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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Google Plus DoubleClick: Truthiness & Trustiness

The Google Acquisition of DoubleClick has Microsoft and AT&T screeching "Monopoly!" to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust division. In a video interview with John Batelle at WebProNews last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt responded to a comment from Batelle about "anti-competitive practices" by reacting in what seemed like mock surprise. "Microsoft! ... AT&T? ... What year is this?"

Google doesn't control advertising online and DoubleClick won't change that. It will simply give Google access to another segment (display, or graphical) advertising that they didn't have direct access to previously. Just as Google's Dmarc acquisition and the recent ClearChannel deal gives them access to radio advertising. If the DOJ denies the DoubleClick purchase, I'd be shocked.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and others are concerned, on a different front, about privacy issues - because Google will now be able to combine their own powerful tracking abilities (surfing and search query data, along with webmaster and advertiser account holder contact information) with the extensive behavioral targeting abilities and ad tracking details of DoubleClick.

Schmidt suggests simply that they'll keep the information in separate silos. Why should anyone believe that? Stephen Colbert popularized a rarely used word - truthiness to suggest that something can feel true, whether it is or not. Truthiness may apply here - as well as another word that suggests that a company and its' principals can have trustiness. They do. Google has earned that trust in several ways. More on that later.

DoubleClick ignited a firestorm of controversy back in 2000 when they announced plans to merge offline data with online surfing behavior data and email and contact information (physical addresses and phone numbers) of surfers who had viewed and/or clicked on their ads across the web. They resolved that issue by selling off the division of the company that held the "real-world" data.

This all got me thinking about why I trust Google with the information that I didn't trust DoubleClick with. What it all comes down to is that Google has so far lived up to their unofficial corporate mantra of "Don't Be Evil." While it takes more to live up to that motto than putting the words on a web page, Google has actually made moves to demonstrate true adherence to the concept.

Last month they announced that they would, after two years, slightly anonymize the IP addresses they currently use to track queries done through their search function. This followed Google's refusal to turn over data for two months of user search query information to the Department of Justice, when the DOJ demanded that data from MSN, Yahoo, AOL and Google. The others relented - Google stood firm and refused - and won in court.

So even though I believe that Google has way too much information on me already, including search history, financial information (through my Google account), web site stats, physical address and contact info, my personal emails (through Gmail account), and so much more - I trust them so far.

So what's to say they won't some day turn on me, and you, and everyone else and use that extensive data they hold on all of us for evil purposes? Their track record so far says so. Schmidt even comments near the end of that Battelle video interview that Google believes in data portability, so that if we should decide for any reason that we no longer want to use Google services and prefer to take our history and data with us, that they are working on technology that would allow us to move that information from Google to anywhere we choose.

This is another example of why I trust Google and why others do too. They have gone far above and beyond what is necessary and reasonable, to what is right. They are also painfully aware of how fragile their business model is, and that continued profits rely on the trust and support of their users - who can and will easily move elsewhere (now with Google's help apparently) if they lose that trust. The entire business would simply implode on itself. Truthiness is, they can't afford to lose that trustiness. And you can quote me on that!

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert The Greatest Living American

I spoke with Jonah Stein of Alchemist Media briefly after his presentation on Search and Privacy at Search Engine Strategies in New York last week and he mentioned that he had just seen a taping of the Colbert Report. The buzz is that Colbert would like to rank first for "Giant Brass Balls," according to Stein. So I'm here to do my part. But Stein suggested "Greatest Living American instead. Well, I'll do my part there as well. ;-)

But what about "Truthiness? A word Colbert invented, should rank for the man who created it! So here's to great experiments and a nod to Jonah Stein for initiating it.

"But wait!" You say, "I thought Google made Google bombing a thing of the past?"

Nope, it seems that the best known example - "Miserable Failure for George Bush - popped back to a #2 position briefly when the White House added the following text to the Presidents' page:

The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines.
It turns out that if you use a word on the page being Google-Bombed, you will rank for it. Way to go President Bush! I'll bet you wish you could be called the "Greatest Living American." Here's how you do it. First, put the words on your own bio page, then use the power of the presidential pulpit to ask that bloggers link to your bio page with the phrase as anchor text. You don't even have to seem egotistical to accomplish this, you could simply say that our troops are the greatest living Americans.

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