In a Game of King of The Hill, is Larry Page Ready to Fight?
Google has absolutely dominated search for the last four to five years with their market share fluctuating at close to 70%.
Years ago, most discussions in search revolved around the major players, which naturally included Google. Frankly, the other players have been an afterthought for some time now. They have fought the good fight, but never been remotely close to winning.
While the battle for search has long tipped seriously in favor of Google, social has quietly matured. Interestingly, this is one of the few battlegrounds where the search giant genuinely appears to struggle.
We talked to several DFWSEM members to get their insight on how things might play out in 2015.
Is Bing out of the race?
Bing has struggled mightily against the Google juggernaut. Their biggest failure of recent times has been not making major inroads in mobile. Windows Phone has been okay, but failed to gain the major traction Microsoft must have been hoping for. This summer however, Bing landed the Siri voice search deal with Apple.
Let’s be clear. The Siri deal is huge for Bing, because of one simple fact. If Siri determines that a user’s request is better served with a general search result, she will use Bing by default. With a large percentage of mobile searches still emanating from iPhones, it is reasonable to think this could be a game changer.
Steve Hammer advises the change will largely remain hidden from users:
Mobile’s the real battleground for search, but the behavior is a bit different. Consumers aren’t as aware in mobile about who’s actually providing search. Few people know how Siri searches are powered or how a safari top box search is done.
Steve Kuntz recently pointed out that eBay joined the Bing Search Partners network in November. A little research has revealed the move was to support eBay’s mobile search.
While they may not be happy with Google, eBay is unlikely to continue using both Google and Bing. They will likely switch back or convert desktop search to Bing Search Partners, too. While I do not know eBay’s internal search numbers, even a .5% switch in search share amounts to a full 1% change in a comparison between the two engines.
As for Microsoft, they are finally leveraging the golden goose by announcing they will soon provide Bing as a search engine within Microsoft Office. Bing has been a real money pit for Microsoft. This move is one of the smartest they have made in years.
After the shock of laying-off so many of their global sales staff, it seems clear that Microsoft is aiming more at strategic partnerships. This bears close scrutiny in 2015.
Where does Yahoo fit in?
Since early 2014 Joe Youngblood has talked to me, and to anyone who would listen, about Marissa Mayer’s intentions at Yahoo. He mentioned often that Mayer had been one of the architects responsible for creating the ‘Google Way’. He said he believed she would succeed in building a similar product at Yahoo. To that end, Joe has long been confident Yahoo was working on its own search engine.
As it turns out, Joe’s read of the situation was dead-on. In April, reports started leaking out that Yahoo wanted to land the iPhone Safari deal. The deal would require an ad-serving platform and a search engine.
Conveniently, in March, Yahoo unleashed Gemini on the world. Gemini is an ad-serving platform that targets Yahoo’s native advertising and the one area of search Yahoo is still allowed to monetize directly – mobile.
Still in its infancy, Gemini is not very good yet, but keep watching. Rumors have also leaked about secret projects aimed at getting web search working again.
I have no idea what that search engine might look like, but Marissa is intelligent enough to build one that can leverage mobile and appease webmasters and users. It’ll be interesting to see what they build. ~ Joe Youngblood in his 10 Bold 2015 SEO Predictions
Yahoo switches up the game
The huge game changer came when Yahoo landed the Firefox deal. This could foreseeably eat up to 10 percentage points from Google’s market share, though it will more likely shake out at between three and five percent.
It’s also a smart move for Yahoo, as they are clearly gunning to reclaim their former glory as the go-to search engine for Internet users.
It should also be noted that Bing receives a nice windfall in this not-so-minor coup.
But isn’t the real competition from Facebook?
Facebook recently acquired the ad-serving platform Atlas. This platform prides itself on serving to the same users more easily across different devices. Right now it is only a base from which to begin growing, but it may become a focal point during 2015 and 2016.
Facebook also showed Bing the door for Facebook search a short time ago, so it seems they believe they may have the search technology to go bigger. Since Facebook are clearly working on building a wider ad network, this may well cut into Google’s profits. It may perhaps be the seed that grows something capable of encroaching more quickly on Google’s territory.
Is Apple still in the race?
Apple has begun crawling the web, but the story so far has been only that the crawler will help Siri serve better results. Apple’s ‘’big thing’ is still the iPhone and iPad. They are certainly not going to let go of their contract with Google until they are confident another provider can serve their customers a solid Apple experience.
The iPhone has been constantly hammered by lagging technology, so Apple’s mobile share has been built on product familiarity and company image. All signs point to them trying to catch up more quickly in the coming year.
While Apple would like to slow Google down and move away from them, there is one important thing that must happen first. Someone will have to provide options comparable to those Google can offer. Nevertheless, if Yahoo can get search right, this could well be an Achilles Heel for Google.
Where does Amazon sit in all this?
Early this past summer, Amazon announced they would launch their own ad-serving network and platform. Networks take years to grow, but the announcement served immediate notice that they would be backing out of Google’s Search Partner network in lieu of their own ads. This is just one more chink in Google’s immense armor.
While ad serving is a work-in-progress, Amazon has just announced its intention to offer travel-based search. Google has worked for years to make travel a cornerstone of its profit base. If Amazon can provide a quality experience, its foray into travel may hit Google hard over the next two or three years.
Who is Google’s biggest threat?
There can be no discussion of Google taking a hit in 2015 without considering the “King of the Hill” itself, Google. Let’s face it, there have already been announcements that left people talking. Among them, the news that many Google+ employees would be shifted to other divisions. While Google claims Google+ will remain one of its big divisions, many see this as a silent nod to the eventual downgrading of the program.
Google Glass has shelved its consumer-specific department, although the product will likely be a consideration in future Pentagon investments.
Google has continued the shakedown of advertisers since beginning Enhanced Campaigns, making ‘Near Match’ universal to all search campaigns. Advertisers have not backed out of Adwords though. It appears the need for more traffic exceeds their irritation at the program changes.
Google hasn’t been sleeping during 2014 either. According to Tony Wright Google has spent more on government lobbying every year for the past four years than the rest of the companies on this list. Tony believes it is quite possible Google could buy out Microsoft, barring Bill Gates leveraging his remaining Microsoft influence.
Numerous Google acquisitions this year have been directly related to artificial intelligence. This begs the question: “What is Google lobbying for?” Does it want more military contracts? Does it want to acquire other mega-corporations?
Greg Gifford has other ideas about the most critical threat to Google in the coming year:
I think the biggest attack Google search share will face in 2015 will come from Google. As we progress towards more mobile for everything, Google will have to change its game to keep up with user behavior (it needs to keep its revenue coming, after all).
As the algo shifts to truly localized results, all the businesses that have never played in the Local SEO space are going to get left in the lurch, and there’s going to be a huge learning curve. Businesses will also lose out as Google continues to try to show answers in answer boxes or knowledge panes.
The “quick answer” stuff that users once got on sites will now show up right there in the SERPs, drastically reducing the traffic that local businesses used to see from those query types.
Greg’s read of the situation may be right on the money. Cast your mind back to the Zeitgeist conference Q&A in September 2011. Asked what was the biggest threat to Google’s success, Page himself answered “Google.”
When it comes down to it, only Larry Page and Google know the direction they will move in 2015. You can be sure of one thing. If they are to keep their dominance in search, they are going to need to start fighting back.
Let’s Continue This Conversation
Where do you think Google is headed in 2015? Will Yahoo relaunch search? Share your predictions.
Charlie Rose and Larry Page at TED 2014 by TED Conference is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.