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How Social Media is Threatening Google’s Dominance

Photo credit: Robert Scoble via flickr

It’s 1 pm PST on a Thursday, and Google has already processed over 2.1 billion searches. On average, Google handles over 40,000 searches every second of the day. And yes, that number continues to grow, year over year. It seems, on the surface, that this web behemoth has dominance to spare.

And yet there’s clearly cracks in the Google armor. Take, for example, their growth rate. In the start-up phase in 1998, the company grew an astronomical 17,000 percent. From 2001-09, growth stabilized around 40-60 percent each year. But starting in 2009, those percentages started to dramatically plummet. In 2012, growth was down to just 10%. Most analysts agree that will drop even more substantically this year. Who on earth could be stealing Google’s audience?

I’ll tell you who isn’t responsible for Google’s slowed growth: Yahoo or Bing. In 2012, Bing held just 4.5 percent of searches, and Yahoo 5.8 percent. While they have their niches and sizable traffic to boast about, Google’s 78 percent search dominance is not even touchable by the other two search companies.

The driving force behind Google’s shaky foundation is social media. How are tweets and likes affecting Google’s bottom line? Let’s investigate.

The Non-Threatening Foe: YouTube

In 2006, Google made what is inarguably its wisest acquisition when it purchased video supersite YouTube for $1.65 billion. Besides the obvious traffic and advertising boon that YouTube offers, Google’s biggest motivation to spend the big bucks for YouTube has to lie in its search reach. YouTube, as it turns out, is now the second largest search engine in the world. It processes more than 3 billion searches a month, which is very close to Google’s number as well. While Google has an option for searches to just bring up videos in the results, many just go straight to the source and search on YouTube instead. YouTube is so popular for search, in fact, that it is bigger than Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL combined. If Google didn’t own YouTube, this would be catastrophic.

Facebook: The Mobile Throwdown

As everyone knows by now, mobile is the space to win. More than 46 percent of users now use it exclusively as their searching and researching tool of choice, with numbers rising monthly.

Facebook has had its eye on mobile supremacy for a long time now, making all kinds of plays to be the king of handhelds. Most recently, in May of this year Facebook launched FAN, or the Facebook Audience Network. FAN allows companies to reach large numbers of mobile Facebook users when they use other apps, like popular game Cut the Rope and news mega-site Huffington Post. They’ve created a mobile ad network in the process, which in turn creates a whole lot more advertising revenue.

Mobile advertising is a space Google has presided over since the segment appeared. Right now, about 50 percent of all handheld advertising is handled by Google. Facebook is in second place with 17.5 percent. With crafty business deals and networks like FAN as the norm now for Facebook, they may very well outsmart Google and bridge this gap more and more.

Pinterest Launches Guided Search

Pinterest, the little visual social network that could, just launched a fancy and multifaceted new search tool they call “guided search.” Pinterest currently boasts over 30 billion individual pins, and sifting through the content has become an increasingly daunting task.

Until recently, most searchers turned to Google for help in locating specific content. But now that Pinterest offers a more powerful option, the tide is turning.

Guided search, which is also optimized for mobile, aims to show users what they’re looking for with as little inputted data as possible. With Google, precise queries are still a necessity. Pinterest, on the other hand, created new technology that attempts to showcase related content the searcher didn’t even know they were looking for.

This new search advance is significant for two reasons:

1) Pinterest has more users now than Twitter and Instagram. They are a monster in the social space, with no signs of faltering.

2) They’ve proven they are technologically savvy enough to improve upon the overall search experience. If users find what they want on Pinterest better than Google, more downward spikes in Google’s numbers are imminent.

The Final Word

Let’s be clear: Google is not in jeopardy of search extinction. What they are seeing, however, is more than just a little healthy competition; we’re all bearing witness to an online revolution. Social media is the most popular usage on the web by a landslide. It stands to reason that if people are naturally navigating to sites like YouTube and Facebook as a home base, those search queries were bound to explode. Google, then, as a separate destination, will need to stay relevant and present in every web user’s awareness, or they risk further slowed growth, or may even start slipping from their dominant position.

One of the biggest culprits in Google’s weakness right now is their own social media attempt, Google Plus. While Google Plus has impressive usage numbers, the overall activity and engagement is pitiful compared to rival, Facebook. It’s been three years since Google launched Google Plus, and by many accounts, it’s a failure. Since it certainly can’t compete with the likes of Pinterest and Twitter, the opportunity to dominate the shift to social has been all but lost. The purchase of YouTube, then, is a huge saving grace.

Do you think it’s really possible that Google could lose its search popularity in the coming years? Please weigh in below!

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Nice observations, funny someone can see through this 🙂
    But not be a Hater! I do think when Google feels threatened they try to duplicate or buy other peoples success.
    I won’t be surprise if they try to do what Yahoo did with Flickr or Tumbler and buy a site like pintrest 🙂

  • Google is indeed recognized as the No. 1 search engine. For facebook users in the world and an awful lot of pinterest including social media a lot wear it anyway

  • I don’t agree, I think google defines what is good and what’s bad for your Online presence, Social media helps businesses to engage prospects and share what they can get in first impact via shares and likes Google itself offers +1 and GooglePage sharing which helps increase visibility.

    May be its just my own opinion as one has to learn throughout and some times one theory comes to reject all previous theories or concepts.

  • There are other areas where Google is its own worst enemy, as I have discovered. The attempt to completely localize Google’s searches has made it all but impossible for those using organic searches to branch out into other areas their companies serve. Now they demand a physical address for every place you serve, create separate pages for each location you serve and optimize to it, or demand that you purchase AdWords. Extremely expensive all the way around, for the smallest of businesses. Only the big boys can afford this. And unfortunately, Google still calls the shots. Play by their rules, or get run over.

  • Personally I am growing ever more resistant to Google, simply because they show all the signs of avarice…what’s good for them only.
    Their main focus is 100% earnings growth, often at the expense of those sites that have provided the quality to grow an audience. Someone needs to come back with FAR better support.
    Sites such as Pinterest are obviously in it to grow an income, but most assuredly work hard to supply quality offerings and tons of support. One is a ‘Service’ industry with a capital ‘S’, and that ain’t ever been Google I’m afraid.

  • This article assumes that the growth rate of the internet overall has remained constant since 1998. That is obviously a flawed assumption, which makes that entire argument kind of fall away when you realize that google’s growth is pretty much consistent with overall internet trends. Peace.

  • Google’s growth rate has not slowed in actual numbers. An increase 0f 10% on 2 billion, is a lot more people than an increase of 100% on a few million.
    Having saturated the search market, there are not that many more people to add to google’s audience.

    Elementary arithmetic. You should try learning some/

  • Google is the Giant that hit the former Giant Microsoft which was once a Software giant but MS had to give way to new technology and new strategy. However, Pinterest or other social sites may supercede Google but then again the ever adaptable Google may reform and become more service oriented in future and still win the future course of Search. As of now, Google is the Heavy Monolith that most small players love to hate.

  • Google is a smart company, well aware of its compitition. however, Pinterest searches simply dont match what google provides. I do see that Organic traffic will eventually go away and more and more Paid traffic will be the norm, just as FB has done more recently.
    However, in order to stay relevant Google will need to think of other ways to attract people.

  • This is a nice article indeed. Throughout ages and history of mankind everything has seasons and time. We are now at the season of social media engagements. Everyone seems to become more socially engaged with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Having followed the trends of things, Google remains a company yet to be overtaken. While Google competitors are working hard, the smarter guys at Google’s end are busy with their own daily improvement to their strategies to maintain Google’s dominance. It is sure that the passage of time will tell which side things will fall.

  • We can say people like to search more on social media because they can find their friends on those sites. If Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter continue to improve their search results than Google searches could decline drastically.

  • Thanks for sharing the post. As we all know Google is the search engine giant….facebook, pinterest are on top for sharing, brand awareness

  • I agree completely. People live on Social media. They stay connected with it on their phone. They are on at work and non work time. Soon they will add search options. The ad money is moving from Google to social media

    Owner CEL Financial Services

  • I totally agree with this. Google plus is more a blogger hub than a social networking site. More or less all have to look out for other options like facebook, pinterest etc.

  • History is a great teacher – if people will only take a step back, observe and contemplate.

    At one time, IBM was the dominant force – then their time in the spotlight faded. Same for Microsoft, and so too, Google.

    Everything evolves, grows and eventually dies. I’m certainly not saying that Google will die (although some would wish for that to happen), but I’m sure that their dominant force will diminish as others innovate and evolve. After all, the bigger the ship, the longer it takes to turn it around (we only have to look at IBM and Microsoft to see the reality of this).

  • I agree completely. People live on Social media. They stay connected with it on their phone. They are on at work and non work time. Soon they will add search options. The ad money is moving from Google to social media

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