Google: Not quite as altrustic as it seems?

Google’s mission statement is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Their informal motto is short and sweet:

“Don’t be evil.”

Even though I love the sentiment, I sometimes wonder — with so many of its employees hands in the Internet’s collective cookie jar — is Google really that altruistic?

Think about it. Google offers numerous valuable utilities — for free — on the Internet. Tools that, in Google Analytics’ case, when it was Urchin, used to cost $1,500 a seat. Google’s model is free. And not just free trial; free forever.

Why?

My theory is that in exchange for these timesaving, productivity-increasing, endlessly fascinating “gifts,” you become a willing subject of the mass publisher. If you are signed in to your Gmail account, with all its gigabytes of free storage, then you’ll have ads delivered to you as you’re typing, with the very same keywords you’re using in your love letter, say, showing up slyly in that customized ad.

And if you are using Google Analytics, then your data may be going into a compilation of anonymous statistics that give Google and its subsidiaries, and maybe its affiliates, trend information that is incomparable. Certainly that compiled data tells Google a lot about which websites deserve to rank for search queries.

And when GOOG-411 existed (I so lament its loss) for business phone number searches on your phone, you were the unwitting guinea pig for voice-recognition pattern testing.

What are some of the neat utilities that Google is offering now? I’ll tell you. But just be sure to get ’em while they’re (sorta) (in one way or another) free.

• Google Chrome. What a web browser. The omnibox search rectangle is the reason it aces. You can either put in the URL of the website you want to visit or your search query. Either way, you get to your destination, and lickety-split. For frequent searchers (and who isn’t?), this is a time-saver.

• Google search itself. Have you checked out the left hand side of the search engine results pages? Google seriously wants you to find your answer! Filter by drop downs, including last 24 hours, nearby, sites with images, even reading level of the content.

• Of course Google Docs are a mainstay at this point. Word, Excel and PowerPoint comparable software, for free. Google is closing the door on Windows by liberating your information from the desktop or even the laptop. Nothing is inaccessible, when it’s stored on the cloud. Plus there’s the mighty ability to have multiple people work on and update the same document or spreadsheet, and version control is automatic.

• Love the Google calendar. Share your whereabouts with your team and have each person’s tracked in their own color. Update it while on the run, and more.

• Google Goggles. A downloadable image recognition utility. A visual search app for your smart phone. Point at a famous object and there’s likely a database associated with it – resident at Google.

• Google Art Project. Visit 17 different museums around the world, in detail. Photos are in extremely high detail, so you can see the brush strokes close up – or pull away and see things from a wider perspective. Even the velvet ropes in front of every painting. You can create your own collection of art in the project.

• Go to www.google.com/mars to see every inch of Mars. The volcanos. The mountains. The craters. Who knew! Download Google Earth and get a view of our world in astounding detail and fly like Top Gun over the broad and impressive landscape.

• Google Trends is an awesome tool. Just Google it. There you can get a peek into Google-compiled search history, using three different parameters: time, location and search query. Learn what the largest number of searches are for, where and with what seasonality. This can have serious implications for your sales force distribution, partnering opportunities in foreign lands, etc. You can even see the change over time dynamically – just press the play button. A marketer’s best friend!

• Find the “zeitgeist” in Google Hot Trends – basically, what’s hot. Specify the country and the time period, and voila: you’ll know in France, over the last 30 days, that the restaurant Au Bon Coin is the No. 1 search term in Paris this month! And in the United States, it’s the presidential debates.

• Google Wallet is coming into the mainstream with a new version due out this month. Imagine: no credit cards in your wallet, no debit cards, no coupons, loyalty cards or gift cards. Just your phone as a virtual wallet. Just tap and pay, as they say. The upgraded wallet is configured to work with iPhones, just as it has up until now with Android phones. Here’s what Google Wallet’s VP had to say:

“Our goal is ubiquity, to be on every smart phone, every (device),” and “Everyone who has a Google account, which is practically everyone; we want them to use Google Wallet.”

* Here’s bonus No. 11 of my favorite Google tools: Google Alerts. These are notifications sent to your inbox of the latest relevant results to your search queries. Whatever you want to monitor – your brand, a product line, a competitor, a politician, celebrity or sports team – just tell Google Alerts and you’ll get a clipping of what’s being said online about the subject. You can set the notification schedule to as it happens, once a day or once a week.

What are your favorite Google apps or utilities? There’s a library of them all here: www.google.com/intl/en/about/products/.    

Laurie Macomber, owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing, can be reached at laurie@blueskiesmktg.com or 970-689-3000.

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