4 Reasons Why Amazon and Facebook Are Gaining on Google

SMS Text
4 Reasons Why Amazon and Facebook Are Gaining on Google

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.”

Note the exclamation mark in that 1998-99 version of Google’s logo, which some say was added to mimic Yahoo’s logo.

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.


Featured Image: Dooder via Shutterstock

Ellen Gipko

Ellen Gipko

Content Marketing Specialist at HubShout
Ellen Gipko is a content marketing specialist at HubShout, a US based white label SEO reseller, website reseller and web marketing firm with offices in... Read Full Bio
Ellen Gipko
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • jamie burrows

    It seems to me that Schmidt calling out amazon as their largest competitor was to goad Facebook into moving too quickly into the ad space, and in my humble opinion, that is the one thing that could undermine facebook. They have already taken steps away from their original product (filtering whose status updates you see, etc) and every time they tweak something, users complain, but don’t stop using it. I think that turning Facebook into an ad hub would hasten the departure of many.
    Am I the only one that thinks that the CEO’s of these giants golf and smoke cigars together, plotting the overthrow of the world?

  • Andrew

    I don’t think that most Internet users are going to get everything they want from their social networks, to be completely honest. All of these sites are still kings of their zones — Facebook with social, Amazon with retail, Google with information — and each one is just trying to wedge itself into the others’ domains. Though each might have minor successes, I definitely think they’ll remain the strongest entities in their respective zones of dominance.

    • John Martin

      Yes you are absolutely right. All of them are strong oin their entities, each depends on others for some business reasons.

  • Andrea

    This is very interesting. I never really thought of Amazon as a competitor of Google because I use them for very different things, but this makes sense. They both have a very large hold on the internet population and online advertising is always evolving. I wonder what they will do next.

  • KMatthews

    Some Amazon services are soooo clunky though. I barely use my Amazon Prime streaming just because its interface can be so frustrating (not to mention it won’t work on my Chromecast).

  • Mari

    “Amazon has drones to deliver merchandise.”

    I got all excited to read about this but the article says the drones are more theoretical right now and aren’t due for another 5ish years, pending FDA approval as well?

    It’s interesting — it doesn’t seem like it would be cost-effective considering the cost of drones + fuel. But perhaps ships and trucks equate out to about the same. And of course there’ the benefit of offering services no one else can

  • Jen M

    I can’t really tell how serious Google is with social — I know plenty of people who have Google+ profiles, but how many people actually use them? I have one, and I haven’t even looked at it since I set it up a couple of years ago. I feel like this is the one thing they really lag behind on, whereas I think they could easily catch up in the other categories.

  • Nick P

    It’ll be the first time in a long time that google has seen some serious competition in the PPC market!

  • Sarah

    Am I the only one that is a little creeped out drones delivering merchandise? If they wanted to deliver breakfast, that’s another thing. Anyway, I’m interested to see how the race between Facebook, Google, and Amazon plays out.

  • Madeline Schoeck

    I was just thinking the other day how central Google has become to our online habits. Even now, I find myself doing a Google search for Amazon products instead of going directly to the website. It will be interesting to see how these two companies, and Facebook, evolve over the next few years and continue to shape user habits.

  • scottjcamp

    I have to respectfully disagree here … I (typically) find better prices on products using Google (“Shopping” tab) than I do on Amazon. Facebook is about to start filtering business pages when they try to post something promotional (unless they don’t mind paying that long buck for advertising on their platform) in 2015. Google has a habit of making small incremental changes that go largely unnoticed … until it’s too late! I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

  • Naresh

    Thanks Ellen for sharing this amazing stuff.

    Both Amazon and Facebook are giving tough competition to Google. I think Google may come up with new strategies to overcome this.

  • Michelle

    Google definitely has some competition and will be interesting to see how much fight google puts up.

  • Martand Kulkarni

    I agree with all points above…however potential for actual “search” is very limited to fb nd amazon while compared to google. In terms of “product advertising ” they may beat google but I think they can hardly have any scope in “service industry”.to compete google…

  • Terrance

    This is a great and informative piece and the more and more I read about this three way battle the more and more real it’s becoming. I mean who doesn’t love the underdogs.

    • Ashley

      This is a terrific article!! It’s good to see some competition. Google, Amazon and Facebook are all large companies, so I’m not sure which one to really call the underdog, but I agree that “who doesn’t love the underdogs.” lol

  • Jeff

    I did most of my shopping for Christmas on Amazon.

  • Jason G

    This is very interesting. This fight will surely shape the internet. Hopefully if Google loses the new WEB OVERLORD will be a kind ruler!

  • Chad Hill

    We’ve all been rooting for Bing and Yahoo but Amazon and Facebook own markets that Google covets. This sounds like a better match.

  • Lakhyajyoti

    There is a great race going on between Amazon, Google and Facebook. It is to early to say who will win the race. Thanks for the awesome share.

  • Chris Wibbe

    Amazon’s enterprise server infrastructure is awesome.
    Google’s search domination isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
    Facebook’s social interaction data is incredible.

    Lets hope they all nibble at each other without overpowering, so that competition stays high and innovation wins.

  • Eric

    I think Amazon and Facebook will be good contenders to Google Adwords… just not for all markets. Google is going to dominate all search traffic, but Amazon will play a ever expanding and larger role for direct online sales and Facebook will build a following for brands. Each will dominate within their respective verticals, but I don’t see Amazon and Facebook overtaking Google in search any time soon. When the day comes where people don’t use “Googling” as a synonymous term for searching on the internet, then maybe they’ll have a chance in true search.

  • Karan Rawat

    Facebook is “a social network” , its not “the Social Network”

  • Florian

    Very interesting way of comparing them ! I think you’re right on this. In spite of Google efforts to remain the leader in all aspects he is now facing top level competitors and may be force to stay in the search niche.