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Betting against Google could be a risky gamble for your business

The cover of Fast Company magazine recently caught my eye. A photo of Google CEO Larry Page was plastered on the front under the heading, “Look out Apple, Facebook & Amazon – Why Google will win.”

The cover of Fast Company magazine recently caught my eye. A photo of Google CEO Larry Page was plastered on the front under the heading, “Look out Apple, Facebook & Amazon – Why Google will win.”

The cover was a plug for “The Great Tech War of 2012” article inside.

I pulled it off the shelf. That’s when things got interesting.

Behind it was a red-coloured version of the same magazine, but with Steve Jobs face on the cover and a headline, “Why Apple Will Win.” A little more rummaging led me to four versions of the same November 2011 issue, a clever ploy to promote the article. The other versions exclaimed why Facebook or Amazon would win.

The quandary then became, “Which cover to buy?”

All four companies have disrupted various industries. In less than five years, they’ve changed the entertainment, music, publishing and media industries.

They’ve also disrupted gaming, retail, mobile, communications and advertising. Payment systems and cloud computing are on their radar.

Initially, I gravitated toward the Apple cover, but Steve Jobs’ prominent photo started looking like a question mark to me with his recent death and the uncertainty of continued innovation.

Amazon is brazen and innovative, but anchored to the end of the commerce funnel. Not a bad place to be, but limited. I figured it would come down to who controlled insights on people and information. Facebook arguably knows more about our behaviours than we do, and it has the muscle to leverage that knowledge. But in the end I chose the Google cover. Why?

Google owns search. When we’re searching, we’re seeking. And seeking is the beginning of every desire. Now that it has entered the foray of social media with Google +, Google will ultimately hold the trump card. It can access our profile and the gateway to our desired transactions. It will have the ability to use our preferences and the influence of our social circle to control individual search results. Suddenly, it’s not just a Google search, it’s “knowing you, I would suggest,” and that becomes extremely powerful because marketers will pay attention to it.

Google+ is in search results like never before. A Google+ profile outranks other content. You may feel that using its clout to adjust rankings in its favour is unfair, but it’s a compelling reason to claim a Google+ profile.

You will want to create large circles. Everything you share on Google+ will be ranked higher, and if you have more people in your circles it will be ranked higher still. Because Google now appears to favour quality content, you can use that to position yourself. You would be foolish not to share everything through Google+ to boost your search rankings.

Google’s recent “Google Search Plus Your World” introduced the influence of your social circle into search results. Logged-in users receive socially shared content from their circles in the results – essentially tying social media into search results. Although the bias appears to diminish when logged out, Google+ linked content still rises in the search rankings. Facebook’s power is its 800 million users. Google+ with a current 90 million users might seem small by comparison. However, when you combine the billions of people doing billions of searches daily on Google, the user group and influence is exponential.

Google+ might be just another social media tool to maintain, but the choice not to participate could have far-reaching implications for your business. In the end I bought the Larry Page cover of Fast Company because I’m not willing to bet against Google.

Are you? •