Google is a lot like a guy who dates your mom. Sure, he’s very nice and pretty interesting, but you’re not quite sure what his true intentions are. Even as you’re thanking him for the thoughtful gift that “he just happened to see at the store” and bought for you, you are still keeping an eye on him, trying to figure out what exactly he’s up to. Maybe he just genuinely loves your mom, but maybe, just maybe, he has sinister designs on her burgeoning tea cozy business. You can never be quite sure, so you remain ever vigilant.
Google claims that they are out to make the world a better place by bringing great content to users and generally making their lives easier and more fulfilling, and I’d guess that, to some extent, that is their goal; however, I’m not convinced that they do not have a number of ulterior motives (money, power, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, etc.), and as such, I always keep an eye on what they’re up to.
I discussed Google+ in my last post, and although there have been some updates to the product since then, none of them have been big enough to change my predications or opinions. I’m still keeping a wary eye on Google+, but the new Google product/feature/update that I’m currently most interested in is their new e-book Zero Moment of Truth – ZMOT written by Jim Lecinski, Google's Managing Director of US Sales & Service, which I will refer to in the future as ZMOT.
The e-book is targeted at marketers and companies, everybody whose business has any contact with Google (so everybody) should make sure that they read the book. Regardless of what you think Google’s intentions with the book are, you will find ZMOT an intensely fascinating read. I sure did.
As I read the book, numerous ideas and theories popped into my head. First of all, the very fact that this book is from Google altered the perspective from which I read the book. Had this information been presented by a blogger or marketing firm, I probably would have breezed through the material and gleaned a few helpful tips. Instead, I kept in mind the three questions I ask myself about everything Google does:
- What is Google ostensibly up to?
- What shady stuff are they possibly up to?
- What are they really most likely up to?
As I go through the answers I came up with for these questions, please keep in mind that I do not necessary believe all of these answers, but am merely proposing them as possibilities worth thinking about.
What Is Google Ostensibly Up To?
Ostensibly, ZMOT introduces a new marketing term and strategy and shares some extremely interesting data that Google had collected. The book is extremely well written, well designed, and packed with useful information. It introduces the term “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT, which is a marketing buzzword that encapsulates all the research and online activity that consumers engage in before buying the product. Lecinski frames ZMOT as the future of marketing and a complete shift in the way companies should be communicating. While this is a bit of an overstatement, for non SEO/SEM people, the information will be pretty eye-opening.
For SEO/SEM practitioners, it’s basically a well-organized and simplified overview of what we do with some new data with a fancy new name. It’s definitely worth reading, but it is definitely targeted to online marketing novices. So on the surface, it looks like Google is giving out some important (but hardly revelatory) information for free with just a few shout outs to their programs (Adwords, Analytics). What generous people Google are!
What Shady Stuff Is Google Possibly Up?
It is only when you read the book from a slightly paranoid, ulterior motive-type viewpoint that the book becomes intensely fascinating and somewhat worrying. When read from this viewpoint, ZMOT appears to be an announcement of Google’s conscious or subconscious (yes, corporations can have a subconscious) intention to take over the roles of online marketers. Not content with merely controlling the platforms through which marketers have to work, Google wants to control everything. Taken to an extreme, the book reads as a battle plan for how Google will take over all the functions of advertising and marketing agencies. Based on this reading, Google does not want to control the industry; they want to be the industry.
This is of course a reactionary exaggeration of reality, but I think it’s worthwhile to think about ZMOT from this perspective. The book seems to foretell a future where marketing and advertising is crushed by user-generated information. A very telling paragraph reads:
There are certain objections to ZMOT that we hear all the time. Let me share a few with you. "Nobody looks online for toothpaste or paper clips." Really? Tell that to 3M. In the first year after they started taking website comments about Scotch Tape, they got almost 3,000 comments from users. Comments like this: “I use this tape all the time because it holds the things I want to hold together without being seen. I have used this product for years and will continue using it for many more years” (Lecinski, 2011).
Who needs marketing when you have your consumers doing it for you? Companies that produce inferior products, of course (and they sadly might be where the future of marketing lies), but for quality products, all companies will need is an information controller/provider. Guess who’s really good at that? Google. Boom!
What is Google Most Likely Really Up To?
If you discount the above theory that Google is planning to destroy the marketing industry, then you have to ask what they are really up to. In my opinion, ZMOT is, like many of their releases, a mixture of goodwill and cunning strategy. I do not think that Google is actually trying to replace the marketing industry, but I do believe that they want to control it to as large extent as they can. As such, ZMOT is a bid to start controlling the online marketing conversation. If the ZMOT concept is picked up and becomes the guiding principle of online marketing, then Google will have a huge influence over the online marketing field. Personally, I feel that ZMOT is a really compelling and probably extremely useful concept that will greatly benefit companies that adopt it. But—and this is the kicker—if companies adopt ZMOT, Google stands to benefit greatly too, so watch out SEOs, Google’s getting in the game. Think of how easy it would be to optimize for search if you control the search. I know Google is thinking about it.