Search engines – webmasters and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals follow their guidelines for the highest possible rankings on them; paid search marketers pay to be featured on them; and users turn to them when they’re searching for answers, information, or entertainment.
Search Engine Watch has been covering search engines since June 1997 and has watched the industry evolve to its current state. Over time, many search engines have come and gone, as users have spoken with their keyboards (and literally with their voices – thanks to voice search technology).
In recent years, search market share has remained mostly unchanged – for much of the world, it’s Google followed by every other search engine (in the U.S. the “Big 5” search engines consist of Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com and AOL, which combine for hundreds of billions of searches every month). Meanwhile, many of the players have consolidated or have become footnotes in history.
What follows is an overview of today’s major global search engines, with some history and explanation of why each one is important to webmasters, marketers, and users. We’ll then review some of the top directories.
Major Search Engines
Started in 1998 as a university project by Stanford University students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google is now the dominant search engine by no small margin and that didn't evolve slowly.
In fact, in June of 1999 Netscape Search was updated and AOL/Netscape search began to be powered by Google bringing their search volume to approximately 3 million per day; huge for the time.
On June 26, 2000 Yahoo Selected Google to provide its organic search results (replacing Inktomi) with its impressive index of more than 25 million pages; again, huge for the time.
Google has since become synonymous with the word "search" and as most of us know, is often used in place of the word. Don’t know the answer? Google it!
The continued strength of Google as a search provider is based on a large number of factors and won't be debated here, save to say, they have successfully provided the results people are looking for in a manner those searchers either enjoy or are comfortable enough with not to switch to a different provider.
Google continues to tweak their search algorithm multiple times per month and adjust the layout of their results to test for improved visitor experience and advertising revenue.
The majority of Google's revenue is derived from their AdWords and AdSense programs. In fact, advertising accounts for more than 95 percent of Google's earnings. If there is a weakness in the Google model this is it; they need to tweak their layout and results to promote the paid avenues of their offerings. This gives advantages to other engines who may have revenue generation strategies outside of search.
Bing was launched in May 2009 as a fundamental upgrade from Microsoft's previous efforts into search, MSN Search.
Since the launch of Bing, Microsoft's share of the search marketplace has more than doubled. Add to that the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo for Bing to power Yahoo’s organic results and Bing powers over 25 percent of search.
With the Microsoft/Yahoo alliance also came the affect that Yahoo's paid search platform would be used to power both Yahoo and Bing's paid results. While this may not seem like a big deal on the surface, it is actually huge.
Where once business owners and marketers had to consider whether it was worth the hassle of managing both a Bing paid campaign (for the significantly lower traffic they yield over Google) and also make the same call on managing a Yahoo paid campaign – the two now are manageable in one convenient location, significantly reducing the time it takes to setup and manage.
This of course makes the cost for these campaigns less expensive and when you combine that with Bing's increased market-share then they're in a position to take some of the ad dollars from Google (or at least, gain some for themselves).
Yahoo is an interesting search engine and one which, until recently, I had a very hard time taking seriously.
Once upon a time Yahoo was a major leader in the search field but has been in decline, making bad decision after bad decision, announcing layoff round after layoff round and making what can only be described as one of the worst business decisions in history when they turned down a takeover from Microsoft valued at $33/share. Yahoo shares dove after that and have never been anywhere close since.
From that point, until 2012, it seemed that every piece of news from Yahoo was bad news, until July 16 when the announcement came that they had snagged Marissa Meyer from Google to become CEO. This was the first move they'd made in a long time and had people wondering if this might just be the breath of fresh air and change of direction that the company needed.
From reviews of all hires and selling key properties such as Alibaba to putting their own search technology back on the forefront; Yahoo has maintained its position as one of the top three search engines, despite not producing their own organic results.
Other Major Search Engines Around the Globe
Google dominates the U.S. and most of the world – but not everywhere. Yahoo and Bing have had about the same luck (zero) making a dent in Google’s search market share on other continents, but a couple of search engines in other countries have managed to stay ahead of the Mountain View, California-based search engine. If you're from these countries or interested in marketing to them – pay attention.
In China, Baidu is the major player with more than three of every four searches conducted on their engine.
To say Baidu blends organic with paid search is misleading, they use a hybrid approach wherein they have pay for performance (P4P) results (users bid to have their websites place at the top of what would appear to be the organic results).
In addition, Baidu offers PPC which, similar to AdWords, is displayed at the top or right of the standard results. One could argue that the existence of the PPC-like results further confuses the users clicking on the standard results area into believing they are organically generated.
While some investors consider Baidu to be overvalued as a stock, their earnings are consistently high. For companies looking to market into China, understanding Baidu is crucial.
Yandex is the primary and most popular of all Russian-language search engines with significant market dominance in Russia.
On October 1, 2012, Yandex launched their own browser and mobile app to keep their position secure against Google, their only real competitor in the space.
Yandex's advantage in Russian seems to be based on an algorithm that performs much better in understanding the unique syntax used and integrating that into the consideration of what type of results the user is likely looking for (for example – is the search string a question or simply keyword entry).
This section is being refurbished. A full directory of directories is in the works and will return to this space in early 2013.
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