Is Google vulnerable? Four CEOs say so

Can Google be beat?

Tomorrow Google reports its 4th quarter 2006 earnings to Wall Street. According to analyst checks by Bambi Francisco, MarketWatch, another blow-out earnings call is on tap. 

Francisco began the panel “Are there chinks in Google’s armor?” at AlwaysOn OnMedia conference today in New York City with a reference to Google’s financial prowess.

I pointed out during the Q & A, however, that Google actually underperformed the S & P in 2006 (see Google future: GOOG @ $600 or $300?).

I suggested to the panel of Web advertising services CEOs that Google’s AdWords bid-up-your-own ad rates monetization machine may soon face advertiser resistance. My sentiments were echoed by Gurbaksh Chahal, CEO, Blue Lithium and Lawrence Braitman, CEO, Adify.

Search marketer 1-800-Flowers’ concerns about escalating keywords prices were cited. The company is wary of search advertising being a “very expensive propagation.” 

PANELISTS AND ELEVATOR PITCHES

Lawrence Braitman, CEO, Adify

Adify was founded in 2005 by a group of online advertising pioneers from Flycast Communications, one of the original online ad networks. Our mission is to enable and optimize direct publisher-advertiser transactions, removing the overhead associated with selling through a third-party network. Through our hosted site storefronts, Adify provides both publishers and advertisers with an advertising service platform that includes management, tracking, optimizing, reporting, billing, payment and merchandising for online media. We are based in San Bruno, California.

Gurbaksh Chahal, CEO, Blue Lithium

Created in 2004 by a team of online ad network veterans, BlueLithium is dedicated to challenging the legacy ways of doing business to help marketers achieve extraordinary results. Combining a powerful one-two punch of one of the largest online ad networks with innovative ad targeting and serving technologies, BlueLithium creates a customized site network for each advertiser that is optimized to their marketing objectives.

Lance Podell, CEO, Seevast

Seevast operates marketing services companies that drive sales, build brands and leverage core assets for their clients. Pulse 360, Content-Targeted Sponsored Links; Moniker.com, Domain Asset Management; Kanoodle, Search Engine Marketing.

Michael Yavonditte, CEO, Quigo

Founded in 2000, Quigo provides innovative, performance-based marketing solutions that achieve superior results for premium-branded websites and advertisers. ROI-based solutions for content-targeted advertising and search marketing form the foundation of Quigo's product offerings.

IS GOOGLE VULNERABLE?

While all panelists acknowledged the formidable presence of Google, they underscored the large market opportunity Google is not addressing, by default or by design.

Google’s core business and financial strength is Pay Per Click advertising at Google. Many online advertising needs of marketers are not met by the narrowly focused Google value proposition, according to panelists.

Chahal put forth that AdWords only relates to about 10% of the searching public, given that most searchers are not in a “buying state” and therefore not receptive to direct response solicitations. Chahal believes the Blue Lithium behavioral targeting approach is effective for the 90% of times when people are at different points of the buying cycle, such as consideration.

There is room, and profitable opportunity for everyone, the panelists concurred. Why?

There is a limited supply of search queries,

Google’s size does not support personalized service,

Marketers want competitive offerings and vendors.

Differentiation matters,

A small player in a big market can still win.


Photo by Donna Bogatin

ALSO: GOOGLE DEPENDENCY IS RISKY BUSINESS

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