Why Does Google Doodle?

I recently discovered the free GDoodle app, which documents every single Google Doodle ever created. Serving the same function as google.com/doodles, it is an archive of every doodle conceived to date. Besides being something to waste a couple of hours on, it’s a living museum of Google’s growth from a small search engine breaking into the market to the technology giant of today. Looking at the first Doodle, a small stick figure behind the second “o” (which appeared in 1998 when Google co-founders went to Burning Man), and continuing on to the more interactive and engaging Doodles of today (remember playing Pac-Man on a Doodle?), I’ve come to realize how influential these Doodles are.

Google Doodles are usually appealing to all audiences, whether they understand the reference or not. Doodles are conceived by both staff members and users who submit ideas they would like to see highlighted on the search engine megastar. A lot of time and effort is put into researching and developing the ideas, which are sometimes completed in less then 24 hours.

But why does Google Doodle? Turns out, for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds users that Google is always in the know, keeping up with current events. During the Olympics, Google releases Doodles for multiple events throughout the global competition, congratulating winners and highlighting events. In what may be the most impressive story to date on Doodle production, there was the four-hour turnaround when news of water on the moon broke out, as Google doodled what hadn’t even been published in print yet.

The Doodles also showcase the Google’s technical adeptness. The very first animated Google Doodle was in 2010, celebrating Isaac Newton’s birthday. A simple apple falling was the animation, but while most of us would have used Flash to make this, Google used JavaScript and regular code. Although the majority of us were unaware of this at the time, this marked the beginning of Flash’s uphill battle to keep its place on the Internet.

Google can also use its Google Doodles to draw attention to its own new features, like the Google Instant movement-aware bubbles, which foreshadowed Google’s then-new feature of completing words before you typed them, an attempt to guess what you were searching for. Additionally, it marked Google’s first pass at coding in HTML5, picking up where it left off with its JavaScript Doodle only months earlier. More recently, if you clicked on the recent Herman Melville Doodle, you were directed to the updated Google Knowledge Graph Carousel, Google’s “related search” technology.

But ultimately, the Google Doodle is an answer to the age-old question, “How do I get the customer to keep coming back?” Although Google accounts for more than 6% of total web traffic, staring at the same logo every day becomes tiresome. So by 2000, Google started making more Doodles, mostly around holidays. It also filed a patent for “Systems and Methods for Enticing Users to a Web Site.” That patent was granted in 2011.

So why does Google doodle? Among other reasons, for self-promotion, experimentation, and to get you coming back. Because we all know that when that next Doodle comes up, you will most likely go look at it, even if you have nothing to search for at the moment. Completely successful marketing.

Author: Zack Smith



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