You may have noticed late last week Google integrated Froogle with its personalised search (If only Google called its personalised search Poogle then I could have said Google had put the Poogle into Froogle).
It didn’t get a lot of attention but I think it’s a big deal. A really big deal. Here’s why.
A great big slice of web traffic is really difficult for Google to monetise. When a webpage’s subject matter isn’t very product-oriented, it doesn’t drive a lot of adsense dollars. So for example, do a web search on President Bush. If your results mirror mine, you get one solitary eBay ad.
There’s a lot of political content on the Internet but Google makes SFA from it. A lot of other big categories are the same. Sport, entertainment, general news are all responsible for massive amounts of page impressions but all offer Google or content producers relying on Google limited AdSense opportunities.
Which is not how traditional media works. It’s the eyeballs that matter, not the content’s relation to high revenue-generating advertising topics. The Superbowl after all is the highest sought after advertising space in the world. For some categories, contextual advertising is just a bad model.
But that’s Google’s model, right. No. Google is about targetted, relevent advertising and that’s why personalised search is so important.
What Google needs to know is what advertising is most relevent to you right now. Making that decision based on the page you’re looking at is a very, primitive way of doing that. Google needs to be able to profile you based on as much of your web activity as it can gather intelligence on and then use whatever available inventory of advertising repository it has to best match your needs with those of the advertising community.
Froogle’s a very important part of that. If you go into Froogle and do a search on a digital camera then it really makes sense for Google to pound you with digital camera advertisements – that’s what’s on top of your shopping list at the moment so they’re the ads you’re most interested in and therefore are the one’s your most likely to click on, thereby generating content for Google and its content partners.
I’m sure if Google was suddenly able to use the profiling it does on you, to decide on more relevent, profitable advertising then it could make a massive difference to its bottom line overnight.
Let’s take Google News. Everybody seems to assume that Google has made no attempt to monetise Google News because it’s worried about the legal implications. I reckon its got more to do with the fact that Google News for the most part, just isn’t a good advertising vehicle for Google. The technology pages excepted, none of its categories are great for contextual advertising. How much AdSense dollars do you think Concerns about Iran reach the tipping point – the top Google News story at the moment, is going to bring in?
Now, if Google could use every click you make on Google News to serve ads related to your most recent Froogle searches, then that’s a different matter altogether. Google’s available inventory would explode and its click-through ratio would increase dramatically to. There is no other single strategy that could increase Google’s profitability as quickly as personalised ad serving, rather than contextual ad serving (of course, it would likely be a combination of both personalised and contextual).
Now, I’m sure a strategy like this is going to raise the ire of privacy junkies. And there will be a big hoo-ha just as there was when GMail launched and people got terrifed of Google’s big ugly computers reading your mail. But there are no losers with personalised ad serving. Google makes lots more money, bloggers and content providers, especially those that currently write about subjects that aren’t so hot for AdSense can massively increase their earnings and consumers get better, more relevent advertising.
If this isn’t the way of the future, and if this isn’t what Google has in mind with it’s sudden interest in personalisation, then I’ll run naked around my bathroom three times singing the Best of Britney.
Oh and btw, Google Toolbar has to be central to this. Google Toolbar means that Google can do profiling over and beyond its own sites. Google Toolbar means that you might click Agree to those long list of terms and conditions, which at some point is going to say (if it doesn’t already) that you allow the information collected to be used when serving you advertisements on the Google AdSense network.