Greetings from the future! I'm here in 2010. How I got here isn't really important. What matters now is that I'm going to tell you how Google
Where are you? January 2008? Just before the company posted its fourth-quarter financials from 2007? Wow. That brings back memories.
I won't keep you in suspense for too much longer. Yes, Google investors are richer today than they were two years ago. The company is an even bigger force in advertising, and I'm not just talking about online advertising.
Ads add up
Big G really is the marketing king of all media. I know that isn't a surprise. Even heading into 2008, Google was already broadcasting ads through radio, in print, and even on television. I just want to tell you that it worked. Madison Avenue now runs through the Googleplex in Mountain View.
Because Google amassed a roster of tens of millions of advertiser contacts through its AdWords platform, it was easily able to introduce smaller sponsors into areas -- such as radio, television, and print -- that didn't seem feasible a few years ago. Because ads can be targeted to specific audiences, a larger sponsor pool is paying more collectively for higher-quality leads.
Everybody wins, especially Google shareholders.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is that most of Google's growth has been organic. After barely squeezing its DoubleClick through the regulator approval process in the summer of 2008 -- that European Commission really drove a hard bargain -- Google had grown too important to acquire anything other than a few inconsequential bits and pieces.
The company got so big that regulators didn't even flinch when Microsoft
The bumpy road to tomorrow
I don't want you to think Google had a cakewalk on its way to becoming the undisputed marketing powerhouse. It stumbled in 2008, when the weak economy dried up the inventory of the highest-paying keyword bids and "ad blindness" lowered Internet clickthrough rates.
Google also got even stricter about the quality of the websites it allowed into its AdSense network. If you think the IncrediMail
Google bounced back. It always does. In fact, what it went through became the catalyst to push even harder across all ad platforms. From digital billboards to a fleet of monitors in high-traffic areas that spew ads between YouTube clips, Google became the Focus Media
YouTube's new groove
Speaking of video, YouTube hit the big screen. The site took a page out of the Current Media playbook and launched its own television network. It's not challenging the major networks, but it does really well during the summer, when the majors are on break. It's also a hit virally. Small media markets start buzzing when area citizens get their 15 seconds of clip-culture fame.
The site itself is booming. YouTube finally cleaned up its act in perfecting the filtering technology to keep copyrighted material off its site, while it opened up its partner program to more than just the heavy hitters. So while it quickly booted nefarious fraudsters, it gave anyone with a webcam a reason to promote it.
YouTube is profitable, too. Google finally got smart about positioning channels and genres to make the most of contextual marketing with a radical site makeover in the spring of 2009. No, the new look doesn't involve annoying pre-roll ads or even overly intrusive overlays. Google finally got things right, to the point at which ad revenue now easily offsets the heavy bandwidth tab.
Google doesn't own the world. Baidu.com
But the competition hasn't gotten in the way of Google's growing elsewhere. Its Orkut social-networking site is gaining on Facebook and MySpace globally. Oh, Facebook finally overtook MySpace in the fall of 2009, even though it was a bit of a pyrrhic victory. Social networking has evolved in 2010 -- now there are more niche players feeding off smaller audiences. Facebook really missed the boat by not going public earlier, though it's still a great brand.
Google Apps is also huge abroad, in emerging markets where Microsoft's Office 2010 proved too costly an upgrade. Google really has become the Salesforce.com
Yes, Google is everywhere. I'm sure you're saying the same thing back in 2008, but just wait until you get here. I mean, Google is even selling coffee mugs that beam the morning's headlines and sports scores, along with targeted ads and, of course, Google's latest stock quote.
Don't be jealous. Just be patient.
Rick is taking a tour of several companies from his fictional 2010 vantage point. He looked at Netflix yesterday. He'll be back with a new entry tomorrow.
Yahoo! is a recommendation for Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. Baidu.com is a Rule Breakers selection. If you want a ride in Rick's time machine, why not start by going back, to check out the past picks in any of these newsletter services? A 30-day free trial will take you there.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of Google, in both 2008 and 2010. He has been a Netflix subscriber -- and shareholder -- since 2002. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.