Fifteen years ago, Google was barely a newborn. Literally only a month old as a company, Google consisted of nothing more than a few founders and some loosely tied together hardware in a Menlo Park garage. By 2004, Google was a billion-dollar company being publicly traded on the NASDAQ. But this isn't a story of their meteoric rise; it's a story of how they have pulled your business into their journey.
Reflect for a moment on where your business was in 1998. The dot-com era had just begun, but who knew if it was a fad or something to stay. It didn't really matter anyway, since everyone still relied on the trusty phonebook. Starting a company? Any name beginning with 'A' seemed like a good choice. If you had a cutting-edge cell phone, its main selling feature may have been that it came in a color other than black. It certainly didn’t get your email. You spent your marketing dollars on beautiful collateral materials, direct mailings, and, of course, those Yellow Pages ads.
Today, that company is now ruling your life. The dot-com era stuck, with Google leading the charge to make your life, and your business, more dependent on them. Even as they branch out into computers that double as glasses and cars that drive themselves, the old-fashioned search engine continues to loom large in the daily success of your business.
While the Internet era was supposed to usher in an age of cost savings, Google has seen to it that your budget will never shrink. Instead of spending a fraction of what you did on professional photography and high-quality printing of collateral materials for a website, your business is now almost required to invest the same amount – or more – into search engine optimization or search engine marketing. There’s no way around it: If you’re not on the first page of a search engine result page, you’re losing market share to your competitors who are.
To repay you for your investment, Google not only keeps you in the dark about what factors go into your search engine ranking but also changes those factors a few times a year. This forces every business to continually invest in a three-part strategy of search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and website changes. So much for any cost savings.
Keep in mind, however, that investing in these online efforts today is just as important as investing in Yellow Pages ads and company brochures was in years past. Neglecting your online presence puts your company at a distinct disadvantage – you want customers to find you, not your competitors. Your online strategy requires time and money (sometimes a significant amount), but one company has changed how businesses operate, and successful companies make that investment.
This post was originally published in the October, 2013 edition of the Jackson Magazine.