Sep 2012

This is the first in a series of articles covering Google’s recent changes, and how marketers will be affected by these moves in their 2013 marketing efforts.

Some of these ideas were first presented at SoLoMo Thursday, an event I spoke at in August 2012. For slides from the event, get them at SlideShare

What is SoLoMo?

Most part of your colleagues’ day goes into Facebook and YouTube. Every company, from Groupon to Apple is trying to help you get more local solutions. And everyone around you now surfs the Internet on their iPhone or Android phones (including that non-techie grandma).

The world is moving towards SoLoMo – the made up word that describes the three headed digital direction of Social, Local and Mobile changes. There is no consumer who isn’t affected by these directions on a daily basis. And there’s no company who’s not spending considerable effort adapting to SoLoMo. And that includes Google.

What made Google feel insecure about SoLoMo?

The tech giant which has risen from zero to $40 BILLION per year within 15 short years, now faces its biggest challenge. And the hints of those challenges actually became evident around 2007. Until then, Google was the tech darling of the world – feeding the smartest people in the world, kick-ass IPO and the coolest bicycle privileges this side of an elementary school.

Then, a bunch of changes started happening around 2007:

  • The iPhone was launched, kicking off a revolution in smartphones and the mobile web browsing experience
  • Facebook started gaining rapid traction, threatening to overthrow the big G as the Prom Queen of the tech reunion
  • Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social networks started gaining traction
  • Deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial etc became popular
  • Local review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat all started stealing serious mindshare

Google’s initial efforts in SoLoMo went bust

Google’s never sat idle in all of these areas, but most of their initiatives in these spaces fell bust in the first few years:

  • They had a mobile WAP google site, but nobody really surfed the web on their blackberrys and windows mobile phones
  • Their early Social initiatives like Google Buzz and Google Wave were widely ridiculed
  • They offered the same deal and review features in Google Maps, but nobody noticed

Google Sees Some Success in Mobile

After many failed efforts, things only started clicking for them around 2008. The first palpable success was the launch of the Android G1 phone in 2008. Even though the acquisition had happened in 2005, and Android itself was started in 2003 by Andy Rubin, the first phone was launched in 2008.

Initially met with a bit of skepticism, but it was only in 2010 that Verizon, the largest carrier in the US started carrying Android phones to fight off the lack of the iPhone. Android suddenly took off, and Google had a horse in the race.

Here’s a handy history of Android’s growth.

They have winners and losers in Social

On the Social front, Google’s winning battle is yet to be found. Although their YouTube acquisition has been a breakout success, and it is now starting to bring significant revenues, they’ve never managed to build a real Facebook/Twitter competitor.

If recent trends are to go by, Google + isn’t doing as badly as first believed. But it still has a couple of years to go before it could become even a quarter the size of Facebook.

And Local is still a big Question Mark

And on the Local front, Google Maps has overthrown previous kings like Yahoo Maps. And due to presence on iPhone and Android (until very recently), that has had a huge presence. But when it came to local information, deals and commerce – it’s still significantly lagging behind.

And this is an area where rather than acquire a new company, or build a competitor – they are using their strengths well. They’ve made local relevance a key future direction for Google Search. In their ongoing mission, they don’t just organize the world’s information anymore, they also make sure they present the most local and relevant results to people’s queries.

If Google Says So, SoLoMo is here to stay

These changes have presented themselves in many different Google products – everything from Search to AdWords to Analytics to AdSense to Android – all of these are rapidly changing. But there’s one thing that’s certain – if the most savvy tech company in the world is betting its employees’ bonuses on surviving SoLoMo – then it must be a movement to stay.
Stay tuned for more on this topic. Until then, sound off in the comments below – Have you experienced more Social, Local and Mobile web elements in the past few years?
Rachit Dayal

Is the Managing Partner at Happy Marketer, and handles clients with needs in Web Analytics, Search Engine Optimization, Google AdWords, Website Design and Conversion Consulting.

As Singapore’s first Qualified AdWords Professional and one of the first Analytics Qualified Professionals in the region, Rachit has been on the forefront of search marketing in Singapore since 2004.

But as this industry comes into maturity, he believes now is when the fun is starting – when clients dare to dream of exciting campaigns, and we can finally show tangible positive ROI from all marketing campaigns.