A new study of search engine activity shows that Google could be facing a dim future. The research showed that even though Google tops the search popularity stakes, well ahead of Yahoo or Microsoft, fewer people actually click on the results.
For Google, less than two thirds of people click on the results for a search term. However, for Yahoo 75% of people click on one or more of the search results provided. What this clearly shows is that the quality of the results provided by Google is less well targeted at people’s actual requirements than Yahoo. And that spells potential disaster for Google.
Ten years ago, Yahoo dominated the search sector. However, it was a human edited directory and couldn’t keep pace with the rapidly expanding world wide web. A year later, along came Google with its automated system that meant it was able to index everything, providing people with more search options.
Internet users switched to Google because they were more likely to find what they were looking for. This was the motivating reason for people to change their behaviour and move away from Yahoo.
Now though, this new research shows clearly that people are more likely to find what they are looking for at Yahoo, rather than Google. This signals a potential tipping point for Google. Their experts, such as Matt Cutts, argue that it is rather complex and that the descriptions provided by Yahoo are less informative, so people need to click more often to find out if the result is what they want.
This is another signal for the beginning of the end for Google. It reflects the kind of institutional arrogance that accompanies huge success. Google is focusing on the data, not the people. If people needed to click to see if the search results are appropriate they could well discover the pages are not what they wanted. This would lead – as it did in the early days of Google – for people to use Yahoo less.
But, Yahoo is gaining ground. After a period in the doldrums for much of this year, people are switching to Yahoo in much larger numbers; it is gaining market share from Google. Equally, Yahoo is closing the gap on Google in terms of customer service measures.
These are all indications of the fact that the human response to Yahoo is positive. This would not be the case if it were, as Google argues, a statistical quirk. They suggest that more people click through on Yahoo results because of poorer snippet descriptions. If that were the case the human response would be less successful for Yahoo since some of the results would inevitably be wrong.
Google started out in life and achieved huge success because it focused on what people wanted – better search. Now it seems it is focusing less on the human requirements and more on itself. That spells the end for any business. Yahoo appears to be turning itself around and focusing on what we, the human reader, wants from search. As ever, focusing on what people want is the most successful business strategy.
This is not the first article I’ve written that has said “Bye bye Google“; perhaps our love affair with this company is beginning to fade – we are having our “seven year itch” with it. Besides which, one day search engines won’t exist – we will have other more intelligent ways of finding what we want.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+