Do you Google?

Google has done something that companies aspire to, but few achieve. It has created a brand synonymous with its business.

Google is a trademarked term, yet Google has joined the likes of Band-Aid, Xerox and Kleenex, transcending the limits of trademarked terms to become a commonly used word.

People now "google" potential mates to find out if they have hidden secrets. When people put up new web sites, they anxiously check to see if they've been "googled", added to Google's databases. I've even heard people say that they are "googling" - searching the web for something interesting.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Search sites used to follow the lead of Yahoo. Yahoo used search (indexing) to entice you to their site, and built a web portal around that.

Google has replaced Yahoo as the most popular search site. It did this not by imitating Yahoo, but by innovating. Google figured out how to do search more effectively and more comprehensively than ever before.

Just as importantly, they made search simple and fast. Google stripped its home page down to the bare bones. It's basically a logo, a search field, and tabs for the search types: Web, Images, Groups, Directory, and News.

Now Google's success is inspiring imitators. Fast Search's http://alltheweb.com is an example. In March, they updated their look, simplifying the interface, and removing intrusive advertisements. The updated search page looks a lot like Google's. It's got a logo at the top, and six tabs for various types of searches: Web, News, Pictures, Video, Audio, and FTP files.

Even Yahoo's search is starting to look like Google's. They've placed their tabs on the left-hand side, but their search page has also been cut down to a logo, a form field, and six tabs: Web, Directory, News, Yellow Pages, Images and Maps.

The e-business effect

Google's success has raised its importance to the world of e-business. Google has become an arbiter of online information. According to googlewatch.org, "Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for all external referrals to most web sites. No webmaster can avoid seeking Google's approval these days".

More people spend more time using Google. Google is the most popular search site, based on audience figures from Search Engine Watch. It also tops other sites in the total number of hours people use its search. For many sites, 60-70% of their search engine traffic comes from Google.

A high rank on Google will ensure that your site gets a great deal of traffic. A low rank, on the other hand, can mean that your site will be difficult for many people to find.

Understanding Google's impact on your site

It's difficult to understand the full effect that one web site can have on another, but you can learn a lot by reviewing your web statistics. Activity by referring site reports lets you know what sites are sending you traffic. Google is in the top 10 referrers for many sites. Yahoo is often high up, too, and Google powers Yahoo's search.

Your web analytic software may also provide Search reports. These make it possible to track search phrases and the number of referrals your site gets for each phrase from each search site. This information can help you understand what people are looking for when they come to your site, and also whether you have a ranking problem at one of the top sites.

For example, your URL and company name are typically the most common phrases used at search engines to find your site. Other important phrases are your main categories of business, and keywords related to your company. If your site isn't getting lots of referrals from Google and other major search engines for these search phrases, then your site probably isn't ranking well.

If this is the case, your company may be missing out on a lot of potential visitors.

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