The Battle for Relevance


Both Google and Facebook offer free services to their users. Google allows you to find what you’re looking for online as efficiently as possible, while Facebook allows you to stay connected with friends wherever you are. What do both of these services have in common? Well, both have no direct cost incurred by users.

Neither Google nor Facebook charge users for access to their main offers, nor does either company have any public intent to start charging in the future. However, neither company does this to be charitable; after all, they are in the business of making money. That’s where you come in.

A while back, I wrote about the various ways Google and Facebook make money off of you and the information you provide. I’d now like to elaborate on that topic, to cover some important differences in that revenue model.

In Google’s case, what you search for helps determine what advertisements to display, with the hopes that such ads will be extremely relevant to your search query. In this sense, Google is targeting you in the moment. They know you’re looking for something right now, so the want to help you find it. Such targeting is focused on your immediate needs, which are tied to your search query.

On the other hand, Facebook looks at the user and advertiser relationship in a more long-term approach. They care more about who you are demographically and what your interests are. Then, they use this information to offer up relevant ads that interest you based on these rather permanent unchanging factors.

Do yo see the important differences here? Facebook wants to know who you are and what you like in order to bring you the most relevant advertisements based on your overall makeup. On the flip side, Google simply wants to know what you’re looking for right now, with the hopes that you’ll find their sponsored links more relevant than their organic search results.

Why is this important? For starters, it is vital that we understand how these companies view us, as either a search query or a bucket of interests and connections. These days however, with Google’s venture into social networking and Facebook’s relentless quest to move beyond the walled garden of their website, the lines are quickly becoming blurred.

At this stage of the game, we can probably say that both Google and Facebook have nearly perfected their own advertising methods. However, no entity has perfectly combined the two strategies. In my opinion, that is where the future of online advertising is headed. It will consist of a world in which advertising offers will be perfectly balanced between our demographics, interests, connections and what we are searching for or talking about online in the moment.

What does this all mean for us as users? Obviously, we will see more relevant ads than ever before, but what will we lose in terms of privacy to make this possible? Your guess is as good as mine.

Like What You’ve Read?

Then you'll totally want to follow me on Twitter! Go ahead, click it.


  1. says

    WOW! First of all – you predicted the Google's Your World feature, sort of.
    Second of all – I was looking for my own post about the same subject having the same title (!) but dated January 1st of 2012. That alone is incredible, but even more incredible is to try to analyze how the world will change when other search engines AND social networks will realize they have to compete with Google, and first shots from new and unknown weapons will be fired. Google just moved it's army to the battlefield, are you ready?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *