Over the last few months I've become a convert to Google. I've always used Google as my primary search engine but only recently have I started using a few other Google products such as Gmail, calendar and documents. I'm a fan.

But when it comes to search, I'm fed up with Google's dominance. We could use a little competition in search.

Of course, it's really not Google's fault that they run between 50-70% market share, depending on who you ask. It's really the fault of all of us searchers. We use Google because we like the results. We don't use Yahoo or MSN because for whatever reason we feel the results are inferior.

Google got to where it is because it earned it. None of the other engines seem to be able to dent that and are losing market share to Google each month. However, I'd be surprised if anybody would notice if Google's results were swapped with MSN's for a week. Psychologically I feel that I'll get better results from Google, but I don't know if its true or not because I really don't use any other engine frequently enough. Heck, even using Google I often don't find what I'm looking for anyway.

While each engine has to do it's part to find ways to produce better search results, what makes any search engine competitive is the user. As long as users don't feel the need to switch to Yahoo or MSN, Google will always dominate. I have some problems with that as a searcher and as a business that makes a living by being found in the search results.

Cons of having one dominant search engine

  • Rankings in other engines mean little in terms of traffic.
  • Losing positions in the dominant engine can create a noticeable drop in traffic.
  • Competition for top positions can be extremely fierce lowing the ROI of the investment of achieving such rankings.
  • Algorithm changes on one engine, causing loss of top rankings, can devastate a business.

Pro's of having multiple dominant search engines

  • Multiple engines create additional opportunities for site branding in search results as searchers move from one engine to the next.
  • Searchers have more opportunities to find quality sites, if each engine produces differing results.
  • Many businesses will focus on one or two engines only creating more availability and less competition for top positions, and therefore increasing the ROI value.
  • Ranking losses one engine will be far less noticeable when a multi-engine strategy is employed.

Of course there are also drawbacks to having multiple competitive engines as well:

  • Optimization for many engines can be more difficult than a single engine, though competition will be more spread out.

  • It'll be unlikely that one site will dominate the top spots of all competitive engines. This can be a pro for you against fierce competition, but a con if you are the fierce competition.

  • A top ranking on a single search engine will produce less traffic and revenue overall. This means a multi-engine strategy will need to be employed OR that your site must be the Destination Website for your industry.

Personally, I believe that the more competing search engines there are, the better we'll all be. But because Google is so entrenched as the dominant engine its going to take more than another engine simply being as good as Google. I think that some of other engines have surpassed Google in some key areas, such as user experience, quality of results, result segmentation, but none have beat Google in all areas simultaneously. And it's not been enough to attract an growing audience. It'll come down to the average searcher to start using other engines for their web searches.

If you're a searcher, you have to ask yourself if you really do get superior results from Google or if you just think you do. Even if you do, are the results on the other engines that much inferior that you can't find what you want?

If you're a business owner you need to think about what you can do to increase your competitive arena. If you already achieved top spots in Google or not, start to transfer some market share to Yahoo or MSN and soon others will follow. And as they do you are opening up new opportunities to compete and drive traffic to your site.

This next year I'm replacing Google as my default search engine. I may use MSN or Yahoo or perhaps both, depending on the circumstances. If I go to Google it'll only as a last resort, if the other engines don't give me what I'm looking for. I'm willing to bet that will happen far less than I suspect. Not only that it will show me that there is life beyond Google. And maybe, just maybe, we can start seeing some competition in search start to happen.

December 30, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


The thing is that Google is also the most easy-to-use search engine of them all.

If you visit - for example - MSN's homepage, you'll get dozens of options, "widgets", subsections, etc... everything in there looks so cluttered! Personally, I feel a bit disoriented when trying to look for information using MSN's search engine.

Google, on the other hand, is just a form with a "Seach" button and a couple of links. Nothing too fancy, but yet straight to the point. They designed Google SE homepage with simplicity in their minds - that's why they have succeeded.

All the other search engines lost future potential when 'Googling' became a verb for searching for something on the internet.

I completely agree with your article. I personally use Google because I have everything there through their wide range of services and I believe that just as you, many sensitive information, in most cases related with my daily work is passing through them. I begun to find alternate ways to work, but still, as a marketer, I’m measured in my results for what’s going on with my positioning in Google more than the other SE, and I don’t think is healthy and I’m not either blaming Google by founding the secret ingredient. They are like the Coca-Cola of the technology, created brand creating value and going further than customer expectations, but Pepsi fought a war for its positioning as well. At the opposite, I see Google's competitors less aggressive, I also want to see competition, I want to see Live Search doing something to win surfers’ love, I want Yahoo to tell me that he walked along with my when I just begun to fall in love of technology advantages and to offer me simplest programs and applications to work, between other stuffs, so I'm probably also giving a chance to them and stop to Googleing myself opening my mind to new search results that maybe can show me a different world!

Using Yahoo and MSN I believe that both their homepages for the search engines are trying to catch your attention to much much more things i.e News,Weather,Updates,Email where as Google is just a simple search bar. I think they've mastered it this time!! I doubt Yahoo or MSN combined can out flaw google to be honest
About Me

I was always a die hard Yahoo user, yahoo for search engine and yahoo for my primary email.

But since i started an online lottery business, I had to convert to google mail, yahoo mail was so unreliable and emails were often days late if i even got them at all.

Google mail is definetly better, and after converting my mail to google, i also converted my search engine to google, and to be honest im glad, i went back to using yahoo the other day and i just dont like it any more....

And now.....I love google lol.

I have been using Google since 2000. I never seem to get the results I'm looking for with the others...But, I definitely wouldn't mind someone giving Google a run for their money! Thanks for the post!

CD Mastering

I completely agree. As in all cases a bit of competition is needed for a company to improve. I have had my homepage set at yahoo ever since i've used the internet and I find it pretty good for getting shopping results. For example if i type in Glass Mirrors I find that yahoo gives me better results and a wide range of companies.

For those of you that like Google's homepage style, Microsoft did put out Live.com which is very similar but has some other cool features to it.

Nice post Stoney, it is quite refreshing to hear that someone is looking for something beyond google. Although they are habit forming, like you said, it doesn't mean they are the best habit out there.
I helped start a new search engine called www.scour.com which is a meta search of yahoo, google and msn on one page. Very simple to use and you can see the search rankings for each listing on the same page. Users can also vote on relevancy and leave comments. You also get points for everything you do that are redeemable for visa gift cards...we have to help break the "habit" somehow right?
Our goal is to become the people's search engine so any thoughts and suggestions would be really appreciated. Happy 2009!

Your plan makes no sense to me. In my experience using the 3 majors on a daily basis, results are different, but not consistently more relevant in any given engine. There is no clearly identifiable reason for the consumer to switch to another search engine. Does the average searcher care if there is a monopoly? I don't think so. They are going to continue to use the search engine that they are used to, and evaluate the functionality of any other search engines based on what they are used to.

If a business user was to reduce Google's market share, the fragmentation of the search audience would make it more expensive for that business to optimize, since they would have to now optimize for multiple engines to reach the same audience. You could argue that competition would lower ppc rates, but I think any argument to that effect would have to be based largely on speculation, considering the "auction/bid" method of choosing ppc pricing.

Hi Stoney,

Great article. While I enjoy using Google, I have to say that competition is definitely a good thing!


Hi Stoney,

Great article!

I use Google because the results are more relevant to my search query and more current. I always like to test a query across engines to see the listings and Google has the better results..but things can always be better. It seems Google is the only engine that has an answer to the question What is the least amount of information needed to determine relevance?


I remember when I first found Google. It was a breath of fresh air, after being stuck for years with search engines such as AltaVista, HotBot, etc. Horrible.

I don't know about now, but their search results were VASTLY superior back then. It was like the first time in the history of the internet that I was able to find what I was looking for.

TW Jackson

The one search engine that I love cuil.com To me this engine has the best results but it is not catching on. I hope it does.

@ Ryan: I assume you are being sarcastic!

@ Stoney: Great points you make there. However here in South Africa Google is THE search engine. Generally I prefer Ask.com for general info, but the area Google has won (and I honestly don't see any other engine coming close) is local search - at least here. www.google.co.za is aimed at returning results to South African visitors. It makes my job a lot easier as most searches in Google default to a more localised search.

I think that Yahoo! really lost any hope a little while back. Live.com and Ask.com both offer better products, but their market penetration simply isn't there. On an international stand I wouldn't say that it's their service (or results) that makes Google more popular, it's their marketing. Why got to Yahoo! or live.com when you can "Google-it" ? That's where Ask.com missed the boat (massive fail there!), after all why "Google-it" when you could simply "Ask it" ?

My 2 cents worth.

Unfortunately there is no competition. Google have the perfect search engine. I’ve been using it for 10 years and can’t see the point in using anything else other than to prevent Google having the monopoly on Search.

Healthy competition is always good, but I can't see anyone giving Google a run for their market position - can you?

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