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Google Search Options: A naked bid for word of mouth commerce

Posted: May 18th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

GoogleSearchOptions_Powershotsd750

I see Google’s new filter, Search Options, as a very specific attempt by Google to own consumer word of mouth — that untethered sea of millions of voices speaking about products, experiences, brands. The Search Options that Google launched: Video, Forums, Review…are all currently the strongest forms of consumer expression. In evidence of their interest in commerce, the example in their video demonstration of Google Search Options is a product search: “Powershot SD 750”.Based on the selection of filters available in “Show Options”, Google is obviously hoping to capture a larger share of product researchers by optimizing their search results. Let’s break down the first few critical Search Options that Google chose to launch.

Video: Well, there’s expotv.com, the largest and only video site dedicated to word of mouth video for consumers. Great content to surface in Search Options! And then there’s youtube, which could be characterized as the largest video platform dedicated to word of mouth video for anything. Unfortunately for users, youtube’s page rank of 9 will render this Search Option less helpful. Youtube’s product-tagged video will surface often, but the results will have a number of weaknesses for consumers looking for helpful product information. The two that we often point out are:
(i) the horrifically uneven quality, type and quantity of information that is presented from video to video
(ii) the inability to search effectively no matter how specific your search terms due to poor tagging by great videos, and great tagging by poor videos
However, if you’re Google and you own Youtube, then helping youtube surface even potentially relevant consumer video is a great way to monetize the content.
Forums: Why search forums? Aren’t they the sources that you most avoid when doing a search? Sorting through a bunch of moms talking about swine flu is not going to give you much serious information about the disease. But if the search is on products – forums become an authentic source of consumer enthusiast information. Unlike on Web 1.0, corporate poseursare now often outed immediately on forums. Hard-core enthusiasts take legendary status on forums as moderators, contributors, and consumer experts. The information on the best and biggest forums offer sincere,personal and authentic discussion by enthusiasts. Go to a Disney boardif you want to know the best rooms on the Disney Cruise ship, not Disney.com.
Reviews: I assume I don’t have to cover how reviews are relevant if Google wants to own word of mouth consumer search. The proliferation of text reviews (and even the proliferation of tools that allow sites to implement text reviews) make Google’s search of the resulting vast expanse of content invaluable. Amazon does a great job of sorting through its user reviews in order to spur conversion to sale. Why shouldn’t Google apply that same logic to ALL user reviews.
From Expo’s point of view, Google’s optimization of consumer word of mouth is a boon for content sites like ours. Expo will benefit from the care and attention Google is putting to format, content, and source of user generated product information. We think product researchers will undoubtedly benefit as well.
What’s next for Google Commerce:

Google’s already reached perfection taking both irrelevant and relevant content and attaching a commerce component via Google Adsense. What’s left? Price comparison is dominated by the engines like shopping.com and now it’s commoditized with APIs. Product selection search is dominated by Amazon and its vast marketplace of products. Google then tried inter-Amazon search through its “site search box“. While a smart move by Google, it’s a terrible user experience since Amazon does a much better job of searching its own site and tailoring it for the non-anonymous user.My bet is on Local Commerce. Local commerce is one area that has yet to unlocked by online tools. My bet is Google will win that game against the brilliant start-ups out there trying to attack local dollars. Local cannot be attacked on a national scale (thus the different names), but GPS is allowing hyper targeting to become relevant to geo-targeting. By vectoring GPS, maps, and local search, Google has the winning combination of national services to synthesize local advertising. Remember, they don’t need to create the local content, just find the right person to deliver it to.


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One Comment on “Google Search Options: A naked bid for word of mouth commerce”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 10:27 am on May 19th, 2009:

    Great article. It’s exciting to see google offering these advanced tools…hopefully users will take to them. – Bill H


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