Some of you might read the title of this story and ask, "How could anything be keeping Google up at night? They are literally making billions." And you have a point. But ask yourself something. Can you remember when you were making half what you are making now? Some of us lucky people can remember when we were making one-tenth of what we make now. But do you feel comfortable now? Nothing worries you? Just sailing along, happy with your success? Nope. You might want more or you might be afraid of losing what you have, but you are worried about something. We all are. Well, Sergey and Larry worry about things, too. Let's think about what they are.
The obvious thing that they are worried about is Microsoft. If you flip back a couple of years, not only was Google not worried about Live Search, they were actually more focused on how to eat Microsoft's lunch with Google Docs, the Chrome browser, and the Android and Chrome operating systems. But Bing has forced Google to look more closely at its biggest cash cow.
And it's not pretty. Microsoft came out with Bing, made its deal with Yahoo!, and has been stealing market share ever since. First it stole from the also-rans, but lately it has been stealing from the Big G. What search marketer is willing to ignore over 30% of the market share? Bing is making this a horse race again.
Image by Joi via Flickr
Google is worried about other things, too. Bing attacks Google as a competitor, but search spam attacks the system itself. Google's public fight against content farms masks a larger problem, that spammers are winning in ways they were not just a couple of years ago. Every day, I hear about clever algorithms that use content farms, link farms, fake social media personas, and other even more esoteric attacks against Google. Google hears those whispers about how their search results aren't what they used to be.
Google is starting to win in mobile phones, but they are still worried. The Android strategy has risks that Apple's approach does not, because handset makers are fragmenting the market with different versions of Android and with customizations that might or might not improve user experience.
And they have the wireless carriers to worry about, too. Google has invested all this money in a free operating system to be recouped by ad revenues. But Verizon Wireless loaded my Android phone with Bing. And even though I am a sophisticated user, I haven't bothered to stick Google into that search box yet. Bing has been working just fine, and Google has made no money on my phone.
But the biggest worry, for sure, is social media. I can't remember if Google ever tried to buy Facebook, but they took very public (and unsuccessful) runs at Twitter and Groupon. And it makes them look like those old school companies that have forgotten how to innovate, so they just buy up the smaller companies that do have the new ideas. This might not bother you or me, but I bet it drives Larry and Sergey nuts.
With all of Google's money, it is still under attack from all sides. And while you or I might be content to punch out and buy a beach house, you can tell that the Google founders have other ideas. Larry Page ain't checking out—he's stepping up, as the new CEO. He didn't have to do it. His money and his legacy are already secure. But he just can't help it.
Larry and Sergey want to win. And after they win, they want to choose a new game and win again. And they just might do that. But if you think they sleep soundly, I suspect that they don't.
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.
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