March 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

Where would e-retailing be without Google?

When it comes to marketing web sites, it is Google that continually amazes us and leads e-retailers along a path to growth.

In the early days of e-retailing-and this magazine-we regularly marveled at the pioneering work of Amazon.com, which was then and still is the gold standard by which e-retailers should measure their operations.

When it comes to marketing web sites, it is Google that continually amazes us and leads e-retailers along a path to growth. From its beginning, Google focused on perfecting search results for the end user, not on maximizing advertising dollars. It designed its search results page so advertising does not overwhelm natural search results, and it maintains standards that insure that even paid advertising is relevant to a search.

It was by meeting the consumer’s demand for excellent search results that Google grabbed the lion’s share of Internet searches. Oh yes, in the process it copped the lion’s share of the search engine advertising market as well. And virtually on its own it made search engine marketing the most important and productive means of marketing web sites and the most revolutionary new marketing form since the development of TV advertising, which is now losing share to SEM. We’ve used other search engines for marketing our conferences and directories and none comes close-not even remotely-to matching the returns we get from Google search. At times, I wonder why we even bother with the others.

This month’s cover story explains Google’s latest tool for helping e-retailers to improve conversion rates by using a starter web analytics package. The service is priced right; it’s free. And while this won’t and isn’t intended to put the more sophisticated web analytics products out of business, it allows smaller e-retailers to get a ground floor understanding of where their sales traffic is coming from and how their customers are moving around their site. Thousands of small e-retailers have understandably decided to jump on this gift horse and even larger merchants are turning to it for basic analytics work. In the process, Google gets a better understanding of how consumers are using the web so that it can make its search results and SEM offerings even better.

This is only the latest in the rapid stream of Google innovations and initiatives that retailers have used to improve their online sales. Last year we wrote about Google’s entry into online payment with Google Checkout. And before that there was Google Site Search and Enterprise Search. And when it makes more sense to round out its web offerings through acquisition than internal development, it has not hesitated. When RSS feeds became the rage, Google made a timely acquisition of FeedBurner last year. And its acquisition of YouTube was simply breathtaking from a financial and strategic standpoint.

In a meeting the other day, one of our partners used the term “Googlespeed” to emphasize how fast a particular web application worked. It’s a good description for how fast and how well Google has leveraged its position as the search engine leader to grow its business by taking the Internet-and the retailers who rely on it-to a whole new level of performance.

No wonder Microsoft is looking over its shoulder these days, anxious that its position as America’s most important information technology company may be slipping away. No wonder it’s plunking down $45 billion to buy Yahoo. The real wonder is why it waited so long.

jack@verticalwebmedia.com
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