Google’s evolution. 1998 to 2020

Over two decades have passed since Google’s launched in 1998, and it seems that people have forgotten the history and evolution of Google as a marketing tool. So we thought it would be interesting to shine a light on its evolution.

Today we have Andrea Atzori, director & co founder of Ambire to help us make sense of how things have changed. 

Q: Andrea, what do you think are the key changes that Google has implemented that turns the tables on digital marketers.

Turn the tables? That sounds a bit weird… Is digital marketing a battle between Google and marketers?

But it is true that the tables have been turned on digital marketers. Most of the things that used to work, say in 2004 certainly will not work in 2020.


Google homepage in 1998

The first reason for this, is that Google looks at search queries a bit differently than before.

Whereas it used to be all about matching keywords to queries, now the focus has shifted more towards the user… his/her intent and the context that led to that query.

Nowadays Google looks more at the context to predict what is more useful to the user, and the context can be determined by many factors which Google has access to… including, but not limited to demographic data of the user, his/her location at the time of the query – for example, is the query made at home or from a work location? The time of the query, the device used, historical data, i.e. past searches, searches and websites visited in the last 7 days, 24 hours, etcetera.

All these ‘signals’ create the context and help Google gauge a pretty accurate picture and discern the intent much more than just matching a query to a keyword.

Q: What is the key takeaway from this evolution?

Based on the look, there is no real difference between a Google search result page from 2004 and 2020. The pages still look very much the same… same layout… similar logo, fonts and ad placements…

But what has really changed is what happens behind the scenes; it’s like a car that hasn’t changed the body, but the real changes are under the bonnet… with an ever-evolving engine – in our case Google’s algorithm.

As such, my key takeaway would be that brands need a different approach towards the planning and management of their marketing campaigns.

Q: So what would you recommend based on this?

Well, I guess, my recommendation would be to stop worrying about trying to outsmart the system, and focus more on the user and the context.

I think about people using SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) in Google Ads till not long ago, but those techniques have been made redundant by how the platform has changed.

Instead, create meaningful content that is useful first, and work on engaging with your audience(s) throughout the whole user journey.

Stop concentrating on a handful of metrics that are typically used to measure bottom of the funnel activity, and look at the bigger picture instead.

At the end of the day it’s all about the context and the bigger picture – for example, even a 40% year-on-year growth in acquisition metrics might be not a great result, if the market has grown by, say, 60%…

Track, measure and concentrate on all metrics, at each stage of the user journey, and make sure you are clear on the value of each interaction.