Does Google really rule the roost when it comes to search?

by Tim Hill (aka Doodled)

November 20th 2015
Does Google really rule the roost when it comes to search?
When it comes to internet search how strong is Google?

Much is often made about Google's 90% share of the search market but is it really what it seems considering the rising number of ways there are to find information that don't involve it, Bing, Yahoo or the 'usual suspects'?

Google dominates doesn't it? Well the European Union seems to think so and has hit Google a number of times because it sees the search giant at abusing its near monopolistic position in Europe.

The US hasn't interfered to such an extent but this is often put down to the fact that Bing remains a major contender on that side of the pond. Google has 90% market share in the EU but 70% in the United States.

But what is this 'search market'?

Think for a moment how you and people you know search the web?

While Google may be one of your most often visited pages it is declining in its importance as online brands become better at niche searching. For example:

  • Looking for a book? - you probably search Amazon
  • Need a new laptop? - you may well head over to ebay, Amazon, newegg, etc.
  • Booking a hotel? - chances are you start and finish with a place like booking.com
  • Fancy eating out? - your favourite app, such as foursquare, is likely already on your phone
  • Planning to buy real estate? - friends may well direct you to the leading portals
  • Chewing over your car insurance? - there are probably comparison sites you've seen advertised off line that you will beat a track to.
  • Time to change jobs? - off line advertising could have burnt the names of the main portals into your mind before you even realised you fancied a change of direction.

And so the list goes on.

This is simply because when you want to book a hotel in Paris that is popular with young couples Google just doesn't cut it while something like booking.com does.

What do we actually search in Google?

Most of the examples I've given for how people search without involving Google just did not exist ten years ago or were not of the size and with the massive brand awareness they have now.

This means that in the past decade Google has been losing out on the search market to what are, in essence, niche search engines.

Amazon is a market place, but it would not work without its search engine. Some mobile phone apps search eateries based on your location and user reviews, not the SEO efforts of owners. They are search engines.

Google has been losing out on the search market to what are, in essence, niche search engines

Their rising popularity proves that they are, in short, better search engines than Google for a section of the market and for each new one that appears Google loses a little more.

This has only been offset by the amount of time we spend on the net. Smart phones mean we are connected 24/7 to look up information whenever the desire strikes us so we see the media reporting ever rising numbers of searches on Google.

However at the same time many of these other 'search engines' are probably also seeing growth in the number of searches - after all you can search a jobs portal while you are on your way to work ... just to check what the alternatives are.

What else does Google get bypassed for?

There also remain those products and services which we would really prefer not to find randomly on the web. I'm an ex-pat so finding a good car mechanic in my area would involve a forum discussion, not a Google search.

Sub-services are also bypassed. A recent client of mine provides wedding videography services for high end weddings. The happy couples here don't track him down on Google, they rely on their wedding planner to recommend the right person ... and the wedding planner relies on a network of contacts and experience.

I'm sure you can think of a dozen more examples. The point is Google is not the absolute many so often suggest it is.

So what is Google's real market share?

I went in search of this and was surprised to find no one keeps tabs or collects this data.

Amazon is a search engine but you will never find any reference to it on search market share statistics. Neither will you find hotel portals, comparison sites, ebay, etc., etc. even though they are all search engines.

As such all we can say is that Google's market share is much less than the 90% or 70% so often quoted and that, for certain types of search, its market share may be negligible. Consider that carefully before you spend time or money trying to rank your website for a keyword.