Google's business, contrary to appearances, is advertising. Everything else just rides on top of it but generates very little money. Having a single revenue source is not an enviable position, especially when other big players and, more importantly, shifting web habits are involved.
Google is doing something to stay ahead of the game, or at least not lag too far behind, with the acquisition of social media marketing (read Facebook advertising) company Wildfire.
Wildfire manages the dirty business of buying and placing Facebook ads for big clients. It's a fast-growing company and Google wanted a piece of the action. Well, it wanted all of the action.
Adding Wildfire to its portfolio of advertising tools is a smart move, but Google gets more than a revenue source, it gets a data source.
It gets to know what people are buying on Facebook, how and why. It gets to know what Facebook's ad businesses looks like on the inside. Considering that Facebook is the single biggest threat to Google at this point, this data is crucial.
"[Wildfire is] a service that helps businesses like Virgin, Cirque du Soleil, Gilt Group and Spotify manage their social efforts across numerous social websites. It’s a platform for brands to manage their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads, promotions and more, all in one place," Google wrote announcing the deal.
"For now, we remain focused on helping brands run and measure their social engagement and ad campaigns across the entire web and across all social services — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more — and to deliver rich and satisfying experiences for their consumers. To this end, Wildfire will operate as usual, and there will be no changes to our service and support for our customers," Wildfire promised.
But, of course, that's what all companies that are acquired say. Still, Google has done a good job at keeping the ad products it acquires and improving them. DoubleClick, AdMeld and others are a great example of that.
But Wildfire will be integrated into the Google advertising machine. That can only be a good thing; on the one hand, big companies can now manage more of their ad campaigns from the same account and, on the other, existing Wildfire customers may be tempted to try out some of Google's other offerings.