How Google’s Inevitable Decline in Search will Impact Your Business

Posted on March 26, 2012


Today when a potential customer is interested in a product, in most cases they will turn to Google search to find out more about it and to find out from where they can purchase it.

That in many ways makes things simple, as you know you need a website, you might know you need to optimize it for Google (SEO) and you might want to invest in some Google advertising products such as Google Adwords. Almost everything you need to do is in one channel called Google and is related to search.

However, all is not well in search-land. There are several trends that are currently playing out that may well upset the apple cart and provide many more channels for customers to discover product information.

The first trend is the reduction in quality of Google search. This has been particularly noticed with the introduction of Google’s social network, Google+, whereby posts from Google+ users are inserted into the search results. This risks making search less clear, with potentially worse results if Google+ posts are prioritized over standard web pages.

The second trend is mobile. According to comScore, nearly 50% of US phone owners have a phone that can access HTML websites. One might expect this trend to reinforce Google’s search position. However, according to Pew Research, 50% of US phone owners have apps on their phone, and this trend is growing. Linked with the introduction of new technologies such as Apple’s Siri voice controlled assistant, an increasing amount of queries for information will be passing directly through applications.

For example, if you use Siri to inquire about tomorrow’s weather rather than using Google search, an ad for your umbrella company will not be shown to the user, even if it’s due to rain! Siri gets its information from an application, not via Google search.

As users go directly to apps for information, for example, going directly to Urban Spoon to find an Indian restaurant, it’s important that business owners make sure they have a presence in the most relevant apps for their market.

In addition, there is also the app store search factor. If a user is looking for information, or a certain product, they may search directly in the app store rather than searching through their web browser. Let’s say you’re looking for smoothie recipes, you might want to search for an app rather than the web.

Why might a user want to do this? Well, the experience in perusing an app on a smartphone and even a tablet it much better than doing so on a website where they will probably have to pinch and zoom to get the page to be readable. An installed app is also easily available for future consultation, and may allow favourites to be saved etc. With an app that’s focused on recipes, there is no noise, you get exactly the recipes that you want with no SEO-gamed search results for other products.

Herein lies both a threat to businesses and an opportunity. The threat is to not be accessible through the app environment, to then cede ground to competitors who are. Of course the reverse side of this is to seize the opportunity to take and occupy space on the app store.

Let’s go back to the smoothie example. Imagine that you’re selling blenders. You can give away an application with smoothie recipes, and in that application you can suggest why your blender is better. For example

“With an ordinary blender, start off at a show speed and then move to a higher speed. With a [Insert Company Name] blender, just press the button ‘Smoothie'”.

Also through association with a great set of recipes, you are creating a reputation for yourself as a credible leader in the blender space.

There are a lot of opportunities for occupying space in the app store and preparing for the reduction in Google searches. Businesses have to decide when the timing is right for them, but that timing should be sooner rather than later as the number of users with smartphones continues to grow.