Will Google Ever Stop Dominating Search?

    April 4, 2013
    Chris Crum

Google stock is currently taking a hit after reaching an all-time high last month. Any number of factors could be contributors to this, but some think it’s directly related to people’s decreased dependence on finding information with Google.

Can Google keep its edge in search for the long term? Let us know what you think.

Forbes, for example, has a piece out today called “Four Reasons Google’s Stock Is Slowing Down“. The first two reasons listed in this article are directly related to this issue: 1. Losing search market share and 2. Shift to mobile search.”

The author references a New York Times article making the rounds today, in which the case is made that people, particularly on mobile, are choosing other services first, based on the type of information they’re looking for.

“Say you need a latté. You might pull out your phone, open the Yelp app and search for a nearby cafe. If instead you want to buy an espresso machine, you will most likely tap Amazon.com,” writes the Times’ Claire Cain Miller. “Either way, Google lost a customer.”

This is a legitimate concern for Google. It’s been apparent, for years now, that any eventual decline in market share for Google would likely come at the hands of a combination of services chipping away at the need for consumers to rely upon one search engine for finding things. That is opposed to just switching search engines and using something like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.

Google itself has acknowledged this in the past, and even today, Google’s Adam Kovacevich shared the NYT article.

Of course it helps Google’s case against antitrust complaints when reports come out that suggest there is legitimate competition. The Times reported back in September that 1/3 of shopping searches start on Amazon vs. only 13% on general search engines. Kovacevich shared that too.

Interestingly, when Google’s stock hit an all-time high earlier this year, analysts chalked it up to optimism for Google’s core business and mobile apps. Yahoo Finance said the market is convinced that these have “many good years ahead of them.”

Still, the search landscape just isn’t what it used to be.

As Miller writes, “No longer do consumers want to search the Web like the index of a book — finding links at which a particular keyword appears. They expect new kinds of customized search, like that on topical sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, which are chipping away at Google’s hold. Google and its competitors are trying to develop the knowledge and comprehension to answer specific queries, not just point users in the right direction.”

That’s just a handful of the various services that are already replacing Google for certain types of searches for many consumers. There’s one app that just about everybody has on their smartphone, and it could potentially take an even bigger chunk out of Google’s mobile search share in time than some of these others.

Facebook Graph Search’s impact on consumer behavior has been underwhelming so far, but Facebook is pretty much keeping it that way so far. While the number has probably increased some by now, at last count, only about 0.09% of Facebook users even had Graph Search yet. Facebook was clear from the beginning that the roll out would be slow, and that many more features and capabilities would be added in the future. In short, Graph Search has nowhere to go but up. It will only get better and return results for more types of information.

As we’ve noted in the past, local search is one areas where Graph Search could make an immediate impact in the market. Interestingly, Facebook just renamed its “Nearby” feature on iOS to “Local Search”.

Not only has Graph Search not rolled out to the majority of Facebook users yet, but it has also not rolled out to mobile. Local search is all the more relevant when used from a mobile device, and that will be key for Facebook’s search offering once it finally does hit its mobile apps.

But its potential impact won’t be limited to local search. If Yelp can make a dent in Google’s market share from mobile for certain types of local searches, Facebook can surely make a dent across a broader spectrum of verticals (from both mobile and desktop). Graph Search recently has already started letting you search for things like movies “watched” by friends (or others), books “read” by friends or others, and TV shows “watched” by friends or others. That’s not just stuff people have “liked,” but stuff people have read and/or watched, regardless of whether or not they like them. Wondering whether or not you should watch “The Hobbit”? Search “my friends who have watched the hobbit” and ask them their opinions. You get the idea.

Graph Search

This is only going to expand to encompass more types of searches, and the more types of searches it works for, the more searches it can take away from Google. Is it going to replace Google in general? I’d say almost certainly not, but as a multitude of services chip away at Google’s searches, Facebook in particular is one of the few that has the potential to chip away at a bigger piece of the pie. Combined with the Amazon shopping searches alone, Google’s pie share could start looking a lot different.

The Times piece cites comScore data, saying that searches on traditional services (dominated by Google) declined 3% in the second half of last year after rising for years, while the number of searches per searcher declined 7%. Meanwhile, searches on vertical search engines increased 8%. Do you think this pattern is going to reverse anytime soon?

Will there come a time when the majority of searches aren’t performed using Google? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.