Among the many things I love about Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) as an investor is its fun-loving spirit of experimentation. Almost anything goes at the search king, including a trial run at embedding a trivia game with its search engine.
Called "a Google a Day," the clever tuning of The Big G's search system includes a simple trivia question that's best solved using various Google tools. Here's a look at the latest question:
But "a Google a Day" also has serious business benefits. The more users tap into Google products to solve riddles, the more likely it is they'll return to these same products for mundane tasks -- such as finding a restaurant in Google Maps or converting cubits into inches using Google Calculator. Each query also creates an opportunity to make the underlying algorithm smarter. Data from Experian shows Google's success rate (a rough proxy for search relevancy) stands at 65.9%, well below Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) leading 81.1% rate. Google can use the help.
In many ways, "a Google a Day" reminds me of a five-year-old contest that hooked me just as easily: The DaVinci Code Quest, in which a series of Google-hosted puzzles promised to bamboozle all but the best of us. My commemorative cryptex still sits on the bookshelf to the left of my desk.
The difference is that "a Google a Day" benefits from social services that were either brand-new or didn't exist in 2006. Facebook was barely two years old and Twitter hadn't been officially unveiled. Today, puzzle freaks can share "a Google a Day" on either network or Google's own Buzz. And that's exactly what The Big G wants.
CEO Larry Page is so focused on social success he's tied employee bonuses to social media gains. Anything that helps inform his company's efforts to displace or blunt the effects of Facebook, Twitter, Quora and their ilk is goodness.
So don't let this game small-f fool you. Serious fun can also be serious business. We know; our annual April Fool's joke always teaches an important investing lesson. With "a Google a Day" The Big G is doing less teaching and more learning. Investors should be cheering.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about "a Google a Day," the business of search, and how social media factors into your search habits using the comments box below.
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