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Google’s Eric Schmidt at SES From The Search Perch
Because the interview with Eric Schmidt ran long there wasn’t much time to ask questions (especially about local or SMEs). A few things struck me however about the discussion. Here are some thoughts and random observations:
Schmidt made a very sincere and believable “appearance” (as they say in the legal profession). I buy that he means what he says.
He spoke at some length about the danger of “unscrupulous governments” (whether the US or foreign) trying to access search logs (questions prompted by the AOL fiasco). Assumed but never entirely justified in all his comments (about privacy and security) was that Google was inherently more trustworthy than those who might want the data. Danny Sullivan pressed Schmidt on this point but the Google CEO didn’t outline any specific processes or procedures to safeguard the data. He merely stated that what happened at AOL wouldn’t happen with Google (though he qualified with “never say never.”)
Schmidt broadly alluded to a huge vision for Google, which he has done before: that of bringing Google’s “targeting capability” to all media. Schmidt said, “One of the outcomes, if we do this right, is fewer ads that are more relevant to you.”
Another interesting remark was about the litigation that Google has confronted on multiple fronts. He said that he felt that at least some of the litigation was “a business negotiation being conducted in the courts.”
Schmidt also sneaked in unsolicited references to Google Checkout, which I thought was quite interesting. He also joked about not using Google as a verb for trademark reasons.
Finally he made the often-heard statement that “consumers are just a click away from our competitors.” I don’t believe this. As I’ve argued before I think there’s a lot of habitual behavior now in search. There have been relevance studies that basically argue the quality of search results has reached parity across a number of engines (there are people now arguing in fact that MSN/Windows Live is better).
Let’s assume that the relevancy gap has closed among engines. Google’s share has continued to grow. Why? It’s the power of the Google brand, users’ general satisfaction with Google and their habitual behavior – Google is familiar.
All of that means, at least for the foreseeable future, Google will likely remain atop its search perch.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.