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Will Anyone Ever Truly Challenge Google in Search?




google-logo1At the start of 2013 there is a fair amount of discussion about the activity of search.

There was the ‘victory’ by Google in the FTC antitrust ruling in the US. There is the hope of the anti-Google crowd that the European Commission will play hard ball with the search giant in their antitrust / anti-competitive crusade to bring the search giant to its knees.

Now two articles appear recently that focus on two very interesting areas of search that COULD happen. When you see a lot of these kinds of posts where people are playing the ‘what if?’ game it means there is either a lot of unrest in the marketplace OR there is little real news to report on. It’s probably a little of both but let’s look at two opinions that have surfaced about the future of the search industry.

The first comes from The Daily Caller where Scott Cleland wonders out loud what would happen if Microsoft made a business decision to stop losing billions and simply pull out of the search game. He appears to be more on the side of the EU / EC when talking about what would be exposed if Microsoft left the search biz.

If Microsoft exited the business, it would lay bare the monopoly case. It would expose that advertisers have no other alternative to broadly reach the global Internet audience than Google.

It would spotlight much under-appreciated barriers to entry — extraordinary global scale, scope and reach in business relationships, infrastructure, and resources. It would expose Blekko and Duck Duck Go as utterly inconsequential search advertising competitors to Google.

One area that the post overplays is that while Yahoo does not power its search results it is still a search competitor. And with Marissa Mayer at the helm it would be naive to think that it might not take a real swing at getting back in the game while standing independent of Microsoft.

If Yahoo stepped up its search efforts, got out from underneath the Microsoft deal and used Ms. Mayer’s experience to make a dent in Google, could they?

The other player in this game is Facebook. Or are they just a threat of becoming a player? Everyone wants Facebook (and Twitter for that matter) to be better at search since they both have a ridiculous amount of data based on opinions of ‘friends’ v. Google’s mostly anonymous and detached presentation of information (which can be ‘manipulated’ by those who play the SEO game better than the rest, but let’s not go there ;-) ). The New York Times talks about this yesterday

Nearly a year after it announced its bid to go public, Facebook is confronting the ultimate burden of the information age: how to help its users find what they are looking for amid the billions of pictures, “likes” and status updates they post every day.

Ferreting out treasure from junk is its biggest challenge — and potentially its most lucrative opportunity, a chance to topple Google as the king of search.

If you’re looking for, say, a movie to watch next weekend, Google can provide long lists of movie reviews from strangers. Facebook, though, could theoretically tell you what movies your friends liked — and what, by extension, you may be predisposed to like. That kind of service would delight advertisers — and, by extension, Wall Street.

This is an interesting approach that many think is widespread where people want to get all of their information from their friends rather than from a wider universe. It’s one that I don’t subscribe to accept in situations that I really want that kind of input. I may be different than most here though because I know that many of my friends have VERY different tastes than I do and they wouldn’t want my suggestions on many things and vice versa. We are great friends but we don’t run parallel lives. I like the anonymous feel of Google bringing me something that I may not have considered or that my friends simply didn’t know.

Search is not going anywhere even in the frenzy of the social media age. In fact, it is going to become more important, in my opinion, since it will be needed in more specific reasons and as a way to expand our worlds rather than shrinking them to our circle of friends and influencers.

What’s your take on the world of search? Is it a Google only play or is there room for another player? If there is, who might they the best prospect be? Bing? Yahoo? Facebook? Twitter? Apple?

No matter what or who it is it will not happen overnight. This industry will need a lot of time to develop a powerful enough competitor to Google. In the meantime, can Google still keep up the appearances of not being a monopolistic player in an increasingly important area of all of our lives?

Your thoughts?

  • http://twitter.com/TedRubin Ted Rubin

    It always amazes me when these and other conversations about the digita space take place how Amazon stays out of the conversation. Is it by design that Jeff Bezos runs under the radar, and then manages to disrupt other business without warning. Well… I see Amazon as the major threat to Google in search. As far as I am concerned, Amazon is already the “Retail” search engine of choice. Who here goes to Google first when searching to buy something? I believe, + or – a bit, Amazon sold over $1 Billion of advertising this year. Google… look out for Amazon, and good luck combating their ability to own search in the e-commerce market.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Now that Facebook has announced Graph Search…

    I’m predicting rampant Like inflation on Facebook: http://www.inbound.org/articles/view/facebook-graph-search-search-quality-and-the-meaning-of-like (and I explain why Likes result in terrible friend recommendations anyway.).

  • rmonitor

    Google has not fundamentally changed how we search. It has just pushed the limits of the PC centric search world. No one is clear as yet how mobile search will evolve, its too new. That is one area where existing search businesses could be disrupted because how we search will change. As users get more savvy, personalization of search by users will increase. So, tools will evolve which integrate various types of search channels (text, voice, location based, discovery based, etc.) and add a layer of intelligence. this could actually reduce search providers to infrastructure providers as Cisco is to the internet now.