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$59,624,000,000. That’s the revenue generated by Google through advertising alone in 2014 and it’s that figure that makes the world’s biggest online companies work hard to find a way to tap into the search and online advertising market. Take a look at the biggest threats to Google’s dominance.
Often in search marketing, Google is the primary focus for any optimisation campaign for websites and paid advertising campaigns. Google developed a world-class platform and dominated most major international search markets so this made sense. However, the web is always changing and search is likely to become a much more open playing field that requires a refined optimisation strategy based on industry and goals.
Approximate Reach: 1,170,000,000 users
Google is currently the undisputed king of almost every type of search online and owns some of the web’s largest websites, including YouTube. The Display Network reaches out to over 90% of web users and there is an estimated 4,000,000 searches on Google every minute. In terms of quantity of users, Google cannot be beaten. There are, however, growing concerns over user privacy and interest in new services that can provide certain answers to users in more accurate, faster or easier ways.
Some advertisers are also looking for other forms of online advertising to target more relevant audiences or to avoid high costs – some terms cost over £30 per click on Google and that could mean the cost per acquisition is too high to turn a profit in certain industries.
Approximate Reach: 293 million Baidu users, 292 million Yahoo users, 267m Bing users, DuckDuckGo: 4 million search queries a day
The power of competing search engines should not be underestimated and growing contenders such as DuckDuckGo provide a solution for issues relating to privacy on Google. All these companies have access to strong ad platforms similar to AdWords that bring in revenue and provide external investors with a good reason for greater investment. Baidu has a huge user base in China and has the potential to be a leading force across Asia if it masters local languages and user behaviour with its unique insights.
The inclusion of these services as options or defaults on some leading technologies, including Windows 10 and iOS, represents a huge threat to Google and has already led to DuckDuckGo growing from 1 million to 4 million searches per day when comparing the month of January in 2013 and 2014.
With the recent uproar about Spotify privacy changes, it appears web users are focusing on privacy a lot more than they used to, and this presents smaller search engines with a great opportunity to differentiate from Google but still offer a similar service and advertising set-ups.
Approximate Reach (2014): 800,000,000 iOS devices / 80,000,000 Macs, 300 million App Store visits per week
There are rumours that Apple is building its own search platform using the Spotlight feature on Macs and iOS devices as the interface. This would make sense since Spotlight has become more of a feature on iPhones and iPads – with additions such as being able to search the App Store – in recent years. Also, Apple and Google aren’t exactly on best terms and Apple isn’t known for relying on other companies to run its core software services.
This isn’t the first time Apple has attempted to dislodge Google. The creation of Apple Maps in 2012, which is installed by default on every iOS, was seen as an attempt to reduce user’s reliance on Google Maps. Although it received a lot of negative publicity at launch, Apple has continually invested to improve the app and is closing in on 35 million users that would have otherwise probably have used Google.
This search platform could pose a real threat if Apple provides the service as a default option for new iOS devices and combines it with Siri, Apple’s voice search (currently set to use Bing but this could easily be changed to Apple’s own search engine).
Approximate Reach (2014): 1,490,000,000 active users
Facebook is huge – there is no doubt about it – and people using the service are spending a lot of time on the apps and websites. Recently the company claimed to have 1,000,000,000 users access the site on one day, which presents a huge threat to Google – especially with the rollout of a new machine learning platform called Facebook M which is designed to answer questions instantly or even before you’ve asked, similar to Google Now, Siri and Cortana.
The Facebook Ads network has also seen some major changes to help it compete with other offerings in online advertising. The platform can now offer targeting options that no other advertising platform can provide by showing ads to users based on life events, friends, interests and pretty much anything else that appears on Facebook. As many marketing strategies are based around socio-demographics, this is a huge opportunity to advertise to the right audience.
Estimated Reach (2014): 244,000,000
When you think about Amazon, you might see it as an online store rather than a search engine. The overall size of the user base is much smaller than Google’s, but the major difference is the intent of the searcher. Whilst on Google many users are looking for a range of answers – including products, information, images etc. – the majority of Amazon searches are by people looking to buy a product so advertisers are willing to pay good money to advertise.
Amazon recently acquired a video streaming platform similar to YouTube called Twitch for $1.1 billion and has created its own ad platform network called “Amazon Sponsored Links”. These changes have seen Google’s Eric Schmidt suggest that Amazon is a leading competitor and led to changes such as a direct “Buy” button being added to Google Shopping to have an all-inclusive offering within the Google search results without the need to visit another website.
Whilst Google will almost certainly remain the leader of search for at least another decade, there are clear threats for the company in the years ahead, especially in high revenue generating searches such as e-commerce based queries, which help to provide 90% of the search giant’s revenue.
The emergence of other search platforms such as Facebook and Apple, who already have access to huge user bases and potential offerings in development, mean that there is a large chance the search market will become much more fragmented. Users may end up spreading their use based on the intent of their search and who can provide the quickest answer. In which case, Amazon is well positioned to take advantage of the revenue generating queries and could be a good place to focus paid campaign optimisation in the future.
What do you envisage for the future of search and paid advertising? See what other people think by sharing the post & following me (@JamesaChallis) on twitter.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.