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InsideGoogle
Thursday, December 09, 2004
 
Is Loyalty All That Matters In Search?
Charlene Li at Forrester reveals some of the results of their survey on search usage and loyalty (survey only available to Forrester clients). What's most fascinating is how vulnerable Google is. Even though it is the most popular search engine, and even though it gained market share this year, it is in a position to lose it all very rapidly. Among Google loyal searches, a significant number have Yahoo or MSN pages as their home page. I know I do (of course, I am an MSN customer, so that's the real reason why).

Since Google hasn't established itself as a portal, users figure they can have a different home page and just use Google for search. If those portals' search engines gain a reputation as a decent alternative to Google, you'll see a lot of people just using the search engine on the page they're already on. God knows I wish I could get a decent search from MSN. Well, when MSN Search Beta becomes the new engine, there's a good chance I'll start using it, since it's built into my MSN client. Google faces serious problems since it has nothing to compete on that level.

Why would you make Google your home page? My Yahoo has RSS feeds, stock quotes, weather, sports scores, comics, and breaking news. My MSN home page has 217 customizable modules, including integrated Hotmail, headlines (and News Alerts), stock quotes, horoscopes, sports scores, comics, movie listings, Nielsen ratings, eBay auctions, favorites, recipes, even the freakin' traffic report. Google has a funny logo every few weeks.

Competitive? No.

I'm not saying Google should become a portal. I don't like portals. But maybe Google has to, whether it wants to or not. At the very least, leave the Google home page as is, and offer a portal within the site, for those who want it (maybe at my.google.com). At the very least, Google should offer a customizable page, offer up an API, and let the user community create whatever they want for it.

Did you know that the MSN Toolbar is more popular than the Google Toolbar? Yup. This despite the fact that Microsoft has not bundled it with Windows, or even with MSN. People just saw it, wanted it, downloaded it. That's a very ominous first sign that Google is not as ubiquitious as once thought.

Who does Google even inspire loyalty in these days anyway? I've seen many geeks lose faith in Google as soon as it had its IPO (a typical "they got rich" internet reaction). Regular users may like the search engine, but they may not know its any better than Yahoo, and may switch eventually. Google needs to get out there and say "Hey, we're Google, and we're better." If users don't get that message, they will get somebody else's.

Do you see Google ads on TV saying "The World's Most Accurate Search Engine"? No, and you should. Being viral is nice, but it can't last. It's time to put some of those billions to work on spreading the word that Google is still number one, before it no longer is.
(via Search Engine Lowdown)

Comments:
1. My Yahoo has news I don't read, TV listings for shows I don't watch, movie listings for movies I don't watch, comics that aren't funny. Plus I have bookmarks for address searches that are better, and weather that is more accurate. The RSS is neat, but on Bloglines, I can *manage* my feeds, and it costs the same (nothing).

2. Yahoo search is NOT just as good as Google. Google consistantly finds more stuff. Downside: no RSS on Google or Google News.

3. Google will stay ahead by NOT being a "me too" and by focusing on being a great search engine with innovative features.
 
Firefox impact on Google

Steve Hall says:
"It hit me this morning that one of the Firefox browser's key features, the search bar, could serve to reduce Google's chokehold on all things search-related. For those of you who do not use Firefox, it's worth explaining that the built-in search bar is default set to Google, but you can easily choose from a drop-down menu to search using other sources such as eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, etc. (Note: Apple's Safari has this same feature). So this is quite handy when you are looking for something fairly specific (like a product on eBay) and you can just search in the bar without having to go directly to eBay (or through Google first) to do so.

What I did not previously realize was that anyone and everyone could develop search bar "add-ins" to customize their browser (duh, that's why we call it "open-source" Steve!). There are several hundred add-ins that have been developed bringing you topic-specific search capabilities within numerous categories: Netflix, Wikipedia, Weather.com, Buy.com, Bloomberg quotes, IMDB movie database, etc. If you think about it, the most useful sites that we keep going back to are often simply highly targeted search vehicles for a specific type of information (e.g., products, stock quotes, weather, etc.). And of course, you can also add Google-specific sub-engines such as Froogle, Google News, Google Images, Google Groups.

And there are several more I'd like to see (and predict will) get developed - such as del.icio.us (links), Flickr (photos), Eliyon (people), Zagats (dining) and Google Desktop. I'll probably think of a bunch more later...."

http://nwvc.blogs.com/northwest_vc/2004/11/firefox_impact_.html
 
I would hate to see google become a portal. I see yahoo and I am so overloaded with it that I find it hard to find what I actually need. I know I'm a small percentage of people that actually categorize and organize my bookmarks so I can browse efficiently and I have my own rss reader, and whatever else I need. I want google to keep on innovating on search so that it becomes more natural to search for things and get relevant hits. Now-a-days I find myself having to drill down my thoughts so that I can find what I'm looking for which takes time when usually I could do 1 or 2 searches and find what I'm looking for. Also, I hate finding sites that are outdated with info, with pages that say, last updated 1997. Yet it gets the top search because of how the algorithms work.

All in all, please no portal. I wouldnt mind a customizable my.google.com but probably won't use it.

and btw - FIREFOX RULES!
 
You may not need it, I barely need it, but there are millions of people out there who really use these portals, and Google may not like it, but they can't just ignore a segment of the market because they are not as technically inclined. There's more than just the Linux / Firefox crowd. If Google ignores everyone except the more advanced crowd, eventually, that's all they'll have. Microsoft does a much better job at being all-inclusive.
 
Nathan,

If i were you, i would just post the news, than a half-baked analysis. The arguments presented has many a flawed assumptions. If you were involved in the search engine industry for a while longer, you would have grasped it. (or atleast go through the archives of SearchEngineWatch and WebmasterWorld) ;-)

Still, your blog rocks !! I am a big fan of yours.
 
Half-baked analysis? My main point is that Google is going to lose significant market share because the other engines have significant home pages. And if you don't believe that a company can leverage its position on users desktops into winning in a different arena, perhaps we can about Netscape. Microsoft has leveraged its portal status into a more popular toolbar (and don't tell me anyone expected that. The MSN Toolbar winning came out of nowhere), whose to say MSN can't leverage the search engine through the portal as well? If there's something Microsoft does well, its leveraging one prodcut with another. If Microsoft has a foothold on users as their start page, it will find a way to use that to turn those people into searchers.
 
Heya Nathan, what's the source for the MSN Toolbar is beating out the Google Toobar info? I believe ya, but that was surprising enough to me that I need some backup if I cite that statistic.

Thanks,
n00b
 
The source is the study I mention right at the beginning of the post:

MSN has a slight lead in the percent of consumers who use its toolbar.I'm so interested in that statistic since Google's toolbar met with so much fanfare, and has such widespread net support, and yet MSN is leading with its quieter, lesser toolbar. That says a lot about customer loyalty.
 
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Why won't Blogger properly insert < br > tags in my comment?
 
That Firefox includes a Google search box by default actually strengthens Google's handle. Even though it can be changed, hardly anyone does. Also, the Safari one is (inexplicably) not changeable.

I fully expect Google to become more of a portal, more in a "my google" sort of way but not making the mistake Yahoo did of taking its eye off search and putting everything on the home page. The Google home page will remain search focused and spartan while the portal features will go on My Google.
 
That's what I'm advocating for. No putting a ton of useless crap on the front page, but make a portal available for those that want it. The people who do want portals can't be loyal Google users, because Google offers nothing. Plus, I bet Google could make a pretty innovative portal. And if you don't want a portal, you'll never see it.
 
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