Feb 18, 2009

What Makes Google's Blog So Dam Good?

For some time now the Official Google Blog has been widely recognised as the pinnacle of corporate blogging. It beat rival blogs O’Reilly Radar, Yahoo! Search and the TomPeters blog in Technorati's 2006 world rankings. In 2009 it's the only "corporate blog" to make the Times top 25 blogs. So, what makes it so dam good?

The fundamental factor that makes the Official Google Blog successful is that Google's primary product is a complicated one which needs explaining....and that's precisely what the Google blog does.

It provides insightful, valuable and very usable content that almost everyone with a website would/should be interested in, and it keeps those who want to be "in the know" ahead of the curve, letting them know about Google's emerging services.

sample post:
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So surprise surprise the success of the Official Google Blog is directly related to the services which Google provides, hmmm funny that.

One of the interesting things I've come across in the early stages of my research is that if a company's primary site is interactive, personalised and self explanatory e.g. Amazon, or Facebook then having a blog doesn't add much to the average users relationship with that site. However, a blog can add great value to a readers experience with a company, if that company's site is static, non interactive, and they have a complicated market offering.

Amazon is a great example of an interactive website which also has a blog, Josh Catone seems to think that the Amazon web services blog is pretty great because it uses a brilliant personal voice. But I would beg to differ, it's not the voice that really makes a blog worth reading, it's the value of the content to the reader, and to be perfectly honest Amazon's blog doesn't add a whole lot of value to the customer's experience. This is because the average Amazon experience is personalised, interactive and not overly complicated.

A quick reality check will reveal that very few people read a corporate blog for fun. A crucial insight which I've gained in the last week is that it seems most people will read a corporate blog to achieve something...it seems simple I know, but consider what this mean for companies?

It means if you're going to start a corporate blog, start by asking this question...who are our readers going to be and how does having a blog help them, how does it add value to their lives and experiences with us? If you nail that then you're on a path towards success.


  1. Hey Sam, You make some good points here. I agree that personality as well as contents are main drivers. But when comparing corporate blogs you won't be able to completely ignore the influence of the initiating company (and I think this is somewhat ignored by the 9 success factors). This is very hard stuff (I can tell from experience) and I have so far not found THE way to really deal with it analytically. The analysis might/should have multiple perspectives:
    (1) large companies have many employees, which are important readers (at the Daimler-Blog 60% of readers are actually employees), they might also have contractors and customers coming to their blog
    (2) the larger the company the more it is searched --> because blogs are loved by search engines their success is cloesely tied to the search engine visibility of their company (e.g. http://www.google.de/trends?q=amazon%2C+google)
    (3) large companies have more stories to tell (sometimes they just need to be discovered)

    Talking about that, I'd say the communication strategy/motivation is closely tied to the same issue. Companies that are more willing to rely on the blog for communication will make it more visible. For Google the Blog is one of the most important communication instruments. For Amazon the web services blog is just a blog for a part of its business. This in turn will affect content and voice - and there we are again... :-) Cheers (Im already thrilled to see what's evolving from our discussions ;-))

  2. Wow Nils great comments, very insightful.

    I think you've hit the nail on the head with your comment about communication strategy/motivation: "For Google the Blog is one of the most important communication instruments. For Amazon the web services blog is just a blog for a part of its business"

    I think you're right it is very difficult to compare corporate blogs from different size companies in different industries as they will inevitably have different motivations for blogging.

    Like you've said the Amazon blog clearly doesn't have to be an integral part of it's communication strategy due to the interactive nature of it's primary site. I think that all corporate blogs probably have different success measures and this is possibly one of the things that technorati has ignored in it's rankings.

    For Amazon the success of it's blogging activities may have nothing to do with how many average Amazon customers read/love their blog...as it is aimed at quite a different audience.

    So perhaps this is a new area which could be ranked? The Best Corporate Blogs - based on satisfying their audience rather than the amount of traffic they generate? But how do you measure this?