Interviewer: Why donít you begin by telling me about your association with Google?
I was at Google for three years and that was my first job out of school. I went to school (University) at San Diego and pursued a Psychology major. Google is very big on diversification, so a lot of the employees have very diverse backgrounds, from Psychology to Mathematics, from Philosophy to the obvious, Computer Science and Computer Engineering degrees.
I was in AdSense, which is Googleís online advertisement department. Over the three years I took on many different tasks, marketing, online operations, and streamlining efficiency. Eventually, towards the latter part of my time at Google, I was focusing more on customer satisfaction. In that part too, we also got a chance to interact with a lot of publishers, who are the AdSense customers who take part in the program. These interactions are mainly through Online support, but every now and then we would get to interact with these customers (the publishers) face-to-face as well. Again, throughout those three years, I did so many different projects but it was mainly in those areas that I mentioned.
Interviewer: So you are not from a Ďcomputerí background at all?
No. I was always doing Psychology. But, when I was graduating, I was very Ďopení in terms of what I wanted to do, career-wise. I think it is pretty hard to figure out what you want to do when you are so young. I never really thought about online advertising before, but then when I talked to a friend who worked at Google, in AdWords, I thought that maybe I should try online advertising. It sounded very interesting. Then I decided to accept it (the job at Google) because I also knew that Google is a very good company to work for. I finished university early in March and I started working at Google in May.
Interviewer: What kind of work did you do in AdSense? Were you working in a team? What were your responsibilities as a team?
What I did always changed throughout the year because there was always so much going on, so many developments. Team wise, the way AdSense is structured; you definitely have to work in different teams. You might have to work with certain groups of publishers. When I first started out, I was working with publishers who had just joined the AdSense program. So there we were helping publishers implementing the Google Ads on their sites, or just answering any other specific questions.
Some of the projects I worked on was trying to figure out why certain customers who were AdSense publishers and did not have Google Ads on their sites anymore, were now inactive. Why arenít they active anymore? We had to figure out how to get these publishers back into active participation in the AdSense program.
Say you are a credit card holder, but are not using it anymore. How come youíre not using it anymore. Basically, just figuring out why arenít they customers still. That was one of the bigger projects I worked on.
When I first started out, a big part of what we were trying to do in the department was just efficiency. Streamlining operations. We had only so many people in the department working with millions of AdSense publishers. We needed to see how to handle support for all these customers.
I also spent a lot of my time working on AdSense referrals. I donít know if you are familiar with that program, but it is similar. Publishers could place a link on their website that would refer you to another Google product or to other AdSense customers. So, it was just a normal referral program. I was working on that team when it was launched, and I ended up moving to something else. But that referral program is actually no longer with Google. It was just interesting to see a product going from the start, its launching. That is always something interesting to see.
Other things I worked on. I also worked on, as I mentioned earlier, customer satisfaction. That is interesting because you have so many different types of AdSense publishers. You have major corporations that display Google Ads on their site, or you have people like me and you, those who own blogs and place Google Ads on those. Everyone has different types of needs, we need to figure out what products or what features we should offer each type of customer. Figuring that out, and also how we can build the AdSense community. How can we get people to feel like they are a part of Google, and that they can feel free to interact with not only us, but also with other AdSense publishers? That is more like the marketing aspect of things.
The good thing about Google is that you get to work on so many different things, so I still did things like I went to UCLA for recruitment, I mentored summer interns, so you get to do quite a variety of things. They want you to work on things that you are interested in, because they know that if you are interested in it, you will work hard and you will succeed in that area. There are great opportunities when you work at Google. You work with so many different teams, not just you department, but other teams from AdSense to engineering, so there is a lot of cross-functional work going on as well.
Interviewer: Taking a step back, we have seen that a lot of other firms have tried to make a lot of money from online search, but Google has done the best in terms of revenues from Web search. What did Google do right, in your opinion, that gave it an advantage over the rest?
When it comes to search advertising, for Google, you can advertise either on the search network or on the content network. So AdSense, when we worked with publishers, was part of the content network. In terms of the search network though, what Google has always done is been focused on the user. The person typing in the search key terms. At Google they definitely have an algorithm that is very exact, so every time you do a keyword search, you get what you are looking for. The ads there are extremely targeted. I donít know the algorithm formula, that is on the Ďengineeringí side. That definitely is a huge advantage.
But like I mentioned earlier, focusing on the user, or just your customers overall plays a huge part. With Google, when working with advertisers, they do not discriminate. Anyone can advertise, as long as they have an AdWords account. We can have the big players, or just have me and you, we can also advertise as well for specific key terms. I donít know about other companies (like Yahoo!) and how their ad networks work and whether they were letting everyone in. But I think Google being accessible to everyone, which also plays into their mission of providing information to everyone in the world, makes a huge difference so that everyone can feel like they are a part of the Google family.
Sure, many companies offer the same products, but it really just comes down to how you value your customers in addition to your employees.
In terms of AdWords, they definitely provided great customer service to their advertisers as well. From focus groups, to dedicated account managers. You can get the overall experience and they also want to figure how their employees can maximize your revenue.
Interviewer: Since you were in online advertising, how does online advertising compare to traditional advertising in terms of cost and effectiveness?
It is definitely much more cost effective. Just like I mentioned before, online advertising allows anyone to get the word out there. Say if even I owned a bike store right now, I might not have the huge budget to reach out the parts of the world through traditional media. I probably cannot afford to start a commercial on TV. Even print ads can get very expensive. With online advertising, I can just sign up on an AdWords account. I might not be able to afford as much as other advertisers, in terms of getting a high placement of my ads with specific keywords, but I still have that opportunity. So in that sense, online advertising gives you access to anyone, anyone who can access the internet. These days, a very small percentage of the people donít use the internet.
Interviewer: Considering the fact that everyone can use online advertising; do you think it will ever be as effective as some other means of traditional advertising? Specially for the smaller users?
I think traditional advertising, it is very segmented. Say you are watching a baseball game on TV, they have those advertisements that are targeted towards males who are aged 18 to 40 maybe. It is in their face. I think the trouble with online advertisements is that there are assigned spots for the ads on the results page. The ads might be there, but not everyone is looking at them.
Interviewer: Are there any other things that are not-so-good-with online advertising?
I suppose, there is always the issue of the ad being targeted towards what you are looking for. That comes down to how accurate the targeting system can be of that search engine company. With Google, there is definitely a very high percentage where the ads were pretty accurate. Of course, if are the user and you are searching for baseball, yet you see very generic ads, it is related to what you are searching for, but not exactly what you are looking for. That is a drawback.
I know even for me, when I am searching for something, I donít even look at the ads or click on them even. I donít really bother. How can you get people to click on those ads? You also have to make sure that people can do that. You make money for the advertiser, Google makes money and you are providing benefits to the user. You have to play into all those different aspects.
Interviewer: Do you think the concept of paid inclusion compromises the quality of search results for the users?
Maybe this is just because I have worked at Google, and I know googleís values, but anytime that someone can pay to put something on the Internet, or even have a certain ranking, it doesnít seem unbiased. Because you are paying for that space or ranking. It seems wrong intuitively. Just because you have money, you should not be allowed to be number one on a search results page. Maybe these are my personal beliefs, but I donít think that system is really fair. Everyone should be given an equal opportunity, which is why Google everyone can advertise. Along those concepts, I donít think the whole paid aspect of it is a very good idea.