Do you hear that rumble in the distance? It’s change coming. What sort of change, you ask? Well, the events of the last few weeks collectively point to a pretty big shift in the search landscape.
First, has traditional search engine usage reached its peak? ComScore and Hitwise reported lower year-over-year search queries. Could this point to users moving away from traditional engines to answer their questions?
Secondly, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has shared the very real potential for the social engine to get into search in a big way. While I doubt Facebook could reach the outlandish forecast of 50% market share in search, this move would certainly further erode traditional search engine use.
Lastly, Apple is continuing to distance itself from Google. With the release of iOS6 we see the severing of some of the ties that once bound the companies, including Apple’s dropping of Google Maps and YouTube no longer being a built-in app. In the short term, this will likely impact local result consumption, since less people will use Google Maps. But the real question is, how long until Apple decides to use a different default search partner -- and what will that mean for mobile search budgets?
What are driving these changes?
The increase in mobile and local searches has a lot to do with this. I have spoken frequently about search becoming an experience for users on the go. And many people resort to mobile apps to get specific, situation-based answers when they search on a mobile device.
The drive to mobile will also increase opportunity for competition. Check out the mobile version of Bing. Instead of a site that merely ports a desktop experience to a phone, Bing creates an innovative experience for users.
Another trend driving change in the search landscape is the increasing use of non-search-engine search capabilities. When people skip over a search engine and go straight to Amazon for product search, it’s clear that either Amazon is doing something very right, or search engines need to improve their results. Changes to Google Shopping may help improve the experience for users, but is it too little too late?
What are the implications for search marketers?
There are few implications to these changes in the very near term. In fact, despite comScore and Hitwise pointing to decreases in search engine use, our data shows year-over-year paid search ad impressions up significantly this quarter -- and we don’t foresee that changing in a major way over the next 12 months.
We consider these changes more mid- to long-term significant landscape shifts. Search marketers should expect more search fragmentation as users spread their nets wider for information. This is in addition to more device fragmentation as users accelerate their flight from the desktop. There will be new opportunities for large Google competitors and scrappy startups alike as they take advantage of new user patterns and information availability.
Search marketers need to remain open to these transformations. Testing new paid search outlets and strategies will likely add up to longer days, and budgets spread further afield. But by remaining at the forefront of innovation, you can stay one step ahead of your competition.