Google's Communication Strategy - Wrong, wrong, wrong!

41 comments

As i navigate around the blogosphere, and the Search forums i keep hearing the same thing: "Google is not part of the conversation". This is true, in fact, they couldn't be any more out of the conversation, and one has to wonder what the hell they think they're doing?

Google are at the absolute bleeding edge of technology, but what about public relations, communication and participation? The Autolink debacle is a classic example, everybody is talking about it except Google and by not being part of the debate, and not being seen to participate and interact with their users, Google look more and more cold, and corporate everyday. They are being compared to Microsoft on a daily basis, yet as Doc Searles pointed out recently, even Microsoft eventually listened to thier customers and backed down from Smart Tags.

Follow the title link for the full post.

It gets worse...

TheStreet recently branded Larry, Sergey and Schmidt as hypocrits over their silence with investors, saying that this was all well and good in good times, but would not go down well when the markets turned.

Secret 007 Employees in Search Forums
Think the above is bizzare? Danny Sullivan has highlighted a little known issue outside of the Search community that has had some marketers claiming mistrust and "cluetraining" for some time. (i'd be one of those..)

For some years, Google have had an "unofficial representative" posting on Search forums and blogs such as WebmasterWord, SearchEngineWatch and even Threadwatch under the alias of GoogleGuy - Danny has had enough of it:

Quote:
y the way, GoogleGuy is indeed a real Google employee that you can trust as speaking for Google, even though as I've also written before, comments he makes have been sometimes said to be unofficial in nature.

Confusing? Yep, it is. I've also written before that it's time for the lid to come off GoogleGuy's identity. That's especially so if Google's going to continue releasing official information about controversial topics such as cloaking or nofollow via forums, blog entries and so on in this way. The company needs to finally identify the person behind the nickname, so that the general public doesn't have to wonder if it's really Google talking. I've had reporters ask me in the past how they can know the person is real; John Battelle on his blog wondered the same earlier this year after getting a GoogleGuy comment:

and has gone as far as to threaten to out him himself if "Googleguy" does not stop flaffing around and come out and state his name and purpose:

Quote:
Hopefully, we'll see Google finally identify GoogleGuy so there's no confusion that he does speak for the company. If not, and if we have to keep getting "official" information in this "non-official" way, I'll simply out him myself.

A Secret is only a Secret, when it's a Secret!

The most amusing thing is that there are very few in the Search community who do not know who this masked man is. Mostly, those that know keep quiet about it out of respect, or perhaps fear of reprisal, but it's not really a secret when so many people know the truth.

I mentioned him by name a few times at one point, then decided it was probably better to just leave him be, members of Threadwatch are granted a little respect no matter who they are or what I might think of their antics (mostly heh..) but in light of Danny's threat - Threadwatch will be the first to confirm it if he goes ahead and blows the lid off of this long running farce.

Putting it All Together

So, we have this:

  • No communication with bloggers
  • Pretending burning issues like Autolink do not exist on their own blog
  • Masquerading around under aliases in Search forums and blogs, (and recently only turning up in unhelpful circumstances
  • Telling investors "we dont know" as a standard answer

What's going on Google?

I could forgive Google the Autolink fiasco if they would allow websites to opt-out, or better still, dropped it as the PR hotcake it is and pulled themselves and the rest of the web back from the brink of that oh so talked about slippery slope.

I could forgive them snubbing investors questions easily.

I could put the "GoogleGuy" silliness down to just not thinking about it properly.

I could put their own blogs blazë attitude to hot issues down to "just not getting it".

You know what i find it really, really hard to forgive though? The cavaleir attitude that all of those points highlight. It's time that Google turned around it's communications strategy and started to be part of the conversation.

Come on Google, you could actually come out looking great from all this, all it would need would be a Heartfelt Apology and a little communication.

Comments

perhaps it isn't meant like t

perhaps it isn't meant like this but Scoble writing this just sounds a little like a well crafted barb?

Quote:
Motivation to do a better job. Yes, I actually do read these feeds

"Microsoft sucks" On Feedster..... Looking at the feedback the blogosphere is giving Microsoft, I can see we have a ton of work to do to increase customer satisfaction.

What is the blogosphere saying about your company?

Don't worry Wit

anyone who knows me knows I would never NEVER feed chocolate to a doggie when I could eat it myself.

Am I the only one that thinks

Am I the only one that thinks that Danny was just making a point and that he probably didn't actually intend to ever do it? Just imply that someone could and that maybe Google should grow up before somebodyelse decides to force them to. i.e. Google isn't the little startup that we're all happy to ignore the quirkyness of anymore.

GoogleGuy

Most people in SEO know what personal name to put to most of Googleguy's postings - to those outside SEO it would surely be a non-event, other than to officially acknowledge that GoogleGuy indeed works for Google.

Google doesn't have many public channels of communication, and even if GoogleGuy's public posts do sound very constrained by company/marketing policy, or else just plain automated, it's still a communication channel.

Google as a company have been somewhat poor in their attitude to webmasters the past couple of months - not least dodgy search algos, and the autolink debacle. But it would be sad if we were seen to tear into individuals.

Plenty have mentioned the name behind GoogleGuy - but if Danny Sullivan wants to make a specific public announcement about it, I sincerely hopes he asks permission first as a matter of courtesy.

Google News Personalization - Fluff?

Yesterday, the search blogs were abuzz with the non-news that Google News had added some personalization features. I played around with it a bit, but couldn't find anything interestin

Chocolate?

>> ...lurk in the background, come out wagging his tail when someone wants to feed him chocolate and say good boy...

I was told dogs can't take chocolate. What are you trying to do to the guy!!!? ;-)

GG - 15 comments in 15 weeks

It doesn't look like Googleguy is a very active member on this site. Considering he/she/them works for a major player in this industry you would think Googleguy would have more to say. Also looking at the content of the 15 comments it becomes apparent that Googleguy's primary mission on this site is to protect Google's reputation.

I don't think Google needs to place a name to the Googlebuy nic. I view "Googleguy" as more of a position within the company. Like their public relations person or a press secretary. Any Google employee can be "Googleguy" just as long as everyone agrees that what Googleguy says is offical and on the record.

I also don't think this is just a Google issue. I feel that Yahoo and MSN could do a better job engaging the online community. The search engines need to provide us with better feedback, api's and access to their algorithm (well 2 out of 3 wouldn't be bad).

Not worrying me yet...

I think GG needs to know some of this stuff, and i think members need to air some of it - provided we dont get into name calling and nastiness i think GG can learn a little from this (or at least i hope so)

He's aware of the problems, and im sure he'll do *something* about it...

I have to say I'm very uncomf

I have to say I'm very uncomfortable with this thread. I worry when threads start drifting over into what might be considered bullying or, at the least, hazing.

GG's Silence

I think it's disrepectful to the webmaster community as a whole that GG chooses not to respond to issues that concern the entire industry (autolink), yet sees it fit to pop in and suggest legal liability for a tool that everyone already uses anyways.

I think it all comes down to power. Their attitude seems to be saying "We have the power not to communicate, not to be transparent in our products/inner workings, and there is nothing you can do about it"

No pity...

...I don't feel especially sorry for celebrities and politicians when their personal lives get raked over the coals. They chose the career path that led to their becoming public figures, and public figures live under a magnifying glass.

You want to be the semi-anonymous face/voice of the big-shot darling search engine of the internet world? Be prepared to deal with the pressure.

Not that I think GG should be outed, or that we need to find out what sort of photos he stores on his cellphone, or what have you... but I don't think he ought to be immune to public criticism of his PR persona/performance.

So GG's a mastiff?

Well your dog didn't care what type of press he got and since you kept him to guard the yard then you preferred he had a bad rep.

That doesn't (I'm hoping) apply to Google.

If it does then fine, GG can lurk in the background, come out wagging his tail when someone wants to feed him chocolate and say good boy, savage anyone who dares step over the line into his yard and always have dissapeared when it's discovered the sunday roast has gone missing. But you've got to expect a fair percentage of people to throw stones and complain about the barking.

mysteriously attracted to you

Capicorn baby, you?

The point I'm trying to make is that a member is just a member, should be treated exactly the same as any other member, no *better* nor worse. It's the "better" I have the most issues with but the worse is starting to rankle as time goes by.

If you/we think that Google should place their forum postings in a more official way then email them.

This reminds me of the time....I used to own a scrapyard [you know, crashed cars and stuff] in which we had a few dogs, big nasty dogs. The biggest dog we used to keep in a MK2 ford escort van during the day, the window wound down a bit to let the air in. I can't remember if it was by design or accident but we used to keep all the windscreens stacked in a rack right next to the van, if anybody went over there we would tell them to be careful of the dog. One day a guy went over there and the dog [called major if anybody has read this far] launched himself thru the part open window just enough to bite the arm of the guys jacket, took his [jacket] arm clean off. The guy runs over to me saying "look what just happened, what are you going to do about it", I told him to sort it out with the dog.

no but I find myself mysteriously attracted to you

and I think you're astonishingly macho suddenly.

But I still think that if Google want to use GG to make announcements and to request that a 'community' don't do things which may upset Google the flip side of that is that there should be some response when Google may do something which effects the community. Respect and trust work both ways.

>It's about Google changing t

>It's about Google changing their communications strategy to something less er... silent or ambiguous :-)

I think the *member* has made perfectly clear on what basis he posts, maybe we should all do the same, I'll go first.

"I post here mainly in my spare time, I'm not speaking offically for my company, I'll help when I can. On certain ocasions I'll try and twist threads and viewpoints round so they match my views, which may or may not align with the views of my company and so on and so forth. I choose to post in a semi-anon manner mainly because that works for me and as a bonus makes me appear more mysterious with the end result that I may be more attractive to the opposite sex and/or thought of as more macho. If you have a problem with my companies policy on posting to message boards please take it up with them."

Anybody have a problem with my participation at TW in view of the above?

No

Dave, you couldn't have got that more wrong if you tried!

My point was that his posts here lately have not been particularly helpful, not that he doesn't post enough. The latest posts have all seemed to be either for legal reasons or about spam.

And no, again, I do not want him posting so the hordes come crashing down on TW, that really wasn't my point at all.

Im very happy to have GG here as part of the conversation and part of the membership. We get along just fine most of the time but this really isnt the issue I, nor danny is getting at.

It's not about "hauling anyone over the coals", It's about Google changing their communications strategy to something less er... silent or ambiguous :-)

Leave the Guy alone

But I don't think he's been particularly helpful or contributing round here lately...

hmm there are only so many hours in a day and I guess you have to decide on where and when you have to post, Nick I know you would love GG to just post here, the masses would follow, But being a WMW Mod there are things I wished GG had posted on over there, but he didn't but I don't think outing him or making one man post in 15 forums when he has a job to do as well is a good thing.

http://www.google.com/googleblog/2004/08/greets-from-googleguy.html

I know it looks like I'm Google worshipping, I'm not I just don't think dragging one guy over the coals is good for business.

DaveN

Maybe

Maybe Google need MVPs like Microsoft?

Readers' Representative

I believe what Danny should be calling for, ney SHOUTING for, is a GoogleDude (or Dudette) to be associated with the concerns of webmasters

Interesting parallel (again) from the world of print, where many newspapers now have semi-independent "user ombudsmen" whose job it is to be a public internal critic when mistakes take place.

For example, in the UK the Guardian's Readers' Editor is Ian Mayes

We are beginning to write the Job Description

If these comments continue - We can post the Job Description on HotJobs.

I don't need a name

(although I did a site: search here and found one), and I don't even need to know whether or not GG is a single person.

What I would appreciate is if Google were to make it clear as to whether GoogleGuy actually spoke for Google.

yeah

He was kind enough to post from a Google IP for my benefit when he first showed up here - and yes Gurtie, that's my point aswell as Danny's i think - it's the inconsistency that's the main issue.

I've always had very pleasent dealings with him, i'd go as far to say that he's a nice guy, but i dont think he's been particularly helpful or contributing round here lately...

Halfway there is annoying

my gripe with GoogleGuy (whowever he is, however many people) is inconsistancy. If GG is a semi-official spokesman then like any PR rep he should respond to any and all circumstances that require it - even if the only response is "no response". To wade in and be pally when it suits Google and to absent himself when he feels like it just doesn't work.

If GG is one person all the time then I would actually think it would be easier for him if there was an acknowledgement of his real name/position, but perhaps he's just backed into a corner now and it'll need a new GG to let that happen.

And I assume (and hope) that the admins at any forum where GG posts do actually know who he is :) The thought of how much fun it would be to sign up as GG somewhere and post random 'facts' must have crossed everyones mind at some point. That would be wonderful if it turned out to be what's actually been happening :D

DaveN and others are right

Nobody should out Googleguy and Googleguy should not be pressured to be outed by Google. There is probably not one person involved in this business who hasn't read least one of his posts with interest or hoped for a post from him at some time. No matter the color of your hat, your obligation as a human being is to be respectful to the people in your community.

I believe what Danny should be calling for, ney SHOUTING for, is a GoogleDude (or Dudette) to be associated with the concerns of webmasters as they have done with AdWordsAdvisor on the advertising side. Be open about it, say what forums that person will address concerns in (and I think this should be one of those), and if necessary, impose reasonable conditions on what subjects that person can cover. It would be nice to see reasoning for the conditions just like any site would have ToS.

The evangalist system worked very well for Apple in the 90s even though the software and hardware were extremely frustrating for users the people who used Apple would fight to the end for their bloody Macs and their beloved Apple.

As Someone Who's Been There...

When success hits you, then things go wrong, the first instinct is to protect. But the right thing to do is be transparent. Seems momentum is building in the b'sphere for Google to do the same. Along those lines, I did finally get a response on the issue of the "keyword hint" feature that had apparently been beefed up for publishers like Boing Boing (see the post here). Here is Google's "official response" to my query, which was essentially this: is this a new feature, previously unannounced, or are you selling something that doesn't exist? Why is a Google rep cold calling me with this feature, and promising it to me as something to draw me into using AdSense? The response: "The keyword tool is a limited test and only available to premium publishers at this point.  We continue to work on making more tools available for all of our publishers." Sigh. Transparency, guys. Upfront, and on the backend. It works, really, I swear. And admitting mistakes. Two things that are hard to do, but pay huge dividends. Fact is, the Google rep who called me didn't tell me this is a "limited test only available to premium publishers." Nope, he made it seem like it was a normal feature, ready for me if only I signed up. What did he think I was going to do with the information that Google had new tools that might make AdSense work better? Keep it to myself? I'm a ***publisher*** after all. Anyway. End of rant. It's hard being number one. But it's easier if you are in conversation with those that put you there....

Outing GG

That's just plain Wrong !!!

why should anyone be outed, unless they want to out themselves.

This is a trust issue, if my nick was viagradude I would not want people tell pfizer my real name. It's easy when you have nicks like DaveN or chrisgarret we are not hiding anything...

But who is Oilman, NFFC, bethabernathy, blackknight, littleman etc and what's there really names and their URL's (don't start posting them)

It's nice to know who's who, but only if they want to tell you,

DaveN

ThatAdamGuy

Agreed, AdwordsAdvisor has helped me out personally and before I joined WMW apparently GoogleGuy was very helpful. I don't think this is about the individuals though, it's about the direction Google is going in.

Google is still my main and favourite daily SE, the people who work there individually seem like fine folk. But this being the case, I just wish they would see the cracks that are appearing and rather than give them a lick of PR paint or ignore them they take a good look at their foundations before the place crumbles :O)

Tranparency, Google Presence, etc.

As usual, I have mixed feelings about this (that's gonna be on my e-pitaph for sure :D)

Not only has GoogleGuy been a thoughtful, if not all-that-often-nowadays communicator, people at WebmasterWorld have also been blessed with AdWordsAdvisor and AdSenseAdvisor, two people (groups of people?) who have IMHO written frankly, clearly, helpfully, and sincerely.

Like someone noted above, where are the equivalent Yahoo! or MSN folks?

On the other hand, though, Google's blog is a sad joke... and a very frustrating joke at that. Even Googlers themselves have derided it on their own blogs! The voice of the blog is akin to a smarmy letter-to-friends from a spoiled kid at an expensive prep school trying to sound both nonchalant and aw-shucks unprivileged. And that's not an accurate depiction of either the people I know at Google.

Overall, could Google reach out to Webmasters AND users more? Undoubtedly so. Would more transparency (in algorithms and such) be a good thing? Questionable, in my mind. For every person who innocently wants to know more about the inner workings of the company (financially, technically, and otherwise), there are those who would twist, pervert, and take advantage of such knowledge in ways that would be detrimental not only to Google but also to the vast majority of its users.

For instance, if AdSense publishers could know with certainty how much they got paid for each click on each ad and such, there'd be a frustrating tweaking of content across the Web in a way that would be significantly detrimental both to advertisers and to Web surfers.

No easy answers...

#28

Definitely a different voice.

most of us think we know who it is

Rumour has it he was on a plane for 3 days travelling back to the US and he got someone to post on his behalf

http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum30/28470-1-40.htm
message #28

Has anyone...

...stopped buying AdWords because of any of the above? If not, then do you think Google really cares what any of you (us) think?

>why has no one ever blurted

>why has no one ever blurted out his real name

I think the main reason is it would be quite rude. I'm of the camp that if someone wants the world to know who they are then they are the best person to announce it.

>when most of us know who he really is.

I think most of us think we know who it is, in reality its just a nick, could be anybody posting behind it or more than one person. That shouldn't change the meaning of the words on the page though.

[goes to punch self in balls for sounding like BT]

imho GG was a good idea

- that is to say, i liked that far more than all those blogs you find everywhere with the same people talking and talking and talking and...

It was an unique idea because you actually had this guy who happened to work at this place and would participate in forums and even say totally weird and silly things whenever he felt like it. Much less "corporate" and far more more "conversation like" than the endless monologues (spelling?) of the blogosphere (if we have to drag that old glue train out again *lol*). Plus, some of the things he did say back when he was allowed to be more open actually was helpful to a lot of people, it wasn't just marketing bla-bla.

Nowadays, i find that Yahoo! and MSN still lack behind, even though it's rare to hear the odd comment from GG. Sure, both of them have nice products and increasingly more so, but just where are they if not on their own blogs and press releases?

Getting out in the forums where the real knowledgeable people are; discussing stuff, helping out, and taking flak from everybody+dog. That's the kind of stuff that takes some corporate balls and creates persistent goodwill - who has really done that besides Google?

I personally think the GG approach is far more "part of the conversation" than anything else i've seen from just about any other major firm. They were clearly on the right track, but that said; they should have increased their effors (more Gguys and Ggirls - or perhaps made it an 80% job in stead of 20%) - sadly they chose to move towards the traditional "closed corporate model" in stead.

And that's where we are now, as in the absense of GG they don't really have anything to offer this particular demographic, the "SE aware webmasters", other than the usual blog stuff and PR that the others also do so well....uhm, i'll correct that - MSN and Yahoo are both hype masters, so they're really hard to beat at their own game.

In the "geek department" Google still has a very high rating, and there the hype more or less creates itself. Still, these people know next to nothing about search (or marketing for that matter). So, if you were, say, General Motors, who would you trust to judge the performance of your car products best:

- a mechanic, or
- an architect?

I know who i would choose.

Google seem to be starting to try to PR back

Beta News reports that they have had contact from Google on the "Keyword Stuffing" fiasco

Quote:
Google Denies Keyword Stuffing Claims
Quote:
On Tuesday, Threadwatch, a group blog that discusses marketing technology, provoked controversy when a thread entitled "Google Caught Cloaking - Keyword Stuffing Titles" gained the attention of the Slashdot online community. The thread suggested that Google purposefully violated its own guidelines to boost the rating of its Web sites to a more favorable position.
Quote:
the company dismisses the bloggers' suggestions that it was giving itself an unfair advantage over other Web sites.

A Google spokesperson acknowledged the findings to BetaNews and chalked them up to a technical oversight.

Quote:
"We inadvertently showed additional information on product support pages to both Google's site search crawler and Google's main web crawler. The additional information shown by the product support pages was intended only for the site search crawler, not the main web crawler," the spokesperson said.

Just look at the difference

Is Yahoo! Cool Again?

Quote:
And then, low and behold, Yahoo started hitting my radar screen with new stuff like jumping on RSS early on. And while I can't document these things, I just started hearing about Yahoo more.

And even though it still smacks of trying to be all things to all people, Yahoo is doing things again that make sense to me.

Could it be...heh

http://www.werty.net/2004/08/werty-and-matt-cutts.html

GG...never ;) The myth goes on.

I think GG is a balanced human being from his posts. He is just a cog in the wheel of a corporation that is out of control. I think his roll should be more like Kofi Annan as an ambassador for the corp.

the fear of reprisal

I was having a conversation about this today before I had seen this thread and why has no one ever blurted out his real name when most of us know who he really is.

Yeah it used to be respect and maybe it still is for the person himself but not so much now for the company who have the power to make your sites appear or not

the fear of reprisal should not even enter the equation..

GoogleGuy

Mostly, those that know keep quiet about it out of respect, or perhaps fear of reprisal

I'm thinking it's "fear of reprisal." Personally, I'd love to blab it all over the place, but I don't think I'd ever have a successful site in Google again if I did. ;-)

Couldn't Agree More

The danger is that this will hurt them as a company. I'm sure we've all noticed that our success online is often contingent on effective dialogue - two-way dialogue. It's hard to see how the major investors at Google and the CEO they hired to "reign in" Larry & Sergei are not demanding more public accountability.

If I were a gambler, I might do very well to short Google's stock.

Indeed,

Google has seemed more and more isolationist. Which is especially adverse considering that the Google-webmaster honeymoon seems to be over. The company is facing a royal kick in the assets from the Yahoo! Publisher Network, and it's only a matter of time before Microsoft swing the other boot in with their own contextual advertising.

What will Google be then, with revenues, profits, growth, share value, and markets all seriously impacted?

There's no mistaking why Yahoo! are courting webmasters at the moment - they know that if they can sell us YPN, then they sell us the Yahoo! product range and mindset.

Go Get Em' Nick

Excellent. However I can't agree on the whole opt-out thing. My point being that new web site owners won't know the first thing about AutoLink. Where is their disclosure that Google is stealing their traffic directly from their copyrighted pages without permission?

As we both know new web site owners typically know NOTHING about SEM and they will be completely taken advantage of by AutoLink for a long time before they wise up to it.

AutoLink is just not right in any way, shape, or form. It's unethical and violates the faith web site owners placed in Google.