In 1998, PC Magazine wrote: “Google! is a Stanford University project designed to find the most relevant Web pages (those with the most inbound links) and run searches against them. The 25 million pages currently catalogued seem to be good choices; the site has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”
Yahoo had already been around for about four years when Google launched in 1998. At the time, Yahoo was the one to beat.
Google beat Yahoo and everyone else in its path. In fact, Google is now the most used search engine on the web and owns at least 67 percent of search traffic.
Over time, Google faced competition, if you can call it that, from Yahoo and Microsoft (which later became Bing), and that was mostly a battle for PPC dollars. Now, Google faces inspired competition from Amazon and Facebook. Neither is trying to simply copy Google. The battle is much bigger than that.
Here’s why Amazon and Facebook are about to make things more interesting.
Amazon Knows Shoppers
- Consumers can buy just about anything on Amazon, which means that Amazon controls more wallets than Google. In May, Amazon reported a total active user base of 244 million. Amazon has scads of buyer behavior data from the millions of people who browse and shop there—a goldmine of ad targeting data! Amazon is working on its own PPC software and intends to place ads on-site, reportedly by the end of 2014.
- Amazon has drones to deliver merchandise. Figuring out a way to cater to the “I want it and I want it now” crowd is very smart. It’s still in the experimental stage and no telling if Amazon will really be allowed to fly drones directly to customers’ doors. If those drones do start flying, Amazon’s customer base is destined to explode—and give Amazon even more data on shopping and buying behavior and more ad targeting data. Google has Project Wing, but Google isn’t a “shopping destination” like Amazon is.
Amazon Knows No Boundaries
- Amazon and Google both have a stake in Cloud Computing. In this case, it’s less about ad dollars and more about being the dominant player overall and controlling the operating system of the web. Google’s leaders like to see themselves as solving the world’s problems and organizing the world’s information. With aspirations like that, to be so dependent upon advertising as the main source of revenue feels a bit unseemly, and perhaps a little behind the times. That’s not to say that Google is happy to give up even one dollar of its advertising revenue…Google wants to be the leader in online advertising and cloud computing. In fact, Google prides itself on running some of the most efficient and fast data centers in the world. Right now, Amazon is beating Google with its cloud computing technology. Once a company has a consumer in its ecosystem, there are more opportunities to sell products and services to that consumer. Advantage: Amazon, at least for the moment.
- Amazon is a direct competitor to Google Play. Amazon is very active in the digital services area—consumers can buy digital music and videos on Amazon. Plus, Amazon has created devices that make it easy to interact with its services.
Facebook Knows Social
- In a recently released book, co-authored by Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, we learn that in 2010, former Google Senior VP Vic Gundotra saw that Google was getting outmaneuvered by Facebook and asked, “What happens to Google in a few years if the web is dominated by social connections?” Then, in 2013, Schmidt admitted, “The biggest mistake that I made was not anticipating the rise of the social networking phenomenon.” Mark Zuckerberg did. And now he runs the world’s leading social media platform in an online world that is rapidly becoming dominated by social connections.
- Gundotra was also the man who “initiated the internal effort that became the social network Google Plus.” While people use Google Plus for its SEO value, it’s not a social network that’s caught on with the average consumer. Google Plus is no match for Facebook.
Facebook Knows People
- The more than one billion people who use Facebook freely surrender ridiculous amounts of personal information for the privilege of using the “free” social media service. Google AdWords knows peoples’ search phrases. Facebook knows peoples’ likes, interests, employment history, political views, who they’re related to, who their friends are and much, much more (probably more than Facebook users really want to think about). Facebook can use that personal information to target ads with more precision than Google can. Google AdWords is by far the PPC platform of choice for most PPC advertisers. But, as advertising shifts more towards social connections, Facebook PPC has the potential to get smarter and stronger.
- With its new ad service called Atlas, Facebook will use what it knows about people to take ads offsite. Because it doesn’t rely on cookies to track consumers, Atlas is able to follow users as they jump from iPhone to laptop to tablet to any device, allowing Facebook to track end to end performance of the ads. Atlas claims it can “connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales.” Google will catch up, eventually.
At long last, Google will face some real competition on its home turf: online advertising. Schmidt has singled out Amazon as its biggest search competitor. Both Facebook and Amazon are coming at Google’s lock on advertising from new angles–that’s why this could be an honest to goodness fight for online advertising dollars and beyond. Too bad for Google that it can’t send out a Penguin or Panda to fight off the competition.
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