Susan Wojcicki, Google’s Senior Vice President for Advertising, gave the keynote address today at the annual Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West in San Jose, California. During the address, which was moderated by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, Wojcicki discussed Google’s past, hinted at Google’s future, and addressed some of the issues currently facing the company.
Wojcicki started off talking about how she got her start with Google – by renting her garage out to Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help with her mortgage payments. She went on to discuss some of the changes that she’s seen with Google’s advertising business since her last visit to the SMX stage nine years ago. She noted that AdSense had become a far more versatile and sophisticated tool during that time.
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She went on to say that Google’s changes are aimed at creating better products for their users.
When asked about Google’s acquisitions during her time with the company, she talked about DoubleClick and YouTube. She said that Google generally focuses on building their own tools, but that if they feel they can’t build a tool they want to – or can’t build it quickly enough – they consider buying a company that does something similar.
Sullivan then asked Wojcicki about the recent controversy about Google’s efforts to bypass security settings in Apple’s Safari browser. Wojcicki’s response was consistent with Google’s statement at the beginning of the scandal: Google did not set out to let ads place tracking cookies in users’ browsers. She also said Google has acknowledged the mistake and is working as fast as they can to fix it.
She also spoke briefly on the recent “Do Not Track” initiative and the President’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. She noted that the Privacy Bill of Rights is an industry initiative, and that Google and other companies had worked closely with the White House and made “very balanced” recommendations. Regarding “Do Not Track,” she insisted that some tracking was necessary becase “at the end of the day… [u]sers want to see ads that are useful and relevant.” She also said, however, that users must be comfortable with what goes on.
The conversation then turned to social media. Google+, she said, is a big part of “the next generation of Google products.” With the information users share in Google+, Google can customize people’s search results in ways that were impossible before. She also said that having Google+ pages was absolutely key for advertisers, especially in light of the fact that Google is adding the ability to +1 ads. These +1s, she said, are much like word-of-mouth adversiting.
The keynote ended with a question-and-answer session. When asked about the negative view users sometimes take of ads, she responded that ads are basically just information, and that sometimes the right ad at the right time can give the user exactly the information they need and want. She compared ads to the Yellow Pages, and talked about a time when she was looking for someone to teach her daughter Chinese. She found the teacher she was looking for thanks to an ad in Gmail that was based on emails between her and some friends on the subject.