3 Reasons Why Google Needs to Buy Twitter in Order to Survive
November 9, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park
As you know, Google is the search engine and controls an obscene amount of traffic on the web. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many users to spend at least 25% of their time online on Google properties like Gmail, Google maps, and news. With a cash cow business model (a monopoly in search advertising) and a killer brand (“google” it), Google is living large and seemingly invincible. But is this really the case? Is the Google search engine as stable as it seems?
With the rise of social media, the search game has changed dramatically. Users no longer just want a single source telling them what to look at. Instead, they want recommendations from real people with similar interests and experiences. That’s precisely the reason why social networking is so hot right now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Social media isn’t just a fad – it’s here to stay and will revolutionize the web in the process.
Twitter, in particular, is interesting. I’ve written before that Twitter is the future of search and I still stand by that claim 100%. In fact, both Google’s and Bing’s recent partnerships with Twitter to incorporate real time status updates into the search results is a clear step towards that direction. More and more people are starting to use Twitter, and the social platform will play a pivotal role in shaping the web and the online community. And no, not even the mighty Google is immune to the coming changes.
Mark Cuban explains it well…
TWITTER AND FACEBOOK are platforms that allow the news sources, like newscorp to post breaking news and gain value from their brand. Google does not. In other words, if I trust a newspaper, tv or any brand, I can follow it on twitter and expect the news to come to me. The concept of “If the news is important, it will find me” works better by the day. If it matters to me, chances are very good its in one of the twitter feeds I follow.
Having to search for and find news in search engines is so 2008.
The solution for Google? If it wants to remain the dominant online powerhouse that it is today, it needs to adapt to the shifts in the social landscape and buy up Twitter before it’s too late. Sure, Google’s own social innovations like Wave, Social Search, and Search Wiki are nice – but they’re way too late to matter, especially during this critical stage of shifting user behavior.
Back in March 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt questioned the usefulness of Twitter and called it the “poor man’s email”. Boy, was he wrong. It’s a mistake that could cost Google $6 billion or even more, especially if they fail to swoop up Twitter any time soon. Google as well as Facebook have tried to buy up Twitter in the past, without success. Twitter is resistant to a sell off, even at $1 billion, but anything can be bought if the price is right.
Here are the 3 main reasons why Google needs to buy Twitter in order to survive. The price tag will not be cheap, but if there’s any company that can afford it right now it’s Google.
1. Twitter gaining fast – huge amount of data
Twitter is mentioned and promoted everywhere these days – CNN news broadcasts, popular radio stations, celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal, the majority of blogs big and small, and even the ESPN homepage.
Everyone and their grandmothers are on Twitter and the rapid growth will only accelerate as Google and Bing incorporate status updates into their search results. In fact, we’re only a few years away until Twitter receives mainstream acceptance as a communication channel – just like email addresses, phone numbers, and website URLs. People are already placing their Twitter usernames on their business cards.
So why does this matter? Twitter is essentially collecting the daily life streams of millions of people around the world – breaking news, opinions and reviews, interesting links, connections between people, interests, etc. Once a larger percentage of the population starts using the service, it’s scary what’s possible. With the right technology, Twitter could potentially mine that data to pretty much find out about anything important happening in the public world. It could also figure out which websites are the most popular and trustworthy sources.
2. Google’s ranking algorithm in danger of being outdated
Google’s current search ranking algorithm relies heavily on link analysis to determine what’s important and what’s most relevant to a given search query (e.g. a link from CNN implies that the page is important and worthy of high rankings). While this technology was revolutionary to the search industry in the mid 90’s, it’s in danger of quickly becoming outdated in the current landscape.
First of all, users now want information in real time – especially for things like breaking news. Because Google works by indexing web pages, the search engine is clunky and unable to keep up with real-time queries.
Secondly, user behavior is changing online and links are becoming less and less reliable in terms of determining the authority of a page. Webmasters represent only a tiny fraction of the overall population and some hobby bloggers are leaving their own sites for social media sites like Twitter. So why let the few in power control the rankings with their links? Link manipulation is a common tactic used by search marketers and a relatively new site with regurgitated content could potentially rank #1 for a competitive keyword simply by buying some under-the-radar links. It’s a glaring weakness in Google’s algorithm.
Once Twitter goes mainstream and is used by the masses (not just the tech savvy), imagine all of the data that Google could utilize to perfect its search rankings. Compared to links on actual web pages, links found in Twitter status updates represent a larger sample of people.
What does this mean? If Google were able to incorporate Twitter data into its current link analysis algorithm, search results would be better with less spam – something that’s integral to Google’s core business of search advertising. If that’s not a reason to buy, then I don’t know what is.
3. Play keep away from Bing – competitive advantage
Twitter has enormous potential – there’s no doubt about it. But while Google overlooks Twitter, what if it was bought up by Bing? Microsoft has already acquired Yahoo’s search business and seems a step in front of Google in the social sphere. If Google is smart, it’ll block Bing’s moves at all costs and prevent Twitter from springing up with its own search engine in the future.
Let me say it again in case you missed it – Google needs to buy Twitter.
What do you think about a Google acquisition of Twitter? Bound to happen? How would the deal affect the search industry? Leave a comment.
Also, just to clarify, I’m not necessarily for Google buying Twitter and taking over the Internet. In fact, I think it’d be a nice change of scenery and good for the Internet if Google lost some of its dominance and met some fierce competition from Bing and/or Twitter. Time will tell.If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.