Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

6 Ways Google Generated Word-of-Mouth For Their Products

Most of us know Google as the all-powerful company that’s always there, and which most of us reply on for information.

But have you ever wondered how Google got to where they were today, a 350-billion-dollar company?

We found several instances where Google succeeded in generating a lot of buzz and word-of-mouth for their products.

Now, before you start thinking that a big company like Google has a lot of resources, and can do whatever they want, it isn’t always the case.

So anyway, here are 6 ways Google generated word-of-mouth for their products:

1. Google’s super-fast load time and PageRank algorithm powered them to the #1 sport in just 2 years.

Google Search Word of Mouth ReferralCandy

Early on, Google understood the main problems plaguing net users at the time:

  • Slow internet speeds – People didn’t have broadband back in 1998, so pages loaded slower, and searches took much longer.
  • Direct competitors like Yahoo had heavy, cluttered pages with loads of features. This meant that pages took even longer to load.
  • Search results weren’t always accurate; meaning users had to spend a long time on snail-like internet speeds, surfing through heavy webpages, to get to the information they wanted.

Hence, they kept their homepage simple – just their logo and a search bar. People started using Google because their search pages loaded much faster.

yahoo google comparison ReferralCandy
Feature-heavy Yahoo vs minimalistic Google; which loads faster?

As for providing a more reliable search engine, Google utilized an algorithm called ‘PageRank‘ to surface more high quality and relevant search results.

In their announcement on 26th June 2000, Google had become the largest search engine in the world (in terms of pages indexed), and was given several awards, including the 2000 Webby and People’s Voice Award For Best Technical Achievement and Best Search Engine on the Internet from Yahoo! Internet Life.

But perhaps the most important part was that Google’s biggest competitor, Yahoo, had switched over to using Google to power their searches.

While other companies focused on providing a lot of features to their users, such as email, news, weather, etc., Google focused only on being the fastest and most search engine around.

As Ogilvy UK’s Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland would say,

People believe something that only does one thing is better at that thing than something that does that thing and something else.

The fact that “Google” is now officially a verb for searching for information online using Google gives enough evidence to that sentiment.

2. Exclusive Gmail, G+ and Inbox invites were in such hot demand that they were sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Gmail invite a friend pop up Google Word of Mouth

Gmail – The world’s first free email to be 500 times bigger than Hotmail:

When Google released Gmail in 2004, it was in the form of an invite-only system. Apart from being exclusive, gmail also promised 1Gb of inbox storage space, 500 times more than what Hotmail was offering.

Existing email clients had so little space that users had to constantly delete older emails to be able to receive new ones, which was extremely frustrating.

Everyone wanted more inbox space, and demand for it skyrocketed. Those with invites  to spare saw this as an opportunity, and started selling them on sites like ebay, with prices ranging from $60 to over a hundred dollars.

People were selling their souls on the Internet for invites,” – Arielle Reinsten, Product Marketing Manager for Gmail

Google+ – Google’s first attempt at social media:

In 2011, Google+ was announced in the field trial beta stage. It was Google’s first foray into social media, and some said it was their answer to Facebook.

Soon enough, Google+ invites began appearing on ebay:

Google Plus invite ebay Word of Mouth ReferralCandy

 

There was even a period of time in June 2011, where Google closed off all Google+ invites due to overwhelming demand for it.

Vic Gundotra, senior Vice President of Social for Google, had this to say regarding the closure:

We’ve shut down invite mechanism for the night. Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest!

Even those who had already been invited were not allowed into the service.

Google Inbox – The new email client said to be smarter and more efficient than Gmail:

And in 2014, Google released Google Inbox, a more efficient email client. It was described as a cross between Gmail and Google Now, and took on the approach of a to-do list.

Current users of Gmail (myself included) were curious to know what this new email client could do, and how much different was it to Gmail. During Gmail’s beta-testing phase, users were given 50 Gmail invites to send to their friends. For Google Inbox, however, each user only gets a maximum of three invites.

I requested for an invite from Google, and got mine after three weeks of waiting. More impatient users could be found bidding for invites on ebay, with one of them actually paying $205 for it:

Google Inbox Invite Word of Mouth ReferralCandy 2

On 6th Nov 2014, the Gmail team announced a one-hour window for everyone to get their invites. Understanding the draw of the scarcity principle, I’d wager that the email load received by the Gmail team asking for invites would be pretty intense.

While we know that releasing beta products with an invite-only system helps to iron out the kinks before the actual public launch and prevents the servers from crumbling under extreme user load, it was the exclusivity of these products that drove the demand even higher.

The harder it was to get something, the more people wanted them.

3. Google Zeitgeist, “Parisan Love” and other Google Stories garnered millions of views for their moving, compelling stories.

We all love sharing things that give us the feels. According to research by word-of-mouth expert Jonah Berger, high arousal emotions like awe and anger encourage us to share more.

Many of Google’s ads have done a great job at forming an emotional connection with us, which makes us want to share that same feeling with friends.

Year in Search (32.5 million views) – A broad recap of what happened that year, and how we should look forward to tomorrow:

Started since 2010, it has been Google’s tradition to release a video about the entire year’s searches, called the “Year in Search”:

Throughout the video, we get to recap on events that have impacted the world, great people who passed on, heroes that rose to the occasion, and many other emotional incidents.

Ultimately, it leaves us with a sense of hopefulness for the next year, which is a very empowering feeling.

Google Stories – Showing us different ways Google has helped change lives:

In 2009, Google released a video titled “Parisan Love”:

It followed the life of a man in France and how he eventually found love there.

The most creative aspect of the video was that the story was told entirely through searches in Google. Featuring nothing else but Google’s core product, it showed us their ability to change someone’s life, in a way that wasn’t presented before.

4. Eric Schmidt’s “How Google Works” slideshare, featuring his initial struggles, got more than 1.6 million views.

In October 2014, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt uploaded a slideshare presentation called “How Google Works”. In it, he covered a wide range of topics  about Google, such as corporate culture, strategy, decision-making, innovation, and much more.

The presentation became a hit, as people wanted to read about the struggles and challenges of one of the most influential companies in the world.

Who wouldn’t want to lessons and tips to become the next Google?

5. Google Doodles are cute, provide fun and cultural history lessons at the same time.

Jules Verne Google Doodle Word of Mouth ReferralCandy
Google Doodle celebrating Jules Verne, author of ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’

Google Doodles are a creative manipulation of the Google logo, appearing on the homepage to celebrate the anniversary of a famous person, holiday or significant event. People share them because they are cute, quirky, well-designed and always changing.

The tradition started out in 1998 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin made their own to notify users that they had gone to the Burning Man festival, and wouldn’t be around in case the servers crashed.

Google also organizes an annual “Doodle 4 Google” competition, where users are invited to submit their own Google Doodles for cool prizes and a chance to have their work shown to the world. This allows the users to be a part of something special, and also ensure that they’ll never run out of cool doodles.

Pac-Man Google Doodle Word of Mouth ReferralCandy

They are also famous for their interactive doodles, which usually features a game or puzzle that users can play with. This first interactive doodle appeared in May 2010, commemorating the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. Users could navigate Pac-Man through a maze with walls forming the word ‘Google’.

It became so popular that Google made it permanently available for users to play.

6. An inspiring video featuring Google’s self-driving cars bringing people around safely got over 9 million views.

Image: Forbes
Image: Forbes

For a few years, Google had been testing their self-driving car technology on modified Toyota, Audi, and Lexus cars.

But this video released in 2014 showed us their brand-new prototype design for their driver-less cars:

The video featured a few individuals who were invited to take a ride in the self-driving car, and their expressions were priceless.

Perhaps the most important part was when Steve,  a visually-handicapped man, took a ride in the autonomous car.

His comment at the end of the video was exceptionally encouraging:

…there’s a big part of my life that’s missing, and there’s a big part of my life that the self-driving vehicle will bring back to me.

This video represented the right step into the future, where technology would help empower people to do the things they wanted to do. People share it with friends because it’s cool, inspiring, and gives us social currency.

Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion ecommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior and social psychology.

2 comments

  • You got me thinking about Google Maps, too. I wrote a post about it on this blog once back in 2013 or so. Here’s an interesting quote that’s relevant to this topic:

    GOOGLER: “I wonder if you have an opinion on what we’ve done wrong with Google Maps. It was really amazing when it came out two years ago or something, and has like, spread among all of nerdom. But my sister visited me over the weekend, and had MapQuest maps. And it’s just a dagger through my heart. And now, Yahoo has scrollable maps, Microsoft has scrollable maps, And we’ve got this cool thing. But it seems like nobody really knows about it.”

    SETH GODIN: “OK. So I have an opinion on everything. And I don’t know what I’m talking about. Those are just two caveats.

    Problem number one is when you launched Google Maps, for most people who need to get to their hotel, they didn’t have a map problem. Digerati had an Ajax problem. There wasn’t one. But I didn’t have a directions map problem. And the amazing thing about Google Maps, when you first looked at it after you realized how cool it was, is it was really hard to print and really hard to get the driving directions so I could take ‘em with me when I went.

    So it was really cool and fun to do and to look at my backyard with the satellite, and so the Digerati, the Boing Boing people, we all went crazy. And it made it to The Times yesterday with The Sopranos. Really cool gimmick. And it’s worth talking about, but not aggressively. Because I’m not solving anyone’s problem. It’s an entertainment vehicle.

    And so the challenge there is, if it’s going to grow, it’s going to grow because lots of people put in their sig, “Here’s how to get to my office”. They put in their Squidoo lens, here’s my Google Map, ready to go. They put on their company website, follow us Google Map.”

    There’s a pretty powerful idea in there: Cool gimmicks are worth talking about socially, but not aggressively. Stuff that helps people do what they want to do, that’s worth talking about aggressively.

    https://referralcandy.com/blog/seth-godin-google-maps/

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