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Why Google’s new head of search might not tell us anything

Maybe you saw the stories. Google has a new head of its search division–who used to run its artificial intelligence group! So, obviously that means that Google is going to radically change direction to inject way more AI into search right? Um, maybe not.

Here are just a few reasons that this might not mean anything:

  • Google is already doing it. Google has already invested massively in upgrading its search in many areas that people consider AI, ranging from advanced text analytics to machine learning. Maybe this is a trailing indicator rather than a leading one.
  • It’s one person. The head of Google search is moving over from its AI unit, but the AI unit is not moving. People dramatically overestimate the effect of the leader on the organization. John Giannandrea is undoubtedly a smart guy, but he doesn’t do the research.
  • It might be a career move. In a large company like Google, they move executives around who have succeeded so that they can have even greater impact. When I worked for IBM, Irving Wladowsky-Berger moved from IBM Research to its eBusiness unit. It didn’t mean that eBusiness was soon to be loaded with research technology. It meant that Irving was a brilliant guy who could make IBM more money outside of IBM Research.

It’s fun reading tea leaves and staring at entrails, especially when they are Google’s. But keep your eye on the ball. Search will get smarter no matter who the executive is, so smart marketers will continue to focus on making searchers happy with their content. As the search engine improves, the right content will be shown more and more.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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