I once attended a talk entitled, "What if there was no Google?" The presenter worked through a number of different alternatives for how to cope with a marketing program where you could not put any of your spending in Google's pocket--you just drew a line through that Google row in your spreadsheet. The speaker made a lot of good points and really helped the audience. But I want to take the question that he asked and think about it a different way. What if there were no search engines?

At first, it might seem like dumb question. After all, we are over 15 years into the Web age, and search engines have been part of our experience for nearly all of that time. And it is hard to imagine that any of us as users of the Web could go for very long without missing our favorite search engine.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

But I want to ask the question of marketers. What if there were no search engines? What would you do differently?

We've all come to depend on search engines to drive traffic to our sites. Sure, we put effort and budget into paid search, but for organic search, most of us don't do any more than putting the content out there. We assume if we get the content onto the site that it will be found. If we announce a new product, we put out the press release and we put a new product page on the site and then good things happen. All because of Google and company.

And our organic search efforts are disconnected from creating new content, in many ways. We spend time looking at infrastructure to ensure our sites are crawled and we do keyword research to be sure we know what searchers want and we optimize pages to use those keywords. Most of this SEO work comes after the fact--after we've created the content.

But what if there was no Google? Clearly you wouldn't be doing any of these SEO tasks. There wouldn't even be any keywords to research. What if when you put content out there, no search engine would find it. No searchers would see it? What would you do then?

I suspect you'd spend a heckuva lot more time promoting your content. I think you'd tweet it. I think you'd blog about it to your subscribers. I think you'd post a video about it on YouTube. I think you'd mention it in your e-mail newsletter. I think you'd make very sure that you were promoting it every way you could to people you thought might be interested.

This might seem somewhat unsettling. I mean, do you have this nagging feeling that you wouldn't want to send out the link to your new product page to all your e-mail subscribers? Does it feel a bit intrusive to blog about that new product feature? If so, then maybe your content is wrong. You should be producing content that you want to tell others about, not boring stuff that just sits out there for the search engines.

But if these promotion ideas seemed perfectly reasonable to you, then you are producing the right kind of content. And then my question would be, why aren't you promoting it just as I suggested? Why do you need to imagine there is no Google before you start promoting what you've got? I mean, all that traffic still counts, doesn't it? And, do you realize that doing all those things also drives your search rankings? Because there really is a Google, it looks at links to your content. Increasingly, search engines are looking at social media activity, too, as a surrogate for page quality (just as links are).

So, don't sit back and let the search engines find you. Don't let Google make you lazy. Go out and promote your content. That strategy will help you with those who don't search, and it will help with searchers, too. And if you don't think your content is worthy of that level of promotion, then that's the first thing for you to work on, because Google probably doesn't think much of that kind of content either.

Originally posted on Biznology Blog.

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November 28, 2012

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


"Don't let Google make you lazy."

I might have to steal that line! But you make a great point. I think when you go about your SEO as if there were no search engines (guess it wouldn't be called SEO then...) you're actually going to do it "right." There would be no tricks, no games or ploys to use to get your site ranking well because there would be no rank. You'd need to get your content linked to and published and listed in as many places as possible so your target audience could find it. That's they way you should be doing things now.

Google surely gets the top spot or not one of the top sports for expenses in marketing for most companies. Who wouldn't invest in Google if one knows that it is what people seek to ask for suggestions and recommendations about certain products. If Google isn't existing, I think there will be more creative marketing strategies aside from internet marketing. :)

If Google didn't exist I would do a bigger effort trying to collect email adresses and likes/followers on the social media... Google has definitely made me lazy :(

I even can't think my life without Google. It starts with it and ends as well. I would like to add that the existence of most of the news websites in term of traffic is dependent on Google News, forget about the organic search results. Thanks for a useful and informative article.

if there were no google internet search would go back to how it used to be just Yahoo! existing well just Yahoo! the best known search existing if no search existed everyone would go back to libraries and encyclopedias

Ya'll are trying to hard...to invent the next Microsoft. You answered most of your own questions. If Google up and disappeared you'd just use the next service or the one you were using before Google came along. I tend to use Google heavily not because one product sucks me in but because I like their services. I can leave any one of them or all of them without much problem besides having to move some data in some cases.

This is not the same case as Microsoft. For instance lets say I like the interaction between Exchange and Outlook but I don't care for MS servers. Well if I want Exchange and Outlook I'm going to need an MS server and desktop. If I like MSSQL vs Oracle then I need an MS Server and a desktop to use the management tool. I may like C# but if I want to use the up to date features of the .Net platform I'm going to need Visual Studio (though I like Eclipse) and again Windows desktop. Honestly that quickly became my problem with MS. If I like just one little piece of their technology it quickly spirals into me adopting their whole stack. Or if enough people like their technology you end up being forced to use it as well just to be compatible with everyone else. Sure its a great business practice for them but I don't care to be forced into using 10 products I can't stand just to use one that I like.

You simply can't compare the two. Its far easier to leave Google than it is to get out of a MS entanglement.

I get your points--it's all about lock-in--but lock-in cuts two ways. Yes, it's harder to leave one Microsoft product, but the story of the last few years is that people are leaving ALL Microsoft products at once--in droves. Take a look at the market share of Apple computers vs. Microsoft computers the last few years. And the growing Unix segment. But that's not all, look at the share of Microsoft cell phones--a rounding error in the overall scheme of things. So, my theory is it is easier to leave one Google product but a lot harder to leave all of them--Microsoft is the opposite. When your stickiness is based on lock-in, you are forcing a big break rather than lots of little ones.

Don't let Google make you lazy !!!

I absolutely loved the article !!! And it really made me sit up and think. But not just what I would do if there was no Google.

What would I do if there was no Social Media either ??? How would I attract new customers then ???

Now thats something to think about...

Most likely Encyclopedias and Libraries would still rule the world of information search and retreival.

After all, all the information in the world is useless if there's no means to quantify, access and search that data for useful information. Without search engines, the Internet would be a useless blob of over-information.

Before there was ever an Internet, people turned to the Card Catalog at the local library or the Index of an Encyclopedia to research information. Without search engines, we probably still would be!

We have become over reliant on Google because of its dominace and it scares me. Back in the good old days we invested in a marketing mix, spreading our marketing spend over a number of channels.
The scary thing about Google now is that they can snap their fingers and make a change which can make or break your business.
It really is time that we had a significant competitor to Google - for all our sakes.

Well, then, I guess word of mouth marketing would be preferred or people could turn to other search engines as Yahoo or Bing for example.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Hey, marketers: What if there was no Google?