The Great Google Franchise Network: How Dependent is Your Web Startup?

I have heard a lot of people recently about starting up and having content and making money from it. But it really makes me wonder if they are starting their own business or a franchisee of Google.  Any website you visit today, including this one, no matter how big they are, if they are into content, their bread and butter is decided by Google or atleast one of the two.
From the Search that brings the traffic to the Analytics that tracks the traffic to Adsense that lets you monetize the traffic and Webmaster that let’s you optimize for more, you are dependent on Google.So are you really starting up or are you just working for Google?

Instead of drawing a fixed salary, you are paid on purely performance. You are an employee who is paid on performance but works full time like a whole lot of other employees who think they own a startup. The demand supply gap makes you work on sales incentive and no monthly salary. The supply side of this employee position is so high that if you don’t do it there are a lot other ready to do that but that is what i am talking about the whole breed of franchisee owner of Google who think they run their own shop are just a part of a big affiliate program. An affiliate program that gives you more control and tools than any other.

But an affiliate program cannot do without its members and if you think Google doesn’t need you as an employee, well think again. If you don’t exist, there is no content and if there is no content, what the hell would Google show in search results? It’s just that this program is so strong that it would take more than few members to sign off to take it down.

In franchisee business there is absolutely no friction about anything. You are provided everything from the word go and all you have to make sure is the shop opens daily. But on web it gets even dirtier with absolutely no friction whatsoever, you get traffic from the moment you open shop and that makes you happy. You don’t have to make that effort to get the first visitor in, Google will do it for you. And that easy first customer is what destroys you. Soon you start believing that this is the way to grow and you start making your product around Google and not around your customer. It so powerful an affiliate program that people “know” that if it’s not on Google, it does not exist. I remember when i got a domain registered for my college fest and told my friends about it. One of them called me at 11PM and tells me, “Are you sure you have already registered it? I tried searching for it and it’s not there!” Yes, that is what lay man thinks of web. It starts with Google, and ends there.

Now of course there is whole fad of Social media. With twitter and FaceBook  coming in and giving you some clicks you get to say, “Oh! We are taking the social media marketing route for growth” or rather the fancy ‘web2.0’ way. Suddenly Wordof Mouth Marketing has become the word of mouth of every marketeer. Why? Just because now every mouthed word is stored on web and he can see how many mouths worded his brand and then show it to his boss.

But what we have forgotten is even the Facebooks and Twitters of the web get visibility through Google search only. For 9 out of 10 people you search for, a Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin page is on top and that makes the buzz for them. Every time you search for something and they come on top, that is equal to an impression ad served. Twitter Lists, FB fan pages are all just ways to embed keywords in the network. Keywords that would go beyond human names and would cover every possible word searched on web. Facebook’s SEO strategy is doing wonders for them* and with recent redesign of profile page and making a webpage out of every word that you enter in your “likes”, they are drawing every drop of SEO juice.

Also, there is an even new trend of ‘location’ based networks, FourSquare being the most popular. Even these depend on Google. No matter what location you are pointing out on Foursquare, you are doing it on Google maps. Even twitter’s location are on Google maps.

You talk about FB apps and twitter apps but isn’t everything else just an app that sits on Google’s platform?

Even the large Indian players like JustDial, Sulekha, Asklaila or say Flipkart depend on Google for 40-60% of their traffic.

google startupWe also depend on Google for traffic. And when it gives us traffic we want higher eCPM. Ofcourse the Great G has even figured that out. Like a quarterly bonus that you give to your sales guys on achieving targets, Google will make you a premium publisher on hitting 20 million PVs and let you negotiate your rates and give you better control over ad formats. Employee Fringe Benefits, anyone?

If your next big web startup is dependent on Google, believe me you really don’t have anything in control. Its like a bunch of sales guys working for Google and you are one amongst them.

It’s time you remove that dependency.

BTW, is looking to hire a sales guy to remove that dependency a little.

*FB’s dependency on Google search for growth and visibility is pure observation. No supporting data.

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]

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