Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Analysis: Google Sets Major Relaunch Of Search Yet Doesn't Measure Effect On Advertising

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 8, 2010

The launch of "Google Instant" represents the single largest change to Google's search services in its history. "For the first time search is interactive," said Othar Hansson, a senior Google engineer.

The company said it performed extensive studies of users and how they interact with Google Instant plus extensive eye-tracking studies. They all showed a much improved user experience and a lot less time spent searching for the right page.

Google says it now has 1 billion users per week and that the time saved by users worldwide from using Google Instant is 11 hours per second. That's the equivalent of 350 million hours of user time per year, said Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience.

During the question and answer part of the launch, the Google team could offer no data on how the change would impact its advertising business beyond saying that what's best for the user is usually best for the advertiser.

This is shocking. Google makes a major change to the search service and the user experience -- yet has no measurement on how that impacts click rates on its adverts!

Let me say this again: Google makes a major change to the search service and the user experience -- yet has no measurement on how that impacts click rates on its adverts!

Those text ads on the side of its results page represent about two-thirds of its revenues. Any change to the structure of the search page has to impact the click through rate of its advertising for better or worse. Yet Google did not measure this impact. Wow.

It seems that the company is divided between those working on improving the search experience and the rest of the company that is trying to sell advertising. And there appears to be no communication between the two sides.

If I were a GOOG shareholder I'd be very concerned that the effectiveness of Google's advertising has been compromised. At the very least, as a shareholder, I would want to know that Google's advertising business has not been compromised by this major change in serving search results.

There must be an effect on advertising.

Think of it this way: If Google could guide me to my intended destination in the shortest time possible then the amount of time I spend staring at Google ads decreases. In this case, it decreases by 11 hours per second.

How is it possible that this will not affect advertising revenues? If I spend less time looking at a page with ads on it then surely that means less time spent clicking on ads?

And if Google has indeed studied the effect on advertising from using "instant" then why did it not offer supporting data instead of just saying that what's good for the user is usually good for the advertiser.

Google may have shot itself in the foot.

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Please see: Will "Google Instant" Distract From Google Ads? That's What Eye-Tracker Data Shows...


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