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.

Eric Schmidt,  Sergey Brin and Larry Page

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.

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April 19, 2011

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.


I think it's good that Bing is fighting the good fight. With someone finally posing a real threat, Google is forced to get back to doing what made them who they are--innovation. It's hard to stay competitive when there is no real competition. Once Google gets going again, I'm sure they'll come out swinging.

I hear what you're saying but it seemed inevitable. If i can use an example it would be Twitter (which isn't a site originating on its own but for examples sake lets imagine it is). Somewhere a company is thinking "Hey that's a great idea,lets take twitter,rearrange the layout and add something new".

It's basically what Bing did, I just think that Google was really lucky to have kept its position this long.

Adversity is good anyway,it drives each company to bring out something better,faster and more accessible for its clients, ensuring great service.

Great article, I haven't noticed it, but after reading your post I definitely agree with you.

Dear Google,
Thanks for abandoning very new application you build. Google Wave, Google Video and so on. What's next? Google Knol? Google Buzz?

So even if you build the next Facebook killer, I doubt there will be any takers. How in the heck can you expect anyone to adopt any NEW Google applications when you are establishing a history of early bailout for same?

They might seem worry free but trust me, with the amount of failures they have had trying to enter very important spaces they have some things to think about. With Eric Schmidt stepping down it is clear that things need to change. The fact that they have not been able to enter the social space stronger than they already have a sign that they are having troubles. Google might be big but if they don't enter some of these key areas very soon they might miss the boat.

Google has gotten almost arrogant. I'm glad Microsoft is giving them some competition. Competition keeps the power in balance.

I think the competition from Bing will only be a good thing for all users in the end. It will force Google to keep improving and will also make Bing stay at this level (or above as well). Spam is an issue but I think the search engines do incredibly well considering how much content there is on the web.

I think there is still a long way to go for Bing though. In the UK for instance we are still receiving 90% of our search engine traffic from Google so Bing has a lot to do to compete against that.

Finally I don't agree with the point that Google may have forgotten how to innovate. Yes they do buy a lot of technologies but they are also do create there own innovations (they still have a car driving itself around the world!).

All good points, Mark. I was not trying to say that I think Google has lost its ability to innovative--I was trying to say that Larry and Sergey might feel that way, because they look at their company through a different lens than we do.

While we are all obsessed with Google the real change will be from a company that we don;t yet know of. Someone will come along , like Facebook did, and appear out of nowhere with an innovation that will shake up the search market. I don't think it will be Bing.

I think google have done an ok job of innovating so far, with the exception of some notable misfires. For the most part I think they have done well to stay ahead of their competitors.

Everyone is worried about something, withier your the President of America, The Queen of England or the guy on state benefits something will always bug you.

For me its my IM business how to improve provide quality (not just unique) content that is useful to the end user and keep providing for my family.

Google i think is more aware of Bing since the Yahoo merger and Microsofts rebranding and marketing on Bing.

I think of recent times Google has done really well especially with the latest panda update a few months ago. It did wonders for my sites as they climbed high in the rankings virtually over night when all the rubbish results were filtered out. I'm sure there are things that worry them but given the amount of money they have, they will find the solution to them to stay on top.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > What's keeping Google up at night?