Google’s Jedi Mind Tricks

Last week Google publicly invited social media sites to integrate their activity streams with Google Analytics (GA).

Google makes the pitch that integrating social data such as shares, diggs, reddits, and +1s into GA will allow marketers and publishers “to discover off-site engagement, optimize their engagement within each social community, and measure the impact of each social channel and its associated digital investment.”

In fact, a bunch of sites “including Delicious, Digg, Diigo, Gigya, LiveFyre, ReadItLater, Reddit, TypePad, Vkontakte, and of course, Google+, Blogger and Google Groups” are already working with Google to make this integration possible.

Jedi Mind Tricks

With all of their different products and services, it’s easy to lose track of what Google’s business model actually is.

Google sells ads.

And just like every television station, magazine and newspaper that came before them, Google needs an audience to consume their ads and create advertiser demand.

For most of its history, Google attracted a large audience by crawling, indexing, and organizing other websites’ content which was then used to craft (hopefully) relevant filler results for searchers’ queries.

[dmm_social tweet=”Google is essentially the largest & most profitable middle-man in all of human history.” quote=”Google is essentially the largest and most profitable middle-man in all of human history.” hash=”#Google”]

They generate massive revenue not from a product or content they create, but by turning the web’s data into sellable inventory. And, in a Jedi mind-trick for the ages, they’ve convinced almost every site on the web to hand over that data for free.

The exposure Google gives our content, we dutifully parrot, is payment enough.

Credits Will NOT Do Fine

Noticeably absent from Google’s list of integrating sites are two of the most popular social platforms, Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook is widely viewed as Google’s one true competitor for a couple very good reasons:

  1. Their reach is comparable to Google’s and may in fact be larger.
  2. They have access to vast amounts of personal and demographic data.

While Twitter’s audience isn’t on par with Google’s or Facebook’s, it has become the defacto platform for breaking news as content spreads across it at an alarming rate.

Google valued Twitter’s data enough to negotiate a two year deal using it to power “realtime search” in 2009. The deal expired earlier this year and forced Google to temporarily disable “realtime.” The search giant reportedly plans to revive the functionality using Google+ data in place of Twitter’s, but there is little indication so far that Google+ (or Facebook for that matter) can rival Twitter for breaking news.

As Google has convincingly proven, data is a valuable resource in our wired economy. Yet they have the audacity to suggest social media sites freely hand over their valuable data so Google can integrate it into GA and who knows what else!

Unlike their more desperate counterparts (Delicious and Digg), Facebook and Twitter seem to have told Google “no, credits won’t do fine.”

Even if the data sharing were limited to Google Analytics (something that would have to be explicitly spelled out in the TOS which Google has yet to make public), both Twitter and Facebook have their own analytic and advertiser platforms. Why would they add value to a Google property that serves as a marketing channel for Google AdWords (as seen in the image to the right)?

Is There No Help for the Marketer?

If we are to believe Google, they are simply acting in the best interests of the poor marketers who are desperate for more information. Plus, Google claims, social media sites will totally get all sorts of value out of the integration.

However, advertisers and marketers focus on networks that offer data visibility and transparency. And at Google, we think everyone in the Social space should have the opportunity to show off the value of their traffic to advertisers.

That’s why we’re making Google’s social data hub available to all social networks and publishers. It’s an open platform –free and secure — with which anyone can integrate. Your data will be used by sophisticated social analytics tools adopted by top advertisers and marketers.

Unfortunately, Google didn’t seem to care as much about advertisers and marketers when they decided to obscure keyword data from users logged into Google. Sites all across the web are reporting the “(not provided)” term accounting for up to 25% of their organic Google traffic, yet Google only provides that data to sites willing to pay the extortion fee of advertising on AdWords.

Direct Match Media clients on average have no idea what terms account for up to 11% of their conversions, yet Google dares to preach “visibility and transparency” to social sites in an effort to gain access to their data. Google definitely cares about something, but it’s clearly not the lowly marketer.

Google Getting Desperate?

Google CEO Larry Page made the highly publicized decision of tying all Google employees’ bonuses to the company’s social strategy. Former CEO Eric Schmidt recently confirmed that “social signals” are ranking factors in Google’s hallowed algorithm.

Unfortunately for Google employees, Google+ is floundering according to multiple reports. If Google is struggling to harvest valuable social data from their own properties, an aggressive push to acquire that information from other sources would make sense.

Whether the Social Data Hub is simply one more step in Google’s social data strategy, or a contingency plan for the failure of Google+ remains to be seen.

One thing is clear though, Google desperately wants social media data… and these are not the droids we’re looking for.

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Image Source: AlwaysBreaking


  1. says

    Ben, this is awesome and not just because of all the Star Wars stuff (although I admit it excites me greatly). I love “Google desperately wants social media data… and these are not the droids we’re looking for.”

    On a side note, I hate Google+. It is painful and tedious and I don’t have that much time to be social. Quick is what I need.

  2. Matt Cutts (obviously fake) says

    Being the largest internet company we’re used to criticism, but it sure gets annoying at times.
    How about some credit for the nameless Googlers that out of goodness of their heart help organize the world’s information and display it in an unbiased manner?

    Would you even have a business without Google? Would the $.10 Android Apps I push everyday to webmasters exist? Would the internet even exist? The answer is no on all counts, yet all we get is questions. Questions about the ads, questions about Sergey’s tight Spandex suits, questions about my stock options, questions about Schmidt’s girlfirends. Questions, questions, questions. Enough!

    Please support my SOPA petition, I need to look like a hero and gain cred.

  3. says

    Hi Ben

    first off loved the whole star wars take on this post, it so true the killer point in this post being “in a Jedi mind-trick for the ages, they’ve convinced almost every site on the web to hand over that data for free.” I read the post Googles trust penalty and was compelled to share everywhere. That was one of the best post I have ever read , love the fact you included videos to give examples.

    Think the mantra of dont be Evil Googleee is fast turning into a very real reality , with the ever increasing growth of the nofollow tag Goolge is effectively break down the web, from a connected space into lots of closed little loops , thinking framed social reader type sites.

    Thanks for the information and May the force be with YOU