Monday, 8 September 2008

Customize Google - Potential Death to Search?

I installed an add-on to Firefox today named Customize Google that is meant to help improve the Google experience. They have tried to push the benefits of the following:

  • Use Google Suggest (suggest words while you're typing)

  • Add links to competitors

  • Rewrite links to point straight to the images in Google Images

  • Removes image copying restrictions in Google Book Search

  • Secure Gmail and Google Calendar, switch to https

However, the features that most interested me was the ability to block all Google Ads from appearing within all Google products (be it Google Search, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Mail, etc!) and to stop any cookies or data being sent to Google Analytics. Initially, (I would imagine) this sort of feature would probably not have worried Google too much, as the number of people likely to use this add on would have been small (i.e. those that are more advanced Firefox users). However, with Firefox now pushing towards 20% of the global web users and Open Source software becoming increasingly popular, it is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. THe fact that no data is sent to Google would also be of great interest to those that are concerned about their privacy as they use the internet. This too is another area of internet user behaviour that has received a lot of media attention lately and causing increased interest in the casual internet using public.

In theory, if this were to become available on Internet Explorer and become widely used, then Google would be in some difficulty. Since almost 100% of Google's fortune comes from online advertising then if this revenue source were to dry up, then Google would have to radically change the way in which it operates.

The options to remove ads from search result pages and on the side of Google Mail would instantly reduce the volume of impressions and clicks that Google Adwords clients receive. This in turn, would have large impacts on the revenue/business that could be obtained through Search Marketing, which is one of the sources many companies are holding onto during this threat of recession.

Still, for the time being, those that are likely to take up this add-on feature are the type of web-savvy user that tends to avoid clicking Google Ads anyway, instead relying on their own knowledge and experience to seek out the information they are searching for.

I am yet to find out exactly the process by which the removal of ads happens. If impressions are recorded by Google but no ads are shown then this could have significant implications on an account's quality score, leading to increased Cost-per-Click to maintain a strong market position. Alternatively, if no impressions are recorded by Google, then the volumes would drop but the potential ROI and CPC should not be affected.

It would be interesting to hear Google's opinion on this add-on, especially as it could easily be adapted to work on Google's own Chrome Open Source Web Browser. For some reason, I doubt very much that Google would allow an add-on such as this to operate!

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