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I talked to a business man the other day, and gathered that he was probably a Republican. He was talking about some of the great businessmen in American history, and mentioned Andrew Carnegie — the absurdly successful steel mill owner at the turn of the century. The legend behind Andrew Carnegie’s success is this: He knew very little about steel production, or business ownership, or pretty much anything that he was supposed to be in charge of. But what he did know was how to surround himself with experts and empower them to make decisions. He knew how to leverage the power of intelligent people, he didn’t try to do things himself, and that’s how he succeeded.This business man I was talking to went on to make a modern-day comparison. “I don’t care if you like his politics or not,” he said, “but you have to agree that George W. Bush does the same thing.” I laughed. He was right.

Heads up, this content is 18 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

That’s it. I’m cutting myself off. Four conferences in ten days is my max. But oh, did my conferencing streak end with a good one…Today I attended the Search Engine Strategies Conference and Google Dance. My host was Matt VanWagner, a speaker at the conference and the CEO of Find Me Faster, a major search engine marketing agency on the east coast. He brought me along into the expo center (where I ran into BrainJams’ Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells), and also into a session on building good website architecture. Interesting tidbit from the session: You know those websites that use dropdown menus on their homepages, requiring users to choose a country or language before they can even enter the site? Well rumor has it, by doing this they’re preventing search engine spiders from getting through and properly indexing the pages within. “Spiders don’t have mice.”In addition to this, I also attended a private meeting with Matt at Google, where he met with his account reps and discussed his experiences with Google AdWords. I have to say, on Google’s behalf, that they genuinely cared about Matt’s feedback, took his requests seriously, and showed a ton of appreciation for his business. That just cemented my respect for them. I was impressed. They also demonstrated some new products, like the AdWords Editor and their new Video AdWords capabilities. I’m actually really excited about the video ads for two reasons:

  • The ads don’t play automatically. The user sees a static image and hits play only if she is interested in more.
  • The advertiser doesn’t pay for every time someone views the video. They only pay when someone clicks the link attached to it. So you can place video ads, and people can view them as much as they want, and you don’t have to pay for that unless they take the extra step of going to your website.

Frankly, it all sounds too good to be true. I’m sure there’s a catch, and I’ll let you know when I find it. Breaking News: Google is teaming up with MySpace and other Rupert Murdoch-owned ventures for some hardcore advertising. More here.So let’s talk about the Googleplex. Because it’s the tech employee’s equivalent of Disney Land, and because I just spent most of my day there. They have a swimming pool. Beach volleyball. Electric scooters for getting around. A laundry room. Showers. A full workout center. Free high-end gourmet food. Toilets with heated seats and built-in electronic bidets. bidet controls googletoiletsYou heard me. Bidets. Insider Rumor: Google’s trying to double their engineering staff in the next year.googlepeopleI have to admit, aside from the fact that I’m an avid Google user who regularly builds search-engine friendly websites, I felt pretty out of place at this conference. Search engine marketers comprise an intense and highly misunderstood subculture in the high-tech world. They’re an incredibly talented, high-paid, glamorous-lifestyle, close-knit group, and only they seem to really know what they actually do. I was honored to be in their presence, and I smiled politely as they rattled off names of famous people and amazing tools, none of which I had ever heard of. The security guards seemed to agree that I didn’t belong, and tried to have me removed. Twice. Apparently the fact that I wasn’t wearing an official badge caused some issues. Matt had to keep coming to my rescue with an authoritative, “She’s with me!” (Thanks, Matt!)Cool stuff? Cheese. The chefs had a cheeseboard competition, and there were numerous phenomenal presentations of gourmet cheese all over the place. We’re talkin’ avocado-swirled cheddar, brie edged in edible flowers, and staged computer mice trying to get a piece of the action. We also had all the free beer and wine we could drink (too bad I had to drive…), mad scientist ice cream sundaes, “dunk the google guy”, computer-generated music videos with your singing head, a live band, “meet the engineers” (with lots of security — gotta guard those secrets!), product demos, fighting robot battles, and lots of swag. I dubbed myself the Swag Hag tonight. I left town with:

  • A Google Analytics jacket
  • Two Google t-shirts
  • About five variously-structured light-up bouncy balls
  • A Google lego set
  • Five multi-colored Google pens
  • A Webmaster Radio t-shirt
  • A Google notebook (which will sit competitively next to the Yahoo! notebook I got at BlogHer)
  • Two erasers
  • A pink plastic frog that bulges her eyes out when I squeeze her

I drove home with a profound awareness that I live in Silicon Valley. That alone is a phenomenal asset in my life. And Google, I still love/hate you, but I have to say you really do know how to treat people, and I think that’s the whole secret to your success.

Heads up, this content is 18 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

You know, this blog really needs a better title. Any suggestions?