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August 11, 2006

My Google bag

My first grade daughter has been bringing a swim bag to camp most days this summer -- it was one of those tchotchkes that I got at an industry event. So last weekend she was getting ready to go to a swim birthday party and asked, "Mom, where's my Google bag?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "Honey, it's a Yahoo! bag."

"Oh yeah, that's right. Well, do you know where it is?"

My daughter is your typical Silicon Valley kid who knows how to use the Internet, can type in URLs, and has heard me and my husband talk endlessly about companies like Google and Yahoo!. What struck me dumb was that even though she was carrying around this large purple swim bag emblazoned with Yahoo!'s name on it all summer, she thought it was her Google bag. It's incredible to me that the Google brand carries such weight that it became top of mind for my six year old.

Just to double check, I asked her later if she knew what the difference was between Google and Yahoo. "Yahoo! is the place where you go to play games (she uses Yahooligans)," while "Google is what shows up on your screen when something doesn't work." (Google is the default search engine on the kids' computer so it appears to the side of the Web browser when a page can't be found). My son (a second grader) chimed in that Google was good for finding stuff you needed to know about, while Yahoo! was the place you go to find pictures, play games, and check your email.

So while Yahoo! doesn't appear to be top of mind for my daughter, she definitely has a more positive opinion of Yahoo! than of Google. There's hope yet for Yahoo! to win the mind as well as the heart of my daughter.

What struck me is that my informal, anecdotal survey of my children closely mirrors the brand perception of the major portals. Hitwise recently published some data about the brand attributes of three major search engines – Google, Yahoo!, and MSN (collectively known as GYM). Hitwise took the top twenty search queries across all search engines that contained the name of these three sites to gauge their respective brand attributes. Hitwise GM Bill Tanner wrote:

Google's queries center on finding things, be that information, geographical location or multimedia content. This confirms what we've seen with our breakdown post, that Google, despite building some very attractive "portal-like" tools, maintains in consumers minds as a brand that helps you locate things.

Yahoo! in contrast, demonstrates a clear portal identity with well rounded interest on a variety of their channels or portal offerings. There is a clear difference when we compare Google's terms with Yahoo's... search versus engage in an activity or consume a specific type of content.

MSN queries are clearly distinct from both Google and Yahoo!, with their queries dominated by specific tools such as the new Messenger download, but also showing some portal characteristics with Music, Games and Money.

The data also shows how far Google still has to go to shed it’s one-trick pony image with consumers -- even though I believe they are starting to make progress in this area.


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» Brands: Google All About Search-Based, While Yahoo from brandsizzle
Charlene Li alerts us to this interesting article from Hitwise. They analyzed the top twenty search queries for each of the search biggies, Google, Yahoo and MSN to get a sense of their respective brand identities. The conclusions are fascinating: [Read More]

» Brands: Google All About Search, While Yahoo from brandsizzle
Charlene Li alerts us to this interesting article from Hitwise. They analyzed the top twenty search queries for each of the search biggies, Google, Yahoo and MSN to get a sense of their respective brand identities. The conclusions are fascinating: [Read More]



Being a one trick pony isn't necessary bad. I have observed that very few companies succeed in diversifying outside of their core successful business. And in the process of doing so they frequently waste money and resources (look at Microsoft).

There is still ample room for Google to expand their one trick search advertising business around the world and they should concentrate on that instead of diverting their attention and resources on other areas such as portal.

And when they finally run out of room for expansion, they should return the cash to shareholders.


I'm a nine year old and I worship Google. I'm your typical tech guy. Writing in VBcode, HTML, creating websites, having a blog. My dream is to go see the Googleplex.

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I like google!


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Richard L. Brandt

The perceptions regarding Google and Yahoo are interesting. It seems to me that her daughter's comment about the Google bag shows that Google is at the top of her mind.

You're dead on when you say Yahoo is perceived as a portal while Google is a search engine. That's the direction I believe Yahoo will go, creating its own content and becoming more and more of a "media site". But as somebody who comes from the media business, I know that media companies are not valued nearly as highly as search companies. In the dot-com days, VC Bob Ackerman once told me that he was afraid he was investing in online media at internet valuations, but may end up getting out of them at media company valuations. He was right.

And Yahoo's portal does not make as much money from advertising, the typical media revenue stream, as does Google with search.

Search can take you to the best games (and news and pictures and other stuff) anywhere, while Yahoo favors its own content. That gives you a better selection. No one company can create the best content. Google doesn't try. It's just a better model than a media portal.

Ann Handley

Great post, Charlene....although it seems to me that Google is more of a one-trick gorilla rather than a one-trick pony, because of its ubiquity alone.

Anyway -- this really made me laugh...(paraphrasing): "Honey, it's not the Google bag -- it's the Yahoo! bag." That exchange with a six-year-old could truly only happen in a certain percentage of households. Very funny.

p.s. In our house, the Ad:Tech tote is the swim bag!

Alex Bukinis

cant agree more Google has already become like house hold name like pepsi and cola etc, I think there is no one let outside of the loop wgo have not heard about the google it is a permanent buzz word. I wonder if such massive campaigns in advertising are really good for the market , while we are getting hooked on google there are plenty of other search engines that are getter better and deliverring a better results in searches like Yahoo and MSN , but they are left neglected by mass media, public conciousness and as user utility they considered as second level tier...

continued research on hoodia http://www.offshelf.net.

Chris Dowell

I asked similar questions about search engines to my 9 & 10 year boys and they had similar responses. Although now they have found ways to personalize google.

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