The Google Decade - such an impact but is the trust eroding?

Google was the most impactful digital company of the past decade.  But, is Google the greatest friend to digital marketers or a revenue hungry behemoth that cannot be trusted?

I founded my digital advisory and agency in early 2003, before Google was well know or public.  I believed then, as I do now, that the ROI efficiency and measurability of paid search would change direct marketing as we knew it.  I also remember Google’s altruist mantra “organizing the world’s information” and their intense “focus on search relevancy” for optimal “user experience”.  While reviewing their corporate information page yesterday, it struck me how they have tried to position each of their new services to fit with this core mission.  But, some of this is a stretch, to say the least - “people see [Google] ads that are so useful and relevant that they become a valuable form of information in their own right.”  In fact, any search marketer knows how Google constantly tweaks their broad search matching algorithm to yield the greatest number of clicks (many non-converting clicks indicating a non-relevant user experience) to yield greater revenue and earnings.  Similar issues expect with Google Content targeting.

But, let’s give Google some credit – they have innovated better, faster (and probably cheaper) than any other marketing services company (maybe any company) this decade and that has brought great value to advertisers (mostly all) and publishers (at least some).  Take a look at this set of products that assist digital marketers large and small as well as digital agencies – Adwords, AdSense, Google Analytics, Website Optimizer, Insights for Search, Ad Planner, DoubleClick, YouTube ads, Google TV ads, Google Open Exchange, Google Affiliate Network, mobile ads, etc.   

Last week, Google revealed their Display Advertising Strategy based on bringing Simplicity, Performance and Openness to a fairly complicated industry landscape. I really do love how simple Google keeps everything, despite the rapid rate of new product releases. 

As you can see, I am a bit conflicted about Google.  I regularly find myself in the middle of client discussions about online ad platforms and struggling a bit to not just jump on the Google bandwagon and adopt all of their ad management tools – boy, wouldn’t that be so much easier (i.e. simple) and cheaper for all.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that many of the ad products are free in order to stimulate adoption, usage and ad spending. Google also has self-service capabilities built into many of their ad tools, making them a logical choice for small and local businesses.

But, larger and more sophisticated advertisers should worry about putting all their eggs into the Google basket.  While Google is the dominant search engine, Bing is grabbing market share and Yahoo still drives decent volume.  You need tools to manage and optimize paid search on these engines.  Also, while Google reaches a large share of the web with their display network and exchange, you can’t reach users on all websites.  With the growth of behavioral targeting, it’s important to be able to follow those intent cookies, no matter what website they are on.  Then there is the data ownership issue.  Who owns all that data Google is capturing through all these ad tools? 

A hybrid approach could be one solution to this dilemma.  Perhaps digital agencies should segment their clients based on their needs and willingness to pay and offer a tiered ad management solution with the Google only solution as the base offering and a premium, configured solution as an up-sell.

What do you think?  Can we resist the Google temptation?  Should we trust Google?  Can we?