Making Google grow

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Omid kordestani gets points for persistence. The 37-year-old VP-sales and business development arrived at the small, up-and-coming search engine Google in May 1999 with a mission: replace Inktomi as the default search engine on Yahoo!.

"I called Yahoo! the day I arrived," recalls Mr. Kordestani. He says he's friends with Yahoo! Chief Technology Officer and Senior VP-Engineering Site Operations Farzad "Zod" Nazem and called him every month for a year. Just being pals wasn't going to cut it. Google needed to prove itself as a search engine that could scale its services to support Yahoo!'s traffic, which was 52.7 million unique monthly users in September, according to Media Metrix. It also needed to build an impressive client roster, licensing its search services to brand name sites.

In May, almost a year to the day later, Google became Yahoo!'s search engine. "On Friday night it was signed," he says, adding that he celebrated the victory "in a water taxi in Venice on Monday."

NETSCAPE CONTACTS

For the next year, Mr. Kordestani mined the contacts he'd made at America Online's Netscape Communications, where he was VP-business development and sales. He built Google's client list, signing up Netscape as well as Cisco Systems, Nextel Online wireless services, Washingtonpost.com and Virgin Net. Google generates a percentage of revenue from every search performed through a partner site. Google says it powers 14 million searches a day through its site alone and 40 million searches counting referrals from its partners. Google had 5.7 million unique users in September, according to Media Metrix.

Google passed an important milestone with its Yahoo! licensing deal. Like Yahoo!, Google too had evolved from a search engine founded by Stanford University graduates. In September 1998 Stanford Ph.D. candidates Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded the site, which quickly built its reputation. It was praised for its technology that ranked Web pages by relevancy and importance, a system that critics say reaps faster, more accurate search results. It cherishes speedy searches and therefore blocks heavy graphics such as animated banner ads and content that tend to slow a site.

Ad revenue, while a smaller piece of its business model, is of growing importance. And this is where Mr. Kordestani faces one of his biggest challenges. By eschewing banner ads, Google is left to lure advertisers with old-fashioned sponsored text links and text boxes targeted by keyword searches.

"Our site is so focused on delivering high-quality search results, we wanted to make sure the advertising is in tune with that," he says. "We want to make sure the pages load extremely fast."

250 ADVERTISERS

Google has only recently started selling advertising, opening a sales office in New York this fall, and growing its base of advertisers from zero to more than 250 this year. Advertisers include Autoweb.com, BizRate.com, Charles Schwab & Co. and Wells Fargo. In an attempt to capture the small and midsize advertiser, Google last month unveiled AdWords, a self-service advertising program. The automated service offers keyword advertising for sale in three small boxes running down the side of Google's search results page.

Mr. Kordestani, who moved to the U.S. from Tehran, Iran, in 1978, says his experience licensing Netscape's services primed him for his post at Google. "It was the early days of figuring out what the portals were," he says. "How do you monetize this traffic?. I grew up understanding how business models work and how they should be developed."

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