promote a product is just showing it to [users] when it’s relevant to what they’re looking for…In terms of driving traffic…that technique actually yields the most users.”
Yeah, well, I’m not sure relevance has that much to do with it. Anything that’s not quite an ad but hovers around search results is likely to get serious attention regardless of relevance…