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What Google really doesn’t want you to know about search

Anyone who watched Apple’s WWDC keynote the other day or the Google I/O keynote a couple weeks back probably noticed an interesting trend: Both Apple and Google really want to search inside your apps (see here and here).

The key question you should consider is this: Why?

What’s the big deal that makes searching inside apps so important? And, more importantly, what does it mean for your business? Read on and see.

It used to be that when you thought about search, you really thought more about a company—Google—that you thought about an activity. But what Google really doesn’t want you to know is that’s becoming less true every single day.

Google’s problem—one that Apple seems eager to capitalize on—is that, with the massive shift towards mobile, your customers increasingly turn to apps instead of search when they’re in the market for products and services. According to eMarketer:

Google owned 82.8% of the $2.24 billion mobile search market in 2012… we expect Google’s share to fall [in 2014], to 65.7%, while the “other” category reaches 27.3%.

That’s, to put it mildly, a big frickin’ deal. Let’s not forget that Google earned almost 90% of its $66 billion in revenue from search last year. And it’s a trend that’s poised to keep moving away from Google, with projected splits between Google and various other search sources (in this case, apps) of 64%/29% this year and 64%/30% in 2016. In fact, Google’s most recent quarterly earnings show that revenue from its sites and the total number of paid clicks fell dramatically year-on-year. Google needs to search inside your customers’ apps to maintain its relevance when those customers reach for their phones. Again, eMarketer notes:

“Even though browser-based search is a common behavior among mobile owners, search engines are not necessarily the first place smartphone and tablet users turn,” said Cathy Boyle, senior analyst for mobile at eMarketer. “The explosion of mobile app development and usage means mobile users have more—and more specialized—alternatives for finding information.”

In Google’s place, your customers regularly choose “vertical search engines” like Yelp for local businesses, Kayak and TripAdvisor for travel, Indeed for job searches, Amazon and eBay for e-commerce, and Facebook for insights from their friends to discover the products and services they need. Google’s great strength for years was pointing customers where they needed to go. Unfortunately for the search giant, their customers learned the lesson. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to build an app for your business. But it does mean that you need to appear in those apps when your customers go looking for you. Here’s a few ways you can do that:

  • Think about your digital marketing holistically. It’s not all about search anymore. You’ve got to diversify your digital sources to reach the broadest array of customers—and the best ones for your business.
  • Expand your reach. Review your web analytics to find other potential sources of traffic you can use to grow your brand’s awareness. Look at both social sites and vertical apps as alternative traffic sources.
  • Think visual. After years of the web existing as a text-based medium, orange isn’t the new black; visual is. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram offer tons of visuals for your customers to browse and discover the products and services that interest them. YouTube—Google’s real shining star right now—remains a hugely compelling source of finding new customers. And Facebook has rocketed into a prime position in this space, with its users now viewing some 4 billion videos every day, 75% of those on mobile. Seems like someone got the (mobile) message.
  • Don’t abandon search. Wait… what?!? Yeah, I know. This one may seem strange after everything we’ve just looked at. But, let’s remember, Google still controls some 60-plus percent of your customers’ discovery activities. They’re not going away—at least not right away. This isn’t about eliminating search. It’s more about finding some additional baskets in which to place your golden eggs (and, yes, that’s a mixed metaphor; but you get what I’m saying). Google may be losing share, but it’s hardly out of the picture.

Google and Apple (and, to be fair, Facebook and others) understand that mobile is where the action is now. They’re looking to help customers when those customers go looking for the things they want to buy, whether that involves “search” in the classic sense, within an app, viewing video, or whatever else comes down the horizon. You shouldn’t spend time worrying who’s going to win. Just think about how to best reach your customers in a world where that doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is this. Maybe Google really doesn’t want you to know how fragile its position is right now. But search is evolving. And it’s time your marketing evolves along with it.

Do you want to learn more about how to improve sales, increase conversions, and reduce the costs from your search marketing? Then take a moment to check out our Biznology Jumpstart Workshop: On-site Search Marketing Training. Taught by three Biznology search marketing experts, you’ll learn how to make your search marketing work for your business. Interested in learning more? Check it out today.

Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs.

Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line.

An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Tim currently serves as Senior Advisor at SoloSegment, a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies.

Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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