I think it can go without saying that Google is the number one search engine and has been for a long time. Not only do they offer a ton of great free services like Gmail, but they also have Docs which is kinda like Word, Sheets which is kinda like Excel, and Photos that have storage and photo services. Just lots of great free tools. I mean, I typed the draft of this article up in Docs and will certainly post an excerpt and a link to it on my MyBusiness page; so it’s hard to disparage a brand that has so much to offer for free.
But is Google Search really free?
The answer is a resounding NO. Your data is valuable and Google makes a bundle serving you ads based on your data. That includes your search history, Gmail content, and other proprietary features. I like to think of it as less like big brother is watching and more like big advertising is pushing. Some hate this practice and call it Ad Stalking. And it is stalking. You end up seeing ads for the same products from website to website. They are however mostly ads for products and services you would use instead rather than weird ads for obscure products or whatever business is targeted to your general location.
So what’s wrong with that?
Aside from the Ad Stalking one major drawback is that it pulls from private information sources like your Gmail, search history, and other personal and private places you may not want to see targeted ads for; like seeing ads for headstones after a loved one’s death, etc.
As Google continues to add more and more paid content to its SERPs (search engine results pages) we will see more and more users migrating to other search engines. Currently, the balance between Paid search listings and Organic ones in the SERPs has shifted more toward the paid listings. Google displays up to 4 paid listings and then the Maps 3 Pack entries before the actual search results. Then they add another 3 paid listings that look like search results at the bottom of the page. I get it, they are in the PPC (pay per click) business and can potentially make a bundle of cash from this adjustment. Their paid ad network is second to none in terms of targeting, reach, and conversion. Having used Google almost exclusively since they launched and I can say these changes are more than a bit infuriating. At what point do users say, “wait a minute?” and move on to greener pastures.
What are the search engine alternatives?
In the United States, aside from Google, the main players in search are Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Bing is a pretty good alternative for just search, they do not offer email or any of the online file creation services Google does. The SERPs are on target and consistently get me the info I am looking for. Another good option is DuckDuckGo. Their SERP pages are pretty good but they leave a little something to be desired in terms of the results they return. The algorithm needs some work. The real claim to fame with Duck Duck Go is that they do not track you with advertising code all over the web, they don’t sell your info to the highest bidder, and privacy is actually their biggest concern. That might explain why the results are a little lackluster. And then we have Yahoo. Before Google came onto the search scene they were the golden goose of tech companies. I was actually surprised to see that a fair amount of people are still using Yahoo. Their search results are just o.k. They are really maximizing ad space in their SERPs making Google the better choice here. Sorry to sound like Dr. Fraiser Crane, but I also find the homepage layout at Yahoo to be a little obtuse and much prefer the minimalism at Google and DuckDuckGo.
What does this mean for your website and current SEO program?
If you are like most website/business owners then you have been building your SEO program and have been focused on acquisition through Google. The good news is, not a whole lot will change with web searches being carried out on these other platforms. If you or your SEO consultants have been employing best web design practices, creating quality content, and building appropriate links; you should be in good shape. A lot of my pages actually rank in Bing without too much extra work.
Speaking of Bing, they are a lot more upfront about what they are looking for when ranking content than Google is. Bing wants to see lots of links, links on and off your site. They need to be editorial and they should show a relationship between you and the site linking to you. Bing also likes domains that use keywords whereas Google usually ignores that type of thing. All search engines like properly formated, mobile-ready pages; fresh content with text count at over the 300-word count mark.
Bottom line, I spend a lot of time looking at and reporting web stats for clients and have noticed a marked shift in traffic from Google to Bing in that past few months. If you are not currently using Bing’s Webmaster Tools and Bing Places for Business you are missing out on traffic!
In conclusion, users are fleeing Google search for more privacy, less ad stalking, and more freedom from paid results. The good news is proper SEO will yield you better results with Bing and Duck Duck Go than you have seen with Google.
I write short easy to digest articles on SEO and website performance. My goal is to help clients better understand what it is SEOs do.
Michael Winchester is a website designer and search engine ranking specialist in Southern California.
Michael Winchester Design | (562)283-5688