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Google's Competitive Advantage and Strategy

Colt is a marketing analyst and freelance writer who's always been interested in examining businesses to help inform others.

Read on to learn about Google's competitive advantage and strategy.

Read on to learn about Google's competitive advantage and strategy.

How Google Made It Big

Google LLC is an Internet giant with a record $22.9 billion in advertising revenues in 2009 and the indisputable leader in Internet search. In October 2013, Google's shares surged to a record high of more than $1,000 per share. By comparison, its initial public offering in August 2004 was at $85 per share. In less than 10 years, Google's share price has increased nearly 1200%!

Google's mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google Inc. was founded and incorporated in 1998 with its sole focus on its successful search technology. Since then, Google has greatly expanded its large portfolio of products and services beyond Internet search.

Undoubtedly, the sustained competitive advantage of Google is remarkable and a feat worthy of emulation by its competitors.

Google's original logo

Google's original logo

Superior Infrastructure

Google operates in a very competitive environment. As the most visited website in the world, with its complex chain of products and services, Google faces competition from organizations from different industries. Google’s sustained competitive advantage is evident in a few ways, particularly in its superior infrastructure. Despite Google’s secrecy, Royal Pingdom reports that Google owns 36 data centers worldwide in 2008 with expansion plans to different geographical sites such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and the United States. An estimated 900,000 servers run in the data centers, with the figure envisioned to be a staggering figure of 10 million in the future!

In the 3rd quarter of 2013, it was revealed that the Internet giant spent $2.3 billion on infrastructure from the announcement of its financial results. This is a stark increase of nearly 50% as compared to a year ago.

With such extensive and efficient infrastructure, the use of energy is undoubtedly enormous. However, Google announced in late 2016 that it will power all its data centers and offices with 100% renewable energy.

Google's Infrastructure Expenditure

Google's Infrastructure Expenditure

Powerful Search Engine

Even in its earliest forms, Google’s search engine received critical acclaim, with PC Magazine naming it in its list of “Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines for 1998”. Between the year-end 1998 till early 1999, the number of queries increased from 10,000 to 500,000 queries daily. Since then, the search engine has been refined and enhanced with newer features. In 2010 alone, there were 516 improvements to search, such as Instant Search which provides dynamic results.

Undoubtedly, it's the best search engine available that edges all its competitors, the biggest competitors being Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo Search. Google handles more than 3 billion searches daily, which is a market share of about 67% in 2012. By comparison, Bing and Yahoo search holds a market share of about 16% and 13% respectively in 2012. In late 2018, the market share of Google Search reached nearly 93% with more than 3.5 billion daily searches, far eclipsing any competitor.

Extensive Portfolio of Products and Services

Google’s constant pursuit to expand its portfolio of services and tools is also evidence of its sustained competitive advantage. Since its incorporation, Google has also acquired over 100 companies to expand its services, notably the popular video-sharing website, YouTube in October 2006, and Motorola Mobility in August 2011. YouTube serves more than 800 million unique visitors a month and holds a leading market share of more than 40% in online video. This staggering figure is 20 times greater than its nearest competitor, Youku in China.

It has expanded into the mobile territory back in 2007 with the constant development of Android. Android has the largest installed base of any computer operating system as of late 2018.

Google also encourages its staff to exercise their creativity and innovation, which can contribute to the formation of new products and ideas. No doubt, it is one of the companies many yearn to work for.

Resource Based View (RBV) of Google

Based on Resource Based View (RBV), an organization can gain a sustained competitive advantage if its resources fulfill the following criteria of being valuable, rare, imperfectly imitable, and non-substitutable. This is commonly known by the acronym "VRIN".

  • Valuable Resources—Google is best known for its search engine. The search engine has been Google’s most valuable resource, driving advertisements which account for a 96% of Google’s $37.9 billion revenue.

    Employees are also one of Google’s valuable resources. The lively and creative company culture has been important in the high-efficient operations, resulting in the creation of many innovative services and tools.
  • Rare Resources—Google has a large portfolio of patented technology and the number of patents held has increased with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2013. It is reported that the acquisition has provided Google with an extra 24,000 patents.
  • In-Imitable—Google’s scale of its infrastructure is not easily imitated. As described in Section 3.1, Google does not disclose much about its infrastructure but is estimated to own a huge number of data centers and servers worldwide. It is also difficult to duplicate the success of Google as it was founded in the 1990s when the market was less saturated and competitive.
  • Substitutability—With its clean, minimalist user interface, Google Search offers an unparalleled way of retrieving information quickly that is difficult to substitute.

    Using RBV, it can be determined that Google sustained competitive advantage is achieved through the resources that it has. These resources are inimitable and difficult to substitute.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Geronimo Colt