free html hit counter As Someone Who's Been There... | John Battelle's Search Blog

As Someone Who's Been There…

By - March 09, 2005

When success hits you, then things go wrong, the first instinct is to protect. But the right thing to do is be transparent. Seems momentum is building in the b’sphere for Google to do the same.

Along those lines, I did finally get a response on the issue of the “keyword hint” feature that had apparently been beefed up for publishers like Boing Boing (see the post here). Here is Google’s “official response” to my query, which was essentially this: is this a new feature, previously unannounced, or are you selling something that doesn’t exist? Why is a Google rep cold calling me with this feature, and promising it to me as something to draw me into using AdSense?

The response:

“The keyword tool is a limited test and only available to premium publishers at this point.  We continue to work on making more tools available for all of our publishers.”

Sigh. Transparency, guys. Upfront, and on the backend. It works, really, I swear. And admitting mistakes. Two things that are hard to do, but pay huge dividends.

Fact is, the Google rep who called me didn’t tell me this is a “limited test only available to premium publishers.” Nope, he made it seem like it was a normal feature, ready for me if only I signed up. What did he think I was going to do with the information that Google had new tools that might make AdSense work better? Keep it to myself? I’m a ***publisher*** after all.

Anyway. End of rant. It’s hard being number one. But it’s easier if you are in conversation with those that put you there.

Update: I hadn’t noticed, but a reader tipped me – Google linked to me in a recent corporate blog post. That’s a very good sign – it was one of the things that seemed off about their blog – that they never pointed to anyone else. Cool.

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  • http://thomashawk.com Thomas Hawk

    John, you hit the nail on the head. Google is going down a dangerous road by hiding everything that they are doing — much like Microosft and other companies have done in the past. Microsoft though in the past few years has made great efforts to become more transparent.

    Yes, there are always trade secrets that must be preserved. But then there are things like the basic dollar split between Google and their blogger partners that should be more transparent. It is fair to know what percentage of the cut I’m getting for traffic that I deliver to Google. But Google guards this like a trade secret and in the process discredits themselves with bloggers — some of the very individuals that are responsible for their success.

    Google needs to recognize this mistake and spend some PR effort showing that collaborative transparancy, honesty, admiting mistakes (as you suggest) all enhance their long term business opportunities — not detract from them.

    Thank you for pursuing this important issue. You have visibility and might actually get someone to listen.

  • http://www.threadwatch.org/ Nick W

    Hey John, any chance you might change your link to point to the original article?

    http://www.threadwatch.org/node/1807

    No biggie, but every little helps with a small site :-)

  • http://worcester.typepad.com/pc4media peter

    I agree that tranparency is good. And it is good to engage your partners in dialog about future features and enhancements. In fact, it works both ways. I do it for my company – in the open – because we get valuable feedback and exposure from it.

    But, I don’t think your the phone call from their rep is a good example of lack of transparency. This guy was just trying to sell you something. Just doing his job. Telling someone that a feature is being tested and is in development, generally isn’t exactly a selling point. Unless who knew who you were, it wouldn’t have been a good tactic. Most people would tell him to call back after he can prove that it works.

  • http://speed.insane.com/ Scott Johnson

    John, thanks for following up with Google on the keyword feature. I was sure confused for a while when you first mentioned it. I suppose my site isn’t “good enough” for Google to offer me new funtionality early on…even though I would happily provide them with all sorts of feedback and would be very beneficial in their testing. They really need to work on that transparency thing. Would it be such a big deal to say, “Hey, we’re testing X feature with some sites. We’ll let you know how it goes.”