Redefining What Search Engine Monopoly Means:
The question whether or not Google is a monopoly is a sound one. And, inherently, the answer I can come up with is, “yes” it is a monopoly, based on the proof the Hitwise image provides (see above). Google has been steadily drowning the competition for over two years, each year pushing them (Yahoo, Live, and Ask) further in the undertow. But are they are true monopoly?
The definitions of monopoly are as follows:
“Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service”
- “A market containing a single firm”
- Investment Dictionary: “A situation in which a single company or group owns all or nearly all of the market for a given type of product or service. By definition, monopoly is characterized by an absence of competition – which often results in high prices and inferior products.”
It’s the last definition that gives me pause. Based on this definition, one could go either way on the monopoly vote. And, based on the last definition, my answer changes. I don’t think Google has a monopoly, just a better products and services that a populous prefers. They’ve revolutionized search and the clarity of search. Google has competition in the market (albeit poor competition in the populous’ eyes). Moreover, this competition produces inferior products and services.
So, if others will continue to insist that Google is a monopoly, then we will have to redefine monopoly for the Digital Age. Something to the effect of:
“Dominant market control in an individual industry, made up of several sub-industries, in which market competition produces inferior, under-caliber products and services.”
There are, as I see it, only three possibilities from here and monopoly-hood:
- Google continues on its current path. And, by 2010, will have effectively crushed all their competition, owning over 90+% of the search market share. Read this as: Google Officially Becomes A Monopoly
- Yahoo does eventually, team up with MSN/Live (MicroHoo). This partnership creates enough innovation within search and its sub-industries to cause a slight reverse in trends. Google will still own 50+% of the search market share.
- A new search engine firm will emerge and help create destabilization within the search market. (The most unlikely of the three)
Personally, I’m rooting for the second or third option, because, frankly, it’ll make my life pretty boring if all I have to do is think: WWGD (What Would Google Do). I’m not saying that Google is/will become Skynet or the Matrix, but it could happen. Anything we can do to help shake up the market is a good thing.
UPDATE: 10/08/08: Googleopoly
Check out this post by Rusty Brick (a.ka. Barry) posted on SE Roundtable. More great information about whether Google is truly a monopoly or not.
Become A Complete Marketer for Search 4.0
This post stems from something SlightlyShady mentioned in his post about Where SEO and Google Will Be in the Next 5 Years“. (On a side note: SlightlyShady has his finger on the pulse and tends to very straightforward, frank conversations about the Search Marketing Industry. Moreover, I’d just like to give him a quick shout-out, say “thanks” and keep the veritas coming.)
So here’s what struck my attention in the post:
The only way to get above the map results(definitely a click killer) is to…..pay for a PPC listing. Now, SEOs are not PPC experts(largely).
It’s not far from the truth. SEOs are not PPC experts, but they should be and they could be. And, to be frank, it’s the only sure-fire way to build solid goal conversions for clients:
SEO in combination with PPC
- SEO is (in most cases) for the long-haul. Most clients come to us without optimization, without knowing what it is or how it’s done. While the rules of SEO have changed in the past 2 years (thanks to the advent of social networks and media sites), the standards remain the same:
- On-site optimization of as much content as you can effect.
- Off-site link building campaigns: Paid, Free, Corporate Partners
- New ways to generate fresh, engaging content on the website
- PPC is, in my estimation, an excellent and reliable quick strike tool. It’s for the instant impact clients’ need to have to build brand awareness and site traffic while the SEO portion builds solid content and backlinks.
- It’s my opinion that PPC spends should increase after 3 months. By that time, SEO efforts should be bearing fruit in organically, and you’ll have plenty of data to weed out the non-performers and boost the high CTR and conversion-producers. Why increase?
- Because if you do a good job on-site for your best converting keywords and long-tails, you’ll increase your Google Quality Score and be able to achieve the same position at a lower cost.
Will This Technique Matter in 3 Years?
The question is, do I really believe this is going to work anymore? For the time being, yes, I do. I think SEOs and Search Marketers have about 2 and half to 3 years before the shift happens. Danny Sullivan wrote a very extensive and informative post on SEL about Search 4.0. I think we’ve got just about that timeframe before personalized search turns SERPs and SEO on it’s head.
How To Compete After Google RE-Invents Search
And, I guess, to echo the sentiment, I think SEO will survive that semi-apocalypse. Because, as we all know, there are companies and sites that really need help, even with the basics. However, I believe it will become about each engine’s proprietary/purchased applications. For Google: FeedBurner, Local Business Center, AdWords, Reader, Base, YouTube, FriendFeed (not exactly owned by Google, but probably will be), FriendConnect, etc. I don’t expect Google’s numbers in search domination to drop anytime in the near future, more than likely never. Just look at the latest numbers (thanks to SEL)
I think the only way for Yahoo to survive is to team-up (read “be bought in a hostile takeover”) with Microsoft. And, let’s face it, Microsoft needs help with search and Paid Ads solutions. They’ve always been a “Johnny-Come-Lately” with every application (yes, even Webmaster Center and Local Live). And, while Yahoo also isn’t up to snuff on the Paid Ads, their search capability and seeming transparency (Search commands: there is a reason that we all use Yahoo! to find the true number of anything on the web) is something Microsoft needs to latch on to in order to have a snowball’s chance in hell against Google.
Right now, I’m advising my whole team to get familiar with every application Google has to offer. Know the ins and outs of each application. And as for AdWords, well, it’s taking over. My prediction is that before the year’s end, Yahoo will be delivering over 25% of Google Ads. And, two years from now, if they haven’t teamed up with Microsoft, they’ll be over 75% Google Ads. And in 3 years, Sponsored Search/Panama will be nothing but a sad memory, a failed experiment swallowed by Google.
The new way to compete, and I hate to admit it, will be GRAY SEO. Personalized search is going to force everyone to find the shadow-advantages to be the MOST RELEVANT web page in a particular niche. So that, the woman in New Mexico and the guy in Montana both see your client as the one of the most relevant pages for the search they’re conducting. To compete, Search Marketers will have to be savvy in all things, not simply SEO, because SEO as we know it today just won’t exist. It’s going to be a hybrid, a chimera of each engines’ applications.
Is This The End of Yahoo! Search Marketing?
Reported today on SEO Roundtable, Yahoo! is no longer accepting applications for the Ambassador program. For those unfamiliar with the program, it is Yahoo!’s version of Google AdWords Professional. Where you take a n online exam, administered by Yahoo!, and upon completion, you receive credentials for a Yahoo! Ambassador badge that can be displayed on your website.
Not only am I out the $50 now, I have to wonder whether this marks the end of the Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM) altogether in the coming months? Why strip a distinguishing factor among YSM users, to distinguish professionals from non-professionals?
We know that Yahoo has tested Google Ads in the past, and will probably continue to broker deals in the future. As Microsoft said in April:
“Any definitive agreement between Yahoo! and Google would consolidate over 90 percent of the search advertising market in Google’s hands. This would make the ma rket far less competitive…
Goo-Hoo Paid Ads would completely dominate the market; Microsoft would be nothing but a sad memory if Google and Yahoo merged PPC. That being said, I don’t think YSM, as a whole, will completely dissolve. You think you’ve seen anti-trust battles in the past, if this happens, folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Yahoo displaying Google ads essentially consents to a monopoly of Paid Search.
As a Paid Search manager, this doesn’t displease me. Far from it. If there was only single location I could manage client’s PPC, it would be a small blessing. On the other hand, it makes me think that rules of the Yahoo! Search Marketing game would change. Would Yahoo! have to adopt the quality score aspect that Google places on it’s ads (not that we know them anyway), or would it continue under Yahoo! quality score guidelines? How much control will Google have over the display of “its” ads?
Only time will tell, but I think I hear a very daunting bell in the distance; it’s their farewell to arms. (everyone got the Hemingway references?)