14 Jan 2009

What If Google Killed Puppies?

Hi, I’m Lisa and I’m codependent. Don’t judge me, you are too.

I’m getting caught up after spending the past few days hobbling around Affiliate Summit (you can find coverage for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 at Hoffman’s House) and stumbled across an interesting poll recreated by TechCrunch. The question at hand was: “What would make you switch search engines?

This morning the results looked like this:

[click to enlarge. floss regularly.]

I know now that 58 percent of you are damn liars.

Like I said, I’m what some would call “codependent”. I willingly stay in unhealthy relationships, I invest in losers, and I repeatedly take people back lying to myself that they can change.  Basically, I’m an idiot. And you probably are, too.

The reason you originally switched from Yahoo to Google back in the day was because Google was the far superior engine. It kicked ass at everything it did and was undeniably the best choice. And they’ve done a good job maintaining that awesome. The search results are typically to be trusted, there’s Gmail and GDocs, as well as a whole suite of products designed to make your life easier.  However, the quality of products isn’t why people stay with Google.  How many blind tests have been done to show that the quality of the results is less important than the brand name placed at the top of the engine? I’m pretty sure I’ve read more than a handful over the years.

The truth is you stay with Google for the same reason I’ve stayed with a slew of crappy ex-boyfriends. Because it’s been there for you, because it’s broken in, because it’s socially acceptable, and because it’s really, really pretty.

Adding video to the search results or uncluttering things won’t make someone change. I don’t even know that Yahoo could change enough that most people would care. The only reason people will leave Google is if something drastically different AND better comes along or if Google commits some sort of brand suicide.

I spent some time thinking about it and here’s my list of what Google would have to do to make me leave them.

They’d have to:

  • Leak my Data/Private Information ala AOL
  • Take their “tweaking” of the results WAY too far
  • Start charging me for services like Gmail
  • Sell off the engine/acquire someone else’s and completely murder its relevancy

Aside from that, I think the Google bar code that’s been discretely branded on the back of my neck is safe. I asked Twitter what it would take to breakup with Google and their answers were surprisingly similar to my own.  Well, except for Chris Winfield and Jim Hedger who said Google would have to start slaying puppies and kittens, respectively.  I agree with both of those, assuming they were cute puppies and kittens.

I think we like to tell ourselves that the reason we stick with Google is for the quality of the results. It makes us sound like we’re free and independent thinkers. But we’re not. The truth is we stick with Google because we’ve been told to. And we’ll stay there until we’re told to do something different. If we’re going to be codependent, let’s at least be honest about it.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Would it take anything less than puppy killing for you to abandon Google?


  1. rishil January 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    I can see why you were giggling when you were writing this (I hope you meant this post cause it made me smile).

    I am afraid the googlisation of society is pretty much ingrained for the predictable future. It will have to be something drastic to make peeps give up.

  2. QualityGal January 14, 2009 at 12:17 PM

    Let’s face it. We all drank the Google Kool-Aid (GooglAid?)so we’re all in this together. Until the puppies.

    (I’ve had slightly more of the GooglAid than most of you, so I’m a bit more hopeless and co-dependent.)

  3. rishil January 14, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    @qualitygal with my limited drawing (well copy and paste) skills, I think this is the future http://www.flickr.com/photos/21963003@N04/3196678041/

  4. Jordan McCollum January 14, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    I agree! People who think they’ll switch to the next super relevant search engine are happily fooling themselves. We’re poor judges of relevance (when we covered this on MP, I linked to those same studies on how the brand name is what makes people see things as “relevant”).

    It will probably take another search engine not only being perceived as more “relevant” but also gaining a critical mass before we start really switching. And good luck with getting that critical mass in the first place, barring puppy killing.

  5. margo January 14, 2009 at 12:50 PM

    Yeah, I’m addicted to Google. All the pretty accessories! Gmail.. Google Earth.. So on, and so forth. Yeah, until they go after puppies and kittens, they will have my love.

  6. Lisa Barone January 14, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    Jordan: But what is “relevant”? You put it in quotes because it’s impossible to define. Does that mean better traditional results or video/audio results or what? I don’t really think it’s going to be a “relevancy” thing that dethrones Google. I think it’s going to be the emergence of something that shows us results in an entirely new way. And you’re right, it’s going to take a HUGE number of people jumping on board before the rest of us do. If it’s even possible.

  7. Sherisaid January 14, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    I switched to Google because it is uncluttered. It’s that simple. I like the white space. I stayed because it’s a better product and I like Gmail about a thousand times better than any of the other online email clients.

    Would I switch if I heard about something better? You betcha. And if it WAS better, I’d stick with it. If it was crap, I’d be back at Google before the page refreshed. Even if Google killed cute puppies. Although I’d probably hate myself for it in the morning.

  8. Lisa Barone January 14, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    Sherisaid: I’m not sure I believe you. 🙂 Or maybe I’m just talking for myself. If another search engine came around that was equal to or even a little bit better than Google, I still wouldn’t use it. It’s too much of a hassle to change my habits, to welcome something new into my life, and to say goodbye to someone I loved. It would have to be something entirely different and more useful. Maybe you’re just a lot more confident in your choices than I am, though. 😉

  9. Bob Weber January 14, 2009 at 6:32 PM

    Lisa, so are you telling us that you stayed with all your ex’s in spite of the fact that Milo Ventimiglia and Jake Gyllenhaal just kept calling and wouldn’t leave you alone? More likely everyone else around didn’t have a car and was still living with their Mom.

    Everyone uses Google because it’s the best option available. There isn’t another suitor out there that does a better job. I think you would have a valid point if search engine X was way better than Google, but that just isn’t the case.

    When Google first came on the scene it showed up with a logo, search box and two buttons. No Gmail, no Google Earth, no Maps, just search and everyone flocked to it. There’s no reason to think that someone else couldn’t do the same thing again.

  10. saurav January 14, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    Maybe we have sold ourselves the story that “Google is the best”. As long as we believe this story we stick with it and stay in our comfort zone.

    Only something radical can change this and you are right in saying that relevancy is not going to be that radical change.

  11. Mike Wilton January 15, 2009 at 1:15 AM

    I’m with you on this one. Google has embedded itself in our lives not only personally, but culturally. I think for us long time Googlers it would take a tragedy of epic proportions to get us to switch. I think improvements in Yahoo, Live, Ask, or any other SE will simply build loyalty amongst their users. Even if one of the others could give me a few more relevant results, I doubt I’d go anywhere. Those same results would be hiding somewhere in the SERPs. This was a great post btw. I loved the comparison of our relationship with Google like that of a really crappy comfortable relationship.

  12. Dudibob January 15, 2009 at 2:00 AM

    Well when your trying to find information on the web do you:

    MSN/Live it? – just sounds wrong

    Yahoo it? – sounds like you enjoyed that search a little too much

    Google it? it just works!

    My excuse for using Google is iGoogle, all the news I want is right there, and the search box is handy :p

  13. Fpmarcil January 15, 2009 at 7:01 AM

    I find it weird that people don’t want to see that Google’s successor might already here: Facebook(even more so if Twitter is integrated).

    Just like Google is killing(or was) the OS, the big search engines will be killed by something that redefines the rules of engagement. I really don’t believe that a new search engine will come out of nowhere and challenge Google on pure search technology, at least for a good while. And before you ask, yes I’m talking about search, ie I know Facebook isnt really “there” yet, just think about the possibilities.

  14. danielthepoet January 15, 2009 at 8:09 AM


    That’s perhaps the most ridiculous thing I’ve read this year. No way does Facebook, even WITH Twitter, replace Google. The whole world does not want to read linkbait. There is MUCH more to the Web, in case we’ve forgotten.

  15. Fpmarcil January 15, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    Hey Daniel,

    Lisa asked, what’s next in search or could Google be replaced?, what I said is: is search really still at the center of the Web anymore? Maybe not. Facebook could integrate search in their interface and make a killing, that’s what I am saying, just like I stated in my previous post: “I know Facebook isnt really “there” yet, just think about the possibilities.”

    “I think it’s going to be the emergence of something that shows us results in an entirely new way.” – Lisa
    (I tend to agree and think Facebook could be “it” if they engage in that direction.)

  16. Sherisaid January 15, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Lisa, I had NO trouble going to Google from Yahoo, so why would I have trouble moving on from Google? I’m still deciding whether to make the switch from Firefox to Google Chrome, but it could happen. I’m using both at the moment…but I ditched IE (LONG ago) for Opera and Opera for Firefox.

    Comfortable is fine, but better performance gets my attention every time.

  17. Ashley Lichty January 15, 2009 at 1:06 PM

    I’ll admit it – I’m a total bandwagon jumper. If the next big thing comes along, and enough people I know are talking about it, I’ll give it a shot. But it will take a lot for me to use Google, b/c as you say, it’s been there for me, it’s comfortable and it’s socially acceptable.

    I’ve mostly been satisfied with my Google results…I get the feeling it would take something major to make me switch. And boy does Google know that!

    The puppy thing would def. do it tho…for sure.

  18. Bob The Builder January 15, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    My porn results were much more relevant in Google compared to yahoo.

  19. saffyre9 January 15, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    The fact that I can access search, email, video, docs, webmaster tools, analytics, etc etc etc all from one spot with one login is just too compelling. Sure, there are better alternatives out there, but no one else has been able to combine them all like Google has. Google is just too easy not to use it.

    Of course, once innocent kittehs and puppies start being sacrificed, I will have no choice but to go elsewhere 😛

  20. Lisa Barone January 15, 2009 at 1:58 PM

    SheriSaid: You had no trouble switching from Yahoo to Google because Google was far, far superior. And at what point did you switch? How many people had to go over before you? I’m not saying you wouldn’t switch over it something better came along, I just think the bar is a lot higher for what it’ll take to move us. [And I’m maybe not just picking on you for fun. ;)]

    Daniel: I, um, agree. Completely.

  21. Dawn January 15, 2009 at 10:05 PM

    I’m not sure if the slaying of innocent puppies would be enough to persuade me away from the speed of convince. Is there a Googleholics Anonymous Group near by?

  22. Ben January 16, 2009 at 6:42 AM

    I never really left Yahoo in spirit. I was late in switching to Google and could never understand the alure. (What good are fast results when you need to look through several pages of garbage to find useful material) Over time I found myself using Google more because my websites got more traffic from there. I will drop them like a rock the minute that changes.

  23. Robert January 16, 2009 at 7:00 AM

    Actually… 😛 I’d disagree (mostly because I just have to argue – who doesn’t like a good fight?). Google won over the market, not because of quality so much as marketing. Give stuff away for free… give away free services… list websites for free (they don’t have an insane yearly charge to be in their directory).

    @ Dudibob: um… I don’t Live/MSN-it… don’t Yahoo!-it… but actually I prefer to Ask(.com)-it. They had all the potential in the world but their marketing stank. It’s really that simple.

    What would Google have to do for me to leave? Um, actually they’re my second choice. To flip it around if they could give me 3D-Search as Ask.com used to (I’m still bummed they went more Google) then I’d mark them in first place.

  24. Lisa Barone January 16, 2009 at 7:50 AM

    Dawn: I’m sorry, we can’t help you here. Please wear a face mask as to not infect the rest of us. 🙂

    Ben: Wow. Do you still feel like you have to wade through “several pages of garbage” to find good results on Google? Really? More so than Yahoo? Interesting that you were willing to switch over to Google because that’s where your traffic comes from. Kind of proves the point of the post, no? That relevance has nothing to do with which engine you use and that people stick to what’s socially acceptable? You may not like Google, but you’re still using it. Even if your heart still belongs to Yahoo. [And you may want to see someone about that?]

    Robert: Eh, I disagree. 🙂 Google has done VERY little marketing compared to the rest of the search engines. If it was a dollars war, Google certainly would not have won that battle. I think they got their users because they offered a product that was head and shoulders better than their competition.

    And don’t even get me started on Ask.com! Yeah, they HAD the potential. They SHOULD have been successful…and then Barry Diller came in and borked up the whole show. At this point it’s not their marketing that’s hurt them. It’s the fact that they:

    A. Kicked their brand evangelists in the face: http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/archives/2008/03/goodbye_askcom.html
    B. And then neutered their search engine: http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/archives/2008/06/ask_core_search.html

    And yes, I am sensitive about it. Why do you ask? 🙂

  25. Sherisaid January 17, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    Lisa, I don’t remember when I switched to Google, TBH…but it was still in beta. I should probably say that I’m something of a geek and like trying out new beta programs. But saying that, you’re right about one thing. A site would have a long way to go before I’d switch from Google, because beating the services offered by google would be damn near impossible. The bottom line is that Google offers what I need without driving me crazy.

  26. Bob Weber January 17, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    The more this is discussed the more I think I am on the total opposite end of most of you. I converted to Google very early on, as soon as I found it in fact. Once I tried it I dropped every other search engine I was using.

    To this day, if something new is announced I give it a shot. I even tried cuil, in spite of the stoopid name. It sucks, so I don’t use it (just paused to try it again and yep, it still sucks).

    I’ll keep trying anything new when I find it, and if it’s good, I’ll drop Google like a hot rock.

  27. Simon Heseltine January 19, 2009 at 7:46 AM

    Well, I used to use DogPile as my main search engine before switching over to Google back around 2003ish, and I never went back, so you could say that for me Google did kill a puppy…

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