In Google We Trust

Googlers are driven by the idea that their product is more than search and ads.

This will likely be my first and last post related to search and search optimization with Google, but there's an important point I want to make:  Most users assume Google's product is search; it's not.  And it's not ads either.  Google's primary product is trust.  

You trust that when you ask Google a question, it is going to give you the best (and therefore most trustworthy) answer.  Sometimes that's a traditional web-page as search result, other times the best answer to your search query may actually be an ad, and other times it may simply be a piece of data, without you having to click through to another page.

I want to make this point because everybody at Google knows this, even if it isn't on any of the t-shirts you see the employees wearing.  It's an idea that they work hard to preserve, and in my experience everybody took very seriously.  From the algorithms in Page Rank to protecting user data to managing any type of outage (most of which you never see), Googlers generally take the position to "do nothing that would ever violate our users’ trust" and in the instances where they did something wrong, they almost immediately take corrective action (see the Google Video DRM resolution for an example).

Part of the ability to address issues like this (and help develop a trust culture) comes from the weekly all-company meeting.  Every Googler in every office around the world can watch the senior executives talk about the important happenings of the week and ask any question to any executive or the founders.  If you are in Mountain View, you just step up to the microphone and ask and can hold anybody publicly accountable.  In my experience there, any time that an issue was brought up that could even remotely affect the user experience or the users' sense of trust in Google, it was fixed in favor of the user.

Why did I start by saying this is related to search engine optimization?  Because sometimes when I wear a Google t-shirt I'm asked a question about search and my response is simple:  If you build a site that is the most trustworthy response to a search inquiry, you'll get a great ranking.  If you try to game the "trust equation," you may do OK in the short-term, but long-term Google will thwart you (or worse yet, send you to Google Hell).  They have an army of PhDs ensuring the trust of search is preserved, and everybody else in the company who is working on every other product ensuring that user trust stays the most important product that the company delivers.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.