Search wars: apple vs google

Inez Zimakowski
Inez Zimakowski
December 8, 2020 . 2min read

Google has long been the undisputed king of search, with market share over 90% and 3.5 billion searches happening every day globally. Search is crucial for many businesses, with 35% of product searches starting on Google, and paid search has been touted as the most effective conversion channel for many years, as it targets users when they’re actively looking for information, deals, etc about your product(s).

But Google has been slapped with a bunch of anti-trust charges by the US government – and at the centre of them is its payment to Apple to make it the iPhone’s default search engine.

Enter Apple’s own search product.

If you’ve scored yourself the latest iPhone, or updated your iPhone’s operating system to iOS 14, you might have noticed that Apple now shows its own search results by linking directly to web pages when you type in a query in the search bar which appears when you swipe down while the phone is unlocked. There are a couple of interesting things to note here:

  • Apple generates a list of search suggestions (auto-complete options) – cutting out Google – suggesting that it is learning from iPhone users’ most common queries
  • Results appear as snippets under the titles ‘Safari’, ‘Siri Knowledge’ and as a series of ‘Siri Suggested Websites’, indicating that Siri might become Apple’s search, as well as Voice brand
  • Apple can surface in-app results, giving it a big advantage for app-based retailers

For the time being, Apple is continuing to provide users with the option to click through to a Google results page – especially where Siri isn’t returning a result, which is a fairly regular occurrence (for now). But this is likely to happen less and less as Apple improves its product – and it has the team to do it.

With Apple leading the charge on user privacy and active-opt-in to data collection, it may find itself balancing on a double-edged sword when it comes to search.

Of course, Google has about 20 years on Apple in the search game – but it has also been subjected to increasing suspicion and scrutiny from the public in recent years, with scepticism around what personal data is collected and what is shared. With Apple leading the charge on user privacy and active-opt-in to data collection, it may find itself balancing on a double-edged sword when it comes to search. The more personal data it collects, the more relevant its search results are likely to be, but the more it would become just like Google.

What will it mean for marketers?
We suspect we’ll be waiting a while before we see paid search ads in Apple’s system (aside from the existing App ads), but what marketers should be paying attention to right now is the platform’s usage. If uptake is high and the user response positive, Apple might look to monetise it more quickly. Alternatively, if it continues on its privacy crusade, it may choose not to monetise it at all, in which case search engine optimisation will only become more important.

DO: Look out for updates on Apples search product, including advice as to how to optimise for its algorithm – and think about your app policy in light of the developments.

DON’T: Rush to pull your budget out of Google – it’s still by far the biggest search engine and in the short-term will continue to monopolise share of searches and work hard to drive conversion.

Image credit: @miguelavtomas

Inez Zimakowski

Inez Zimakowski

Related Articles