Tomorrow I’m going to the Googleplex for an all day training at something they call “Conversion University.” As far as I can tell, conversion university is basically a full-day sales pitch on why my company should use Google Analytics, with a few usability and product betas thrown in the add some excitement.
I actually do think it will be valuable. My company currently does not use Google Analytics but we’re intrigued by the price (free). If the value it provides is 75% of our current provider, I’m inclined to save tens of thousands of dollars annually and go with Google Analytics.
Of course, the ever-present danger with Google Analytics is that Google has yet more of my company’s information. Combine Google Analytics (sales data), Conversion Tracker (more sales data), Checkout (sales and customer data), Google Base (product data), AdWords (marketing data), Gmail (email data) and even Google Desktop (my computer’s data!) and Google could learn a lot about me and my business if they wanted to.
Right now that doesn’t bother me too much, but at some point in the future when Google decides to migrate from a search engine to an actual merchant, I may be regretting the day that I saved tens of thousands of dollars and gave Google the keys to my business data.
This is a difficult dance for any online marketer to make these days – it’s dumb to stick your head in the sand and avoid all the innovation that Google pumps out (most of which is free to use). But it also feels like I’m on a street corner in some bad part of town and a pusher is offering me my first hit for free. The pusher knows the value of that first loss-leader.
Those of you who don’t religiously read this blog (shame on you) may be wondering why there is a “Sneeze” reference in the title. A few months back, I coined the concept of a “Google Sneezes” post, which is basically any blog post that either parrots a really lame Google press release or is some form of bragging about interaction with a Google employee.
A search on blogsearch.google.com, for example, reveals more than 200 posts that reference “visiting Googleplex.” In many cases, it’s a bit nauseating to hear the writers coo over their close encounters with Google luminaries. A recent poster wrote: “We arrived at Google around 1pm and had our car valet-parked (a great new feature at the ‘plex). Matt Cutts, Brian White, Aaron D’Souza and several other folks from the search quality team treated us to a fantastic lunch (including flawlessly cooked duck breast) and a tour of the many wonders of the Googleplex.”
It’s sad that lunch with a smart engineer is newsworthy (and this post comes from a very well-subscribed blog). Perhaps an interview with some SEO secrets or a philosophical discussion of the ethics of quality score would be OK, but any post that simply brags about a visit to Googleplex is a Google Sneeze, plain and simple.
So I of course recognize that it might seem that I’m criticizing bloggers who brag about their Google interactions as a way for me to brag about my own upcoming Google interaction. To set the record straight, I will simply say that there is really nothing to brag about with respect to my visit. I’m not getting any access to an inner-sanctum, nor am I meeting with anyone above a product manager, nor does Google care who I am or what I have to say (nor do they care about the bloggers who think that they care about them, but that is another story altogether).
Believe me, if I was to brag about a trip to Googleplex, you’d know it.