Google and WPEngine: Building Platforms Inside Businesses for the Long Term

Tech companies org charts

Two technology announcements this week that impact marketing. Google is retiring AdWords, the word, and DoubleClick, the name. StudioPress (Genesis) was acquired by WPEngine. Beyond the need to find and hold on to product value, which I'll talk about further down, they're both interesting in different ways.

    Wearing the business consultant hat: Whether you're an entrepreneur, a business owner, in an agency, or in a group inside an organization, marketing happens more and more online. It involves both owned presences to serve earned mentions and attention, and paid support to bring the right people to you — wherever they happen to be.

    Maybe you also build community around a business problem or issue you help solve. Certainly both organizations who announced today to varying degrees of fanfare, are of interest to their communities. In both cases, it's the community of users that has made the products a success.

    In the second case, it was the community that helped advance the product to where it is today.

Google goes for simpler brands and solutions for advertisers and publishers

    From the company blog announcement#:

We launched AdWords nearly 18 years ago with a simple goal—to make it easier for people to connect online with businesses.


A lot has changed since then. Mobile is now a huge part of our everyday lives. People quickly switch from searching for products, to watching videos, browsing content, playing games and more. As a result, marketers have more opportunities to reach consumers across channels, screens and formats

    You may recall that Google launched new AdWord features in April. Larry Kim at Wordstream helped us make sense of the new enterprise class tools#. Name aside, the tools would be available to all advertisers with any size businesses and annual budgets.

    If your business runs multiple campaigns, you'll be able to take advantage of feature improvements like:

  • bulk actions
  • automated bidding
  • enhanced reporting
  • “your own lab”

    A competitive bid for Google? You bet. But they led the announcement with Mobile App marketing. A market worth at $29.5 billion in 2017, according to Gartner. The new features promised better targeting, more ad impressions, better re-engagement, and app analytics measurement. No new identifiers and Android gets serviced first.

    For people like us, apps are just answers to questions or needs. So on the user end of things it means helping us discover, download and engage with more of the apps we want and need. 

    These feature translated into app marketing benefits by Kim means a better position for Google ad targeting and analysis in the mobile app industry. Doing what Google does best with a focus on mobile apps. Part of the April announcement covered features that are not going away.

    You see now why this week's announcement started on mobile. Keep reinforcing the message — more opportunities to connect with customers.

    Hey, Google also helps marketers connect the customer journey. In other words, the marketin platform play. Completing the picture, Google is re-introducing its ad brands as part of suite — Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager.

    Team collaboration on top of a unified platform where to run, measure, and optimize Google Analytics and former DoubleClick ads. From the announcement#:

These new brands reflect all of the ways that we help advertisers connect with consumers and make it easier for advertisers and publishers to choose which products are right for their businesses.

    In some circles the conversation was about Google having a long way to go to bring the pieces together. Each product likely reflecting the process within the company's organization structure (as in the image above.)

    But the idea is to combine ads, data, and measurements… and maybe start bypassing agencies for digital ads. For the companies already going direct, things will become easier. 

WPEngine is acquiring StudioPress, the makers of the WP Genesis Framework

    “There's much concern and gnashing of teeth in the Genesis community after WPEngine promised that Genesis would work better on their platform than anywhere else,” says Chris Baskind#. It was a poor choice of wording. Their largest acquisition and a gesture of support to the WordPress community.

    My sites are built on the Genesis Framework, a couple of the new ones are gorgeous. (Except for this blog, haven't moved it yet) I'm quite attached to what happens to it. There's my disclaimer. Me and 1 million others. So it's also a scale for growth play.

    From the announcement#:

This success is due to the efforts of the Genesis community that’s risen up around the quality, design, and leadership set by the Genesis core team, particularly the lead developers Brian Gardner and Nathan Rice.

This world-wide group of developers, engineers and digital marketers has done a wonderful job of building, maintaining and evangelizing the framework over the past ten years, and continues to support it via online forums, including a community-sponsored Facebook group that boasts nearly 10,000 members.

While StudioPress deserves the credit for inventing and evolving a robust and user-friendly product, the Genesis community has catapulted that product into the leadership position it has enjoyed for years.

    While the WPEngine is trying to assure everyone that all is well. The official announcement has many words about the company's commitment and thank yous to the community. But little in the way of the practical aspects we want to know.

    Developers are looking to Brian Gardner#, literally the architect of the Genesis Framework. Brian is going to WPEngine with the theme. They know and trust him. He wouldn't be doing this if it weren't good for the Genesis community. A good guy in tech, according to many.

    Many developers also host with WPEngine. They're great, they say. Only issue for working with small businesses and budgets is they are super expensive for multisite plans. “But you get great performance and even better support for the bucks.”

    On the more speculative side of things — the community is thriving, Genesis will remain an independent project. In fact, they promise to support and improve it in their announcement. If you use Genesis, you'll likely see many improvements in the theme and lots more theme offerings. 

    “I expect this will mean Genesis becomes a cutting-edge Gutenberg developer,” says Chris. Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, wrote enthusiastically about it#. He announced the product roadmap at WordCamp Europe. I've been using it on a secret site, super helpful.
    Who knows, down the line, WordPress' parent company Automattic could be interested in WPEngine.
    Automattic own the hosted platform, and have been looking for a way to better integrate with self-hosted sites. Their recent acquisition of Atavist#, a company working on a content management system for independent bloggers and writers, which also lets you create a paywall and build a subscription base didn't get much notice.
    But the potential that Automattic create “a seamless portal to manage subscriptions to multiple publications. And this could lead to less advertising and better content.” Means that WordPress could become very Medium-like in the future. It will be a nice creation platform with built-in eCommerce, paywalls, forums, and premium themes.
    It would make sense for them to buy a major WordPress host. At that point, Genesis will become the WordPress theme house brand, with Gutenberg as WP core. With many of these platforms, you start building the product with the community, but you need more resources to grow it.
    Google has resources galore, but now needs to consolidate its own pieces onto a platform, make it easier to buy and use their product for marketers. Rebranding makes product signaling sense.
    Technology is inescapable —  it affects our lives as customers, investors, employees, and it benefits our work more when we take the time to understand it (or at least the implications of what's happening.) I look at it as a user, but also as a business consultant.
[image via Bonkers World]
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