Forget Altruism: China Too Big A Prize For Google To Give Up

Google CFO Patrick Pichette may have said Google wants to give the Chinese people open access to information as part of the company's global mission, but the loss of their access to the country with the greatest number of online users is a market and profit potential they would not want to lose.

"China wants Google," Pichette told the Times of London. But he should have added Google wants China, one of the few countries that the company does not have a dominant share of the search market.

Using the recent blocking of information about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo who is currently serving an 11 year sentence in China for 'inciting subversion', Pichette said, "[If] you were in China last week, two weeks ago, and you typed in Nobel Peace Prize -- there were no results. Think of Google's brand now. You're Chinese, you know that's not true, that the Nobel Peace Prize has not disappeared from the face of the earth. There lies the issue of brand. There lies the issue of our mission."

While that is a nice sentiment, the fact that China has surpassed the United States as the largest online national population is also a huge factor.

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Google dominates the other countries on the graph - over 80% in India and close to that for the rest.

When Google pulled out of China last year over issues of censorship and the hacking of Gmail accounts, they lost global market share.

Add to this the fact that search growth in the US and Europe has hit a wall - the exponential growth of new users of previous years is no longer possible as percentages of users to population are very close - and the fledgling Asian market has a lot of growing to do, Google's continued financial growth depends on gaining a large foothold in that market.

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"As a company, it will become increasingly more important for Google to find significant new revenue streams in order to offset decelerating growth in search," Martin Olausson, analyst at Strategy Analytics.told Reuters.

The Chinese market is a big prize - one that may need the freedom of access to all Google results - and that includes their ads.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.