Google has been getting some negative press in the UK and Europe recently.
As well as being clobbered by the EU over the way it uses its 90% market share to push its own web-based services, the BBC News website recently published an Alternatives to Google article, largely based on a growing view that the search engine colossus is not as great as it once was. Even Microsoft have been complaining about Google.
Unsurprisingly, the ubiquitous nature of Google in our lives immediately makes it a target for those who love to hate the big boys in the market – it happened to Microsoft and culminated in a hefty European Commission fine in 2008. Similar problems have plagued Apple in recent years as their dominance has grown.
This inherant love we have for the underdogs in itself is not a problem – if a company holds the top spot in any industry for too long, there is always a danger that they can become complacent, with mediocrity following fast on its heels. Getting knocked down a peg or two is often needed to stimulate innovation and breath fresh life into a sector.
That is exactly what Google did when they introduced their innovative search engine way back in 1998, which was instantly recognized as having “an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results”. The rest, as they say, is history, and Google has been lighting the way in terms of search across the last three decades as a result.
The reason for this success - and therefore Google's dominance - is simple: Google gives you (and I) exactly what we are looking for nine times out of ten. And if it continues to do that, I don’t see that market dominance slipping anytime soon.
But what if it does?
What if, somehow, Google does start to suffer from user apathy? Or what if the EU slaps it with some sanctions that force it to be more even-handed in promoting competing services? What happens if another search engine rises to the top of the pile with some revolutionary approach that delivers even more relevant results? What if it’s not one search engine, but a selection? What happens to our SEO strategy, which has been carefully built around Google’s guidelines, or, in many cases, outdated SEO tips and tricks? Do we need to start thinking about optimizing for more than one engine? What will happen to our hard earned rankings?
These may seem like absurb questions to even ask, let alone write a blog article on. But I have been asked the essence of this by two customers independently of each other in the last month, so that, along with the recent media coverage, prompted me to write this as a consideration of "what if?".
Why Google works so well
Google’s focus has always been around building good quality, usable websites and content for users, not search engines.
As part of that, a well coded and structured website with useful META titles, descriptions and image ALT text is important, because those things, if done properly, improve the user’s experience.
But along with that are a whole slew of other activities that are intrinsic to marketing your site to the right audience – creation of valuable and informative content, high quality imagery, email and social media marketing. All these should all be part of any online marketing strategy. Why? Because those things - done well - are good for users and make your site relevant to your target audience. And that has always been Google’s primary goal in delivering good quality search results that keep you using their search services.
So even if the unlikely scenario of Google falling from dominance comes to pass, there is no need to panic. At least not if you're consistently working on delivering a truly great and relevant experience for your users. Because that will continue to be the ambition of whomever takes Google’s crown.