Why the End is Nowhere in Sight for Google

  |  August 4, 2008   |  Comments

Google rival Cuil may be cool. But reports of Google's future demise are greatly exaggerated.

The big news in the search world this week was the launch of a search engine by ex-Google employees called Cuil. As you have likely already read an article or two (or 10) describing what Cuil does, I won't get into that. What I will get into is all the hype surrounding this engine's release.

Due to apparently new technology, the unique way information is presented, and the fact it has the largest index, Cuil is seen by many as a big threat to Google. This engine's entrance is even being touted by some as a Google killer.

Could this be the beginning of the end of Google? Not quite.

Let's consider the evidence:

  • Google is so entrenched in our collective psyche that it has become a commonly used verb synonymous with performing a search query. Upon Cuil's release, a colleague of mine tried the new engine out and said "I just googled something and look what came up!" I quipped in response, "Well you didn't actually 'google,' you 'cuiled.'" Doesn't really have the same ring to it, does it?

  • Google isn't just a search engine, it's an online empire. With its hands in every kind of Internet-delivered medium (video, user-generated content, mobile, print, TV, etc.), Google is constantly and speedily acquiring the resources to essentially own the online space -- or at least partially own. And don't forget Google's other Web services, such as search appliances, Web analytics, and Webmaster tools. It's got its sights set on cornering other markets.

  • Google is search marketers' darling. When SEO (define) or SEM (define) experts talk about search, they often use "Google" interchangeably with "search engine." Why? Because when you're optimizing a site, Google is the engine you optimize it for. When you only have a dollar to spend in paid search, you spend it with Google. It has the eyeballs, inventory, and leader-of-the-pack clout that makes it impossible notto think about and include Google when planning search marketing activities.

  • Google may have lost two extremely talented employees in Anna Patterson and Russell Power, who are heading up Cuil. But Google has over 10,000 other talented employees to help it fight back. Although the Google engine hasn't been at the forefront of innovation since its release -- for the most part, sticking with a pretty consistent strategy, technology, and look and feel -- it may have done that is so it doesn't need to constantly innovate. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The public likes Google. They use it, and they keep doing so because it gives them the information they want in the familiar way. To continually make modifications to an engine that does so well because of its simplicity would likely do more harm than good.

All of these points indicate that Google isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I could be wrong, but if any engine -- even one that is so very "cuil" -- were to knock out Google, it'd take a lot of time and effort to do so.

People cite how in 1998 Google came in and seemingly wiped out Yahoo's then-well-established market share. What they don't realize is we were just at the beginning of our love affair with the Internet. Since 1998, Internet use has grown exponentially and with it, slowly but surely, search engine use. Just four years ago, only 30 percent of American Internet users accessed a search engine in a typical day. Now roughly half of Americans use a search engine in a typical day, according to the Pew Internet &d American Life Project. The fact that this wasn't such an entrenched daily activity for Internet users back in the day suggests it would have been easier to gain market share over an established competitor. However, as search engine use is growing so rapidly, it threatens to trump e-mail as the most frequent online activity. It's going to be increasingly difficult for new entrants to change user's behaviors and get them to switch.

And even if new entrants are somewhat successful, it doesn't mean Google won't sustain. Just look at Yahoo. In the five-plus years I've been in search, it's held steady around 20 percent market share. Why? Because those Internet pioneers among us starting using this engine way back in the day and just can't seem to break the habit. Just like some of us can't help but use "google" as a verb. They die hard, don't they?

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Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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