Google Gets Enterprising

The search giant is moving aggressively to bolster its enterprise search business-and challenge Microsoft-through partnerships and discounts.

Google Inc.s enterprise business may be just a small piece of its expanding empire, but the search giant is aggressively courting corporate customers with a variety of offerings designed to challenge rival Microsoft Corp. for enterprise wallets and desktops.

Google is using time-tested methods of breaking into the enterprise, including the use of partners and deep discounts.

The company this fall launched a partner program for system integrators and ISVs to extend Googles enterprise search tools. It also inked a partnership with IBM to integrate its enterprise desktop search tool into IBMs enterprise search tool.

On top of that, the company launched a promotion to give away its Google Mini search appliances to businesses that deploy its Google Enterprise Search appliance. And finally, the search giant started providing Google Analytics, its hosted Web analytics tool, for free.

Google says it has about 2,500 business search customers, and that number is likely to grow quickly in the coming year.

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"We see [enterprise search] as a huge growth potential for Google; it is growing 100 percent year on year, and it is very profitable," said Dave Girouard, general manager of Googles enterprise unit, in Mountain View, Calif.

But Google faces a number of obstacles in its enterprise push. IT managers cite concerns about privacy, security and support as the chief reasons for not considering Googles tools for business.

But current users of both Googles search and Web analytics tools say theyre satisfied with Googles support levels and trust Google with their data.

Canadian building product retailer BuildDirect, which has been using Google Analytics for just over a year, realized immediate benefits from the tool, according to Dan Brodie, director of operations, for BuildDirect, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Within the first three months that we implemented it we saw online sales increase by 50 percent, overall conversion rates increased by 37 percent, and we also were able to reduce by one third our marketing resources," said Brodie.

"We were able to reduce non-performing keywords and focus more on performing keywords, remove search engines that werent converting at all, and identify pages on sites where we saw high drop-off rate and improve stickiness of those pages."

Like other businesses considering Google Analytics, data privacy was an initial concern for BuildDirect.

"Absolutely it was a concern … but since then weve gained a very high level of comfort that they wont use that data. Our feeling is that if they did do that the backlash in PR would be so great that that in of itself is a huge deterrent," said Brodie.

Robert Reneau, senior manager of Web business marketing for National Semiconductor, in Santa Clara, Calif., has been happy with Googles support levels and privacy assurances.

"Theyve been very supportive in responding to any questions or technical inquires," said Reneau, whose company started using Google Analytics a couple months ago.

Next Page: Not everyone trusts Google.