Next week at Google I/O, it looks like we’ll see some iteration of Google Fit, which is essentially a health data aggregation service. This is relevant to a lot of people because Google doesn’t fail very often — not on surface, at least — and one of their bigger flops in the last few years was Google Health, which was shuttered in 2011 because it didn’t get to scale quite fast enough. Now, though, this idea of trackable health devices is a $330 million industry dominated by three things (FitBits, JawBone, and NIKE) and, as has been documented, health care is an industry you want to be in over the next decade or so. This is all closely tied to the Internet of Things and general connectivity, which Google seems to be a prime candidate to gain some real “first-mover advantage” within (imagine coming home and having your house tell you what to make, based on what’s in your fridge and how many calories you’ve been burning / your overall health — your house could basically tell you that it’s a cheat night).
That’s the real reason Google is trying to get back into the health care space — i.e. it’s an area where money can be made, solutions need to be found, and attention will be paid — but there’s another idea about Google semi-circulating on the web: maybe AdWords, which by all accounts is the most successful advertising platform ever built (and accounts for 95 percent of their revenue), isn’t as great as everyone thinks. This is based off some work that eBay did; essentially, they shut off paid search traffic using the term eBay on some items (this ultimately means little to eBay, as they have keyword connections with Google on 100 million items or so). What they found is that people came to eBay regardless of paid search or not (on those items). Here’s the problem: eBay is a massive website that a lot of people already know about; it’s almost logical to assume web visitors might end up there regardless. Same with something like Amazon. Google AdWords is probably a bigger boon to the smaller companies, much like e-mail marketing is: that’s all an extension of the idea that the Internet and global connectivity flattened the world. Google themselves have a paper noting that 89 percent of traffic to some sites wouldn’t occur without AdWords campaigns, and that’s probably true — again, with context, because AdWords matters more for some than for others (and it’s all about how you approach it).
For my money and mind, Google might be the best company in the world — but from a business standpoint, there are concerns they need to keep top of mind. They’re not doing Fit because of problems with AdWords or mobile advertising, but everything you hear from them — driverless cars, Fit, mapping strategies, the Internet of Things, Glass — does come back to an idea of (a) organizing the world’s information but also (b) making sure they stay diversified as a company as other domains shift.