Interview: Aaron Goldman – Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google

Aaron Goldman is the author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google (affiliate link). Before declaring free agency earlier this week, Aaron was the founder and principal at Connectual, where he put lessons learned from Google to good use in digital marketing consulting and matchmaking.

As part of a blog tour celebrating the book launch, I took the opportunity to put a few questions to Aaron about his views on Google’s approach to marketing, and how its own social media activities have contributed to its success. You can find more information about the book at I’m working my way through a review copy of the book right now; look for a review on here in the next couple of weeks.

With all of the companies taking innovative approaches to marketing nowadays, why did you choose to write about Google?

5 main reasons:

1. It’s a company I know intimately. I worked closely with Google during my 5-ish years at Resolution Media, helping brands manage paid and organic search as well as serving on Google’s agency advisory council.

2. Google’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows Google. Everyone uses Google. So it’s a company that people are familiar with.

3. Google is incredibly successful. Innovation and success don’t always go hand in hand. In Google’s case, they do. That makes it a company that many businesses look up to and aspire to be.

4. Google has a mystique and intrigue about it. People want to peek under the hood and see what makes the Googleplex tick.

5. People don’t usually think about Google as a company that does much marketing. Most folks think Google just had a great product and benefited from word of mouth. But, just because you don’t see Google ads all over your TV, doesn’t mean it’s not marketing. A lot of Google’s marketing doesn’t have media dollars attached to it.

All that said, many of the “Googley Lessons” in my book aren’t necessarily about Google’s marketing. They’re basic tenants that Google does well in other facets of its business that marketers can learn from — things like, “Relevancy Rules.”

If there’s one key insight marketers should take from your book, what would it be?

Marketing is more than just advertising.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here as this is a battle you PR pros often have to fight all the time when brands dump time and money into paid media when they could be getting better results with a little more focus on earned media.

Your book mentions the importance of data. PR has long suffered as a discipline that struggles with data and measurement. What can we as PR practitioners learn from Google’s approach to using data?

The lessons in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of my book are Test Everything, Track Everything, and Let the Data Decide.

Google is always testing. At one point, it tested 41 different shades of blue for its toolbar.

Of course, without tracking, testing is useless. Google has a bunch of great tools that marketers can use to track their efforts.

And Google doesn’t rely on intuition or gut feels. It lets the data decide the winner in each of these tests.

PR pros would be wise to take Google’s approach to continual tweaking and optimization. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.

And, while tracking is certainly not as easy in PR as in advertising and media, there are plenty of ways to measure impact. The key of course, is to measure actual impact — not impressions.

Now, every brand will define “impact” differently based on corporate goals but I can guarantee you no company has a goal to get 1 million Facebook likes or 1,000 retweets.

What impact did these social media indicators have on brand awareness, preference, and sales?

You feature insights from numerous marketing luminaries in your book, among them Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytics evangelist. How do you see web analytics fitting into the modern marketing system?

Web analytics is one of the ways to do the tracking and measurement I just preached about.

And Avinash will be the first to tell you how important it is to focus on the right metrics.

When I interviewed him, Avinash told me that marketers put far too much emphasis on “input” or “acquisition” metrics like page rank or clicks. As he put it, “true glory” comes from “output” or “behavioral” metrics like bounce rate and average order value.

Going forward, the role of analytics will only increase as marketers create data-driven cultures.

How do you think Google’s social media communications activities – its numerous blogs and its Twitter presence, for example – have fed into its success?

I think Google’s social media strategy has made the company more approachable.

3 of Google’s core values are openness, transparency, and authenticity.

By having a blog and Twitter account for just about every business unit and product, Google is able to engage people in a “non-corporate” way.

Google doesn’t just use these channels to beat its chest and blast out promotional messages. It shares works-in-progress, product bugs and fixes, behind-the-scenes stories, etc.

This gives people a warm and fuzzy about Google that they just don’t get from, say, Apple. Can you imagine Apple blogging about products still in development or tweeting about product bugs?

Of course, this speaks to the difference in cultures between Google and Apple. Google is all about launch, test, fail, improve. Apple would never launch without full testing and QA.

Social media as a channel is ripe for the Google approach. If you wait to polish every single message and interaction, you’ll have missed the window of opportunity to engage a customer or potential customer — not to mention come off as unauthentic and insincere.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.