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Google: OMID KORDESTANI/Mountain View, Calif.

2 minute read
Laura A. Locke/San Francisco

Everyone knows Google is the Web’s best search engine. Type in a keyword, and you’re there. Google delivers more than 200 million results daily, thanks to its hyperaccurate algorithms. But there’s no such thing as a free search; behind that text-only interface is a serious business edging toward what Wall Street hopes will be a new tech mega-IPO. Omid Kordestani, Google’s senior vice president of worldwide sales and field operations, is fast turning the privately held company into a maniacally profitable outfit. His efforts have transformed the world’s top search destination into online advertising’s hottest property–scoring more than 100,000 advertisers in just 18 months. Revenues from paid searches could fetch Google $1 billion by year’s end, analysts estimate.

When Kordestani, 40, joined Google from Netscape four years ago, search engines were a hard sell. But he avoided pushy pop-up ads and intrusive banners and began to sell paid listings. It’s a simple yet effective method, perfected by rival Overture. Sponsors pay for the rights to keywords: when a user enters a keyword, a related sponsored ad appears alongside the search results. Despite the success of the model, Google insists it’s not money obsessed. Kordestani once walked away from a multimillion-dollar deal because he didn’t see a smooth fit with the customer. “At Google, a lot of times we actually turn away revenue because we only want quality, repeatable revenue, not just a customer for a quarter,” he says.

Among co-workers, he’s known as the king of instant messaging. Of the hundreds of employees Kordestani oversees globally, he personally reviews each hire, making sure it passes his airport test: “If I’m stuck in an airport with one of these employees, I want to enjoy my time and have an intelligent conversation.”

Miraculously, he’s forged an ad strategy that appeals to his bosses, online advertisers and Web purists who love Google’s noncommercial look and feel. Ten straight quarters of profitability isn’t bad either. –By Laura A. Locke/San Francisco

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