How Google Came To Dominate Search And What The Future Holds
The 1995 brainchild of two students, search engine Backrub evolved into powerhouse technology company Google. Amid search engines like Yahoo and Bing, Google has remained at the top of the food chain, today holding nearly 80% of global search engine market share. But how?
Google is the product of a friendship between Larry Page and Sergey Brin. After meeting as students at Stanford, they worked from their dorm rooms to bring their idea into existence: a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages online. The mission was simple: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
They wanted to find a way to map how many times a web page or research paper was linked to and referenced across the internet. To do this they had to download the internet in its entirety and in developing their mapping/ranking algorithm, they found a drastically better way to search the internet than had previously existed. From there, they rapidly expanded.
The earliest search engines focused on developing business models that monetized search. For example, up until the last decade or so, Yahoo, organized its paid search service, Overture, by who paid the most. When advertisers can buy their way to a top spot, it often comes at the cost of user experience, and that’s where Google did things differently.
Google’s entire business model focused on providing a better user experience. Its algorithm accounted for multiple factors, such as page quality, number of links and relevance to a user’s search in addition to how much advertisers pay, thus improving Yahoo’s original model. Because Gooogle provided the best product, everyone wanted to use it.
Changing User Behavior
Google is the reigning champion of search and is likely not going anywhere. That being said, recent threats posed to Google are indicative of a larger shift in search that’s prompted by changes in both technology and user behavior. If you consider how people used to search versus how they search today, the differences are significant.
The development of new devices has completely changed the function of search. Rather than sitting behind a desktop computer, users now search on the go from tablets, mobile phones and laptops. Moreover, developments in voice search exploded in recent years because users can search, buy and command on the go.
Search used to have a smaller role in the lives of users but today is fully integrated into everyday life. Think about the nature of day-to-day searches: You command Siri to find a Target near you, you tell Alexa to order more air fresheners from Amazon, you quickly look up pharmacy hours on your phone, and you check in your location on your social apps. What I’ve seen from working with SEO clients is that this creates a constantly moving target for businesses and search platforms online. Rather than having different websites for different things (one for social, one for shopping, one for searching, and so on), users flock to platforms that have everything they need in the fewest number of steps.
Despite Google’s history of outperforming other search engines, changes in technology and user behavior have allowed competitive threats to gain speed. The intersection of search platforms, social media and e-commerce have created new preferences and habits among users, widening the margin for competition.