Google – As fast as it gets


To most of us Google is about getting fast and relevant search results. So much that we even use the word ‘Google’ as a verb that means searching something on the internet.

However, in business terms Google is probably the fastest growing company in history. It might surprise you but in many ways Google is an advertising network, and it’s probably the largest advertising network ever. Google’s size is so incredible that it’s hard to imagine. Just a few reference points. Google is about search, search leads to clicks, and clicks to revenues:

  • Google makes 99% of its revenues selling little tiny text ads on the internet. Both on Google (look at the right side on a search results page), but also on almost any website (look at the top of iAgora pages, those are Google ads).
  • In 2008 Google revenues 21.795 million USD, which means 60 million USD per DAY or 2,5 million USD per HOUR or 41.000 USD per MINUTE… selling little text ads.
  • Google earns money only when people like you and I click on the text ads. Let’s say that on average Google makes 20 cents for each click. This means that every minute there are 2.000 clicks , every second about 30 clicks. Click, click, click…
  • When is the last time you clicked on an ad? Probably not yesterday while back… so they incredible thing, is how they can make so much money if most of the time we don’t click on any ads. The answer is that everybody uses Google, they control 70% of all searches on the internet. In July 09 users like you and I made 76,7 billion (yeas, with a ‘B’, so 1000 million) searches on Google and generated 233 million USD for the company. So on average they generated 3 USD for every 1000 searched.

I am giving you all these details for 2 reasons, one is because it’s important to realize what the company has achieved. No other company in history has grown so fast in just 11 years since it was created. Just consider that this: Google is 2 times bigger than Starbucks, one of biggest success stories in the last 20 years, or just the same size as McDonalds with its 31.000 restaurants worldwide.

The second is because Google is very much about numbers and analysis. It’s a company built and run by engineers and they take a very scientific approach to management. Everything they do is thourougly analyzed for improvement. Even things that seem like minor design details like the colour of a background are tested, analysed and optimised. They set up a few different versions of the same page, they put them online, they analyse results and pick the best one. This is the way they approach business and it’s important to bear it in mind if you ever plan to interview with them.

Google has become so big so quickly that there are interesting discussions arising concerning the company:

  • Should we be scared about Google? Is it becoming too powerful? This requires an understanding on how Google could end up abusing its power. For instance: they can learn so much about any of us that our privacy might be threatened;  we rely on them for finding anything so they could guide us where they want (where they make more money), and not where we want;  so many small websites rely on Google for advertising revenues and there are no other options that Google can squeeze the little guys as much as they want, they have all the bargaining power. On the other hand, if Google abuses its power, it could quickly backfire. Trust is so essential to Google’s business that it’s in their own interest not to take too much advantage of their huge power.
  • Is Google’s business model fair? If you think about it, Google’s business uses other people’s content. We go to Google to find things that are outside Google, so in a way Google makes money with other people’s content that they use for free. Shouldn’t Google pay the people thanks to whom they make money? This is even more true with services like Google News, which shows short snippets of news from a large ranges of news sites. Again their service is 100% made of content that they take from others for free. In the case of Google News, they don’t sell advertising so they use other people’s content for free but they don’t make money with it… but maybe the owners of the News sites are losing money if people go directly to Google and stop going to bbc.co.uk for instance.  To Google’s defence, it’s easy to say they help a lot of small websites to make money without paying anything just because they appear at the top of search results.
  • Should Google be regulated? A lot of companies now depend on Google to run their business. When a company manages to be #1 in searches like ‘hotels in paris’ then it’s like they have won the lottery, money starts coming in without spending anything. So the business is growing, the owner is happy and starts building a team and taking up real costs… but suddenly they disappear from the search results, and revenues drop brutally. The company depends completely on Google to generate revenues and survive… and it cannot do anything to go back to the top of search results. Google would claim that the results are dynamic and based on sophisticated algorithms, which is fine… should there be a guarantee that Google will not manually arrange search results like they want (meaning so that they make the most money)?

All these are just discussions that are worth being aware of in case you end up interviewing at Google. I personally am a huge fan of Google and I think they have a lot more to lose than to win from abusing their power because for the moment people trust Google and that’s the key ingredient of their success. But if they did things that started damaging that trust users could very easily start using another search engine…

Professional opportunities:

Google is famous for the quality of their products, which are developped by the best an brightest engineers. But remember that Google is the largest advertising company in the world so if you are thinking of working in advertising this is also the place to be as advertising is becoming more and more digital.

Here is an interesting position advertised on iAgora: Online Media Associate Programme

Here are many other jobs advertised on Google’s careers website:

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One Response to “Google – As fast as it gets”

  1. Burton Haynes Says:

    I love this site! Great post btw.. really interesting!

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