Explore the seismic shifts challenging Google’s dominance in web searching! 🚀 From rising platforms to Gen Z’s new preferences, uncover the six major threats facing Google and the evolving landscape of Internet searches. Dive into our comprehensive analysis now! 🕵️♂️🌐
- The web in the 90s
- The rise of platforms
- Google struggles to adapt
- The power of defaults
- Early adopters flee
- Gen Z goes elsewhere
- Google makes money…for now
- What’s next for search?
In 1998, a pair of fresh-faced PhD students launched Google from a humble garage, the world headquarters of Susan Wojcicki. Thanks to their pioneering page rank algorithm, they catapulted from that garage to receive 8.5 billion search queries each day, control 92% of all online searches, and pile up an astonishing $250 billion in revenues for 2021. However, even for Internet behemoths like Google, danger lurks beneath the surface.
In this post, we dive deep into six major challenges that are slowly undermining the world’s favorite website.
The Decline of Google Search Effectiveness
Ever stumped Google with an exceptionally obscure query? You’re not alone. Despite the company’s phenomenal growth, some Internet users are increasingly finding Google Search less useful for certain hard-to-crack problems.
Case in point: if you’re seeking advice on updating the firmware of a custom mechanical keyboard, you might come up empty on Google, but strike gold in under a minute on Reddit. This sometimes happens even with the most resourceful keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This seeming decay of Google’s data-rich utility hints at the transformation of the digital landscape over the past few years.
The Shift from Independent Websites to Internet ‘Kingdoms’
Twenty years ago, the internet was a vast, chaotic jumble of independent message boards, blogs, and websites. It was like a huge continent, sprawling with small towns occupied by various ‘tribes’. In this thriving disorder, Google introduced a much-needed order, a way to navigate the chaos. But over time, the free, anarchic World Wide Web began to organize itself. Internet ‘colonizers’ such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit conquered swathes of the digital realm, corralling conversations within their borders.
News, tutorials, intriguing debates, and novel ideas, which once settled in independent blogs and forums, began to migrate to these powerful platforms. These tech behemoths sought to engage users deeply with their platforms to retain as many Daily Active Users (DAUs) as possible. Thus, powerful internet kingdoms began to isolate themselves behind ‘walls’, like the endless prompts to download an app or log in to access content from Instagram or Facebook.
The SEO Machine and the Rise of Automated Content
Billions flock to Google and other search engines every day. Businesses smartly seize these platforms as free marketing tools, optimizing their websites to rank highly in search results for optimal visibility. The race to the top often involves churning numerous keyword-stuffed articles while trying to reference products or services as much as possible. Over time, SEO has morphed from simply refining website titles and descriptions into a relentless shove of millions of articles onto the internet.
“Today, the global market for SEO services is a whopping $50 billion.”
Nonetheless, this strategy has downsides. Overly optimized articles can come off as robotic and lack quality. Specialized writers may be clueless about a topic yet tasked with producing content on it. In recent times, AI programs can even replace human writers to generate content, resulting in even more automated, impersonal articles. Quality discussions and content are gradually finding a home outside Google’s reach, either in private chat platforms like Discord or spaces not engineered for search engine discovery.
The Rise of Reddit: A Worthy Threat
Of these ‘kingdoms,’ one has particularly thrived. Reddit is where a large chunk of internet users congregate, amassing user-generated quality information on a multitude of topics.
By fully embracing search engines like Google, Reddit has seen an unprecedented rise in popularity, as reflected in the steadily increasing Google searches for Reddit over the last fifteen years. The rapid growth observed in the last two years shows no signs of slowing down.
Adding ‘reddit’ at the end of Google searches is becoming more common for users seeking quick solutions to specific problems. A sharp contrast from dwindling Google searches for Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. This silent transition is more significant than it appears; it could signal the beginning of the end of Google’s monopoly on web searches.
The Pioneers of Tomorrow Fleeing Today’s Google
The world’s most successful products started by addressing a unique problem for a particular demographic and then expanded to mainstream audiences. Today, those same early adopters or ‘techies’ that largely fueled Google’s initial rise are becoming disillusioned with what Google search has morphed into. Illustrating this discontent is this popular post on Hacker News, a platform heavily frequented by tech insiders. These are the same individuals eager to engineer, invest in, or champion the successor to Google search.
The Next Generation Gravitates Towards Alternatives
Surprisingly, it seems that the younger generation has moved on before the tech go-getters. A startling report by Google’s SVP of Search reveals that almost 40% of Gen Z forgo Google for more visually expressive platforms like TikTok or Instagram for common queries.
While Google has stuck with its ‘list of links on a page’ model, the rest of the web has dramatically evolved, with images and video content seeing a steep upward trend in recent times. This visual expression indicates that the average internet user finds richer, more immersive content more appealing now.
Google’s Monetization: A Double-Edged Sword
Despite these looming threats, Google Search is still a revenue powerhouse, raking in an incredible $200 billion last year from advertising alone. However, a deep dive reveals ominous signs for Google. The company’s growth is based on the multiplication of its total potential market, market share, and the revenue generated per user. While the first factor is showing signs of plateauing at 5 billion users, the second factor may face massive disruption if Apple launches its rumored search engine and sets it as the default on all its devices.
Lastly, to ramp up revenue per user, Google is showing more ads, often to the detriment of the user experience. If they push this firmly ad-based business model too hard, they risk driving users to more user-friendly alternatives.
The Future of Google Search
As the old internet giant, Google is tottering on what once signified its supremacy: search. This presents a golden opportunity for new companies to challenge the status quo that Google’s dominance has maintained for decades. Google’s future hinges on innovating in the search experience.
What is its current approach?
A multi-input search combining text with information from real-world experiences. This innovation will likely impress the next-generation IoT devices.
Meanwhile, a surge of Google alternatives has begun to offer more privacy along with unique search interpretations (I used to search here and there using Kagi search, for example). The 2020s might witness a resurgence of search engine wars, reminiscent of the previous decade but with new players and new rules.
“The search engine works. If this post reaches a thousand likes, I will start working on a sequel focusing on the upcoming search engine wars of the 2020s.”
As for now, you can dive into my previous blog post for a more insightful analysis. Please read this space for more updates, and don’t forget to like this post if you want a sequel!
In this discussion, the author explains how Google dominated internet search queries, controlling 92% of all online searches, which resulted in record revenues of $250 billion in 2021. However, the author also revealed six issues that might be slowly undermining Google’s dominance.
One of those issues is that Google’s core structure is largely the same as it was in 1998 when the Internet was fragmented and lacked structure, which is no longer the case due to the growth of big social media platforms such as Facebook and Reddit that keep users within their ecosystem.
Additionally, search engine optimization (SEO) has taken over the Internet, resulting in low-quality content that is difficult to sift through, leading more tech-savvy users to places like Reddit for better information hunting. The author further expressed that younger generations, in particular, have begun veering away from Google, preferring platforms like TikTok and Instagram for their searches. Google’s advertising-based revenue model can only be pushed so far before users break their loyalty due to ad oversaturation.
The author concluded by stating that while Google remains at the top, its growth rate is slowing, providing opportunities for potential competitors.
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