Search Engines Struggle To Keep Web Traffic

As the idea of performing a search query on a search engine goes out of fashion -- on desktop and mobile -- Google, Bing and Yahoo look to find alternative means to keep people coming back. Google in particular continues to lose market share. Search won't disappear, but the concept continues to evolve quickly, per one analyst.

Abid Chaudhry, senior director of industry strategy and insight at BIA/Kelsey, told Search Marketing Daily on Friday that in 2016, he predicts Google will develop technology to maintain and grow its total search consumer audience on the mobile Web. He points to the recent launch of virtual apps in search results that allows consumers to stream applications from the engine as the first step.

Search engines face a huge challenge in 2016. "Google can’t sit on its hands at this key inflection point in mobile user behavior," he says. "Search and discovery will be adopted much more strongly in social media. The top social networks drove something like 30% of all traffic to Web sites in 2014, up from 22% in 2013."

Chaudhry says social sites and marketplaces are turning into platforms to accomplish many of the tasks consumers once performed on search engines. Local searches on mobile apps are increasingly taking share. About 86% of users' time on a mobile device is spent on an app -- generally taking the place of search activity, he says. 

Bing has become the search engine for people looking for very specific things, rather than the catch-all queries Google's known to attract, Chaudhry says. Most searches on Bing occur between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during in the work day, and latter in the evening, while outside those times searches are sparse, Chaudhry says.

Microsoft also chose to forgo serving search ads in the latest update of its mobile Bing search app to test a better user experience. Ads continued to serve in Bing for those using Safari, Firefox and Chrome, but not in the latest version of the mobile app. 

Mobile behavior, marketplaces like Amazon, social sites such as Facebook, and shrinking screen sizes continue to introduce quicker, smarter and more vocal ways of finding information, services and products. In fact the number of people using search engines continues to decline.

Some of the search traffic is lost to ecommerce sites like Amazon. Several studies released in the last week show how search and discovery has not only moved from mobile sites to mobile apps, but also to marketplaces. It comes as no surprise that 62% of U.S. consumers participating in a study released by Searchmetrics estimates 62% of consumers researching holiday gifts did so on Amazon first, followed by 44% on Google.

ZenithOptimedia released data in September suggesting that the total number of people using search engines took a dive from 55% in first-quarter 2014 to 49% in first-quarter 2015, but it's important to note that is a survey and not actual search click data. The agency also notes that 23% of people have used voice search commands, up 50% from one year ago, which explains why Soundhound released Houndify, a software development kit allowing brands to build in voice-enabled search features appliances and other Internet-connected products, and eventually relevant advertisements.

Google will pull in about 55.4% of $81.59 billion of the worldwide revenue that advertisers will spend on paid-search advertising in 2015 -- slightly down in share from 54.7% on $70.18 billion in 2014, and 55.2% and $59.6 billion in 2013, respectively, according to eMarketer. The numbers encompass desktop and laptops, along with tablets and mobile phones.

Globally, Baidu takes the No. 2 spot with $7.18 billion or 8.8% of total market share in 2015, up from 7.6% and $5.35 billion in 2014, respectively, per eMarketer. The data firm puts Microsoft at No. 3 and Yahoo at No. 4 globally. Global search send will reach $130.58 billion by 2019.






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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, December 21, 2015 at 10:42 a.m.

    Two questions here. First, regarding the claim that "86%" of users mobile time is spent on an app" - how much of that is on the email app installed on the device? Previous studies have shown it is near the top for user consumption. Second, has the increasing use of vocal search been accounted for as search engine use? Google vocal search on an Android phone may just as well be a Google search, given user expectations and the results. Only the intent, already measured by Google, varies. For example, a phone based vocal place name search is the equivalent of "where is..." or where is the nearest ... to my current location?"

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