Look at the latest stats and Google owns more than 60% of the search market – almost 70%, in fact. Yahoo! has a whopping 20-something percent on any given day. The top three – Google, Yahoo!,and MSN Live – together get 95% of the search business. But Google is so far ahead of the other two that it seems they will never catch up. Why?
A little history says it all. In the late 1990s there were plenty of search engines that were competing for the business and all of them were pretty close to even in terms of search market, except that Alta Vista had a little bit of a lead. Google owners Sergey Brin and Larry Page invented a robot program that they called BackRub. BackRub later became Google. It’s essence was in using a backlink counting system to determine which websites had the greatest authority because the idea was if you had 100 links pointing at your sites versus your competition’s 50 then you had more “votes” and deserved the recognition. It was a good theory.
Back then, nobody paid for links. No one thought they should. The linking that went on between websites occurred because people linked to what they liked with no expected return. Page and Brin understood that better than anyone and created a search engine based on that idea. Over the years, they have tweaked and improved upon their search ranking factors based on the natural (and sometimes unnatural) behavior of Net citizens.
It took just a couple of years really before Google started outpacing all the other search engines because their results were so good. Then pay per click advertising came on the scene and Google jumped into the fight there. Soon, it became the dominant player in PPC because of its keyword-based advertising model and click bid technology. That allowed Google to raise enough revenue from advertisers to acquire more properties and continue improving its technology.
It took the other search engines awhile to catch on to what Google was up to. Yahoo and MSN Live started to make their search engine algorithms more like Google’s, but they were much too late in doing so. Today, the three search engines have very similar ranking algorithms, but there are some differences:
- Google is much more strict on its backlink approval ratings
- MSN Live seems to favor keywords in the URL much more
- Yahoo appears to favor larger sites over smaller
- Google has a more sophisticated natural language measure
Meta tags for your search engine optimization efforts at each of the engines are somewhat important, but not very. MSN Live probably cares more about meta tags than either of the other two. But Google is still favored as the best search engine even though you’ll find a lot of the results between the three almost the same. Why?
I believe it has to do with Google’s early lead. Yahoo! and MSN Live are playing catch up. They probably always will be. The only thing that will cause Google lose market share is Google. Only a major slip up like the one Coca-Cola made when it changed its formula can make Google lose. The competition will not. If you are in a competitive industry vying for search market, keep that in mind. What can you do to pull out an early lead?