I’ve known Aaron Goldman since 2006 and he stands out as someone who has made himself accessible and friendly in the search engine community. Every few months we share a conversations about what we are both up to and aspire to, it is always fun. Aaron has encouraged me to continue evangelizing my message about the strategic and structural changes in marketing and how they will continue to profoundly impact business results and economic distribution realities – whether businesses chose to engage in them or not. It will impact them positively or adversely based on their course of action or inaction. For that continued encouragement, I’d like to take a minute to thank Aaron right here and it’s a great honor to be the first stop on this blog tour for his new book “Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google” (McGraw Hill 2010).
In the introduction, you discuss how many have a love and hate relationship with Google – at the same time. What it is about Google that allows these emotions to exist mutually at the same time?
Aaron Goldman: Well, I wouldn’t call it a love/hate so much as a love/fear.
I love using Google as a searcher and as marketer. As a searcher, Google helps me find what I’m looking for. And, as a marketer, Google helps me get new customers.
But I’m definitely afraid of Google too. As a searcher, I’m afraid it of what it could do with my data. And as a marketer, I’m also afraid of what it could do with my data but even more afraid that it may one day change its algorithm and leave me out in the cold.
I think it’s general human nature to fear the things we love the most. Once we become reliant on something or someone, we fear that it one day may be taken away.
You discussed relevancy and intent in the book at a few junctures. How do you like to explain these issues to people and why are these concepts challenging for people to understand?
Aaron Goldman: It’s difficult because, by its very definition, relevancy is relative. What’s relevant to you may not be to me. Too many marketers make the mistake of thinking that what matters to them also matters to their target customers.
From a Google perspective, relevancy is the key to search. If Google’s search results aren’t relevant to each individual searcher, he or she will stop using it. That’s why Google looks to collect and keep so much data. It needs to personalize the results to make them more relevant.
For marketers, it’s critical to give off signals of relevancy if you want high rankings on Google. This includes content geared towards specific search queries as well as links from relevant websites.
As for intent. I really think it’s the reason search marketing works so well. People come to Google with the intent of finding something. And, often, that’s something to buy. It’s one of the few places in media where people raise their hands and specifically ask for products, services, etc. It’s the whole pull vs. push thing.
You mentioned how AOL values content differently than most organizations and how Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation, owner of The Wall Street Journal or Fox News accuses Google of stealing content. As content channels become infinite, isn’t media monopoly power also changing and/or even declining?
Aaron Goldman: The point I was making with content is that there are certain topics that are highly commercial and others that are not. What I mean by commercial is that the people consuming the content are in a commercial mindset — they’re thinking about buying something.
For publishers, commercial content is the easiest to monetize. Advertisers want to be wherever there are people thinking about buying stuff. AOL has done a good job of creating content on highly commercial topics — think travel or financial services — that it can sell ads against.
The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are too busy covering the “news.” And news is tough to monetize. People consuming news are not in a commercial mindset and are not open to advertising messages.
All that said, you make a good point that it’s tougher to wield monopoly power as channels become infinite and distribution is spread across the long tail. These days anybody can start a blog or Twitter account and “report” news. And people tend to trust their friends more than the media.
You interlaced a bunch of URLs in the book. This is an interesting experiment. What is your hope for it?
Aaron Goldman: I wanted to make the experience of reading the book more dynamic. Rather than just read cover to cover, my hope is that people will read a chapter and then go to the web to learn more about specific topics covered and interact with other people reading that same part of the book.
With static print, it’s tough to keep content fresh — especially in the world of marketing and Google when changes are happening every day. By including the URLs, I have a way to share new developments.
The URLs also helped keep me from going off on tangents or going too deep on topics that many readers may not care about. For example, rather than recap an entire thesis that David Berkowitz wrote about “Jewhavioral Targeting” in my chapter about “Letting the Data Decide,” I just cover it in a sentence or two and include a link.
There’s a few people in the book that were mentioned considerably more than others, how did you pick the contributors, quotes and subtopics?
Aaron Goldman: Along the same lines as the URLs, I knew it was important to include a wide variety of perspectives on the lessons learned from Google. No-one wants to read 300+ pages of what Aaron Goldman thinks about marketing. But people do (I hope) want to read 300+ pages of what some of the brightest minds in the industry learned from Google as curated by Aaron Goldman.
I interviewed over 100 marketing big wigs in the course of preparing my manuscript ranging from agency types to Google employees to researchers to university professors. The ones who are mentioned more frequently are the ones that gave me insights that were the most compelling, controversial, quotable or all of the above.
The book is part history, part teacher and part tour guide…who is the intended audience?
Aaron Goldman: This book was written for anyone who has a stake in marketing. It covers all areas of marketing — advertising, PR, promotions, media, product development, etc.
And it’s written for people like me who have very short attention spans. The copy is quick and punchy. And there’s lots of fun wordplay. I put the “pun” in punchy.
It doesn’t matter if you work for a small business or Fortune 500 company, the lessons in my book are applicable to your business. In each of my 20 chapters, I share a lesson, discuss how Google puts it into play, cover mini-case studies of marketers that exemplify it, and then walk through an exercise for the reader to relate the lesson to his or her business.
This book will also make great fodder for search engine marketing pros looking to broaden their horizons or understand how their skills can be leveraged across other channels.
What knowledge do you want people to take away from the book?
Aaron Goldman: First and foremost, I want people to take away specific tactics that they can apply to their business immediately. If you read the entire book and don’t find a single thing you can do to grow your business right away, then I will personally refund your money.
That said, I also want to give people a framework for thinking about the future of marketing. I spend quite a bit of time throughout the book — and especially in the last chapter on “future-proofing” — discussing what the marketing world will look like 10 years from now and what Google’s role might be within it.
If nothing else, I hope people will find my book entertaining and enjoy getting a peek under the hood of one of the most fascinating (and profitable) companies in the modern era.
I wish Aaron the best of luck with his book and look forward to learning from his experiences as I continue to explore my book author aspirations in the future. The constant mutual learning from all of the wonderful people I meet in the digital marketing space as I speak and consult around the world is special and hard to fully describe! Looking forward to seeing the other scheduled stops on the GoogleyLessons blog tour!