In the search marketing industry, we spend most of our time talking about Google due to its scale and level of business impact, but this creates an unhealthy perception that it’s the only search engine that matters. This couldn’t be further than the truth. Search engines are everywhere and, depending on the nature of your business and target audiences, you may need a strategy for at least several of them.
The search landscape is rapidly changing too, and marketers need to prepare for a future where Google may not be the market leader (in most countries) or even exist as we know it today. That may sound unlikely, but search engines are everywhere and Google is facing increasing competition and scrutiny over its market dominance.
People use more search engines than they realize
We may think of Google and Bing as the top two search engines and, in many regards, this is true in the UK. However, once you consider search engines that are built into other platforms, you realize how much of the web relies on search outside of Google.
Here’s a list of some of the most widely-used search engines that have no direct relation with Google:
Bing: Google’s biggest search rival has a significant 22% market share of desktop searches in the UK, with 407m searches performed every month in this country.
Alexa: Alexa’s search results are powered by Bing but the Alexa devices and Echo interface are built by Amazon – Google’s emerging big rival in search.
Apple Search: Apple is reportedly building its own search engine, which would cut Google’s earnings by an estimated $12bn and create a major new rival.
Amazon: More than half of all product searches now take place on Amazon – the fastest-growing search engine around.
eBay: The other big e-commerce platform with 66% reach among the UK population alone.
iOS App Store: Google may have the biggest mobile app store in terms of downloads, but iOS users are known to spend significantly more on in-app purchases.
Spotify: The biggest name in music search and streaming, but by no means the only one.
Steam: The biggest search platform for PC gaming with over 120 million monthly active users.
Baidu: The biggest search engine in China.
Yandex: The biggest search engine in Russia.
Naver: The top search platform in South Korea.
DuckDuckGo: The first search engine to really take Google on as a privacy-centric alternative.
Brave Search: After taking on Google’s Chrome browser, Brave is now rolling out its own search engine that promises to protect users’ privacy.
On-site search: A huge number of sites and apps (think Airbnb, Nike.com or Statista) implement search at the center of the user experience.
We tend to think of search engines as Google-like interfaces for accessing web pages, but this isn’t the only type of search engine that exists. Amazon, Apple’s App Store, Spotify and Steam are among a plethora of search engines that connect users with specific types of content – many of which aren’t directly accessible through a search engine such as Google.
As search continues to evolve, its implementation is diversifying and we’re venturing into IoT territory where any device or application can include a search engine. We live in a time where everything from our cars to fridges can connect to the internet – and it’s not like all search engines need to be as advanced as Google’s.
Elon Musk says Tesla’s AI technology is comparable to Google’s, and it’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to envision a Google Maps-like local search function built into cars of the near future.
Likewise, how long will it be before companies such as Samsung integrate search functionality into fridges that let users know when they’re running low on products and help them find the nearest replacements in stock?
SEO is becoming increasingly platform independent
In many regards, Google’s market dominance is the biggest issue in search marketing because it encourages companies to – as the saying goes – put all their eggs in one basket. This is why a single algorithm update or related change can cause so much havoc, and markets hang on every word Google says about optimizing content and websites.
This is evolving, though. As we’ve already mentioned, Amazon has overtaken Google as the top product search engine and it’s the fastest-growing ad network in the business right now.
The phasing out of third-party cookies is driving further diversity in search and browsers while forcing Google to change the inner workings of its business model. This has created space for new browsers and other search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Brave, while Apple is reportedly building its own search engine to overcome its reliance on Google for Siri and iOS search.
Times are changing and so are user expectations, which means marketers and brands need to think of SEO as a platform-independent discipline. You need to be where your target audiences are most active and this probably already means optimizing for other search engines outside Google, whether it’s e-commerce platforms, app stores, gaming directories or more popular search engines in specific target markets (such as China, Russia and South Korea).
Search marketing doesn’t begin and end with Google
Google isn’t going anywhere in the immediate future, but increased competition is good for everyone, and it shows that search marketing is here to stay, irrespective of whether Google remains the top search engine or otherwise.
However, marketers need to start thinking of SEO beyond the confines of search engines such as Google and Bing because growing audiences are already present on other platforms (such as Amazon, Spotify or the Apple App Store) where users have specific needs.
Lee Wilson, Head of Services at Vertical Leap.