Google my best search engine is at war on all fonts of its business.
Earlier in October the company disappointed shareholders with underwhelming quarterly results. The amount of money it makes each time somebody clicks on an ad has steadily fallen for the past three years.
Then a concern rose about the disintermediation of search by apps and how it could impact the core search growth of Google. While this is extremely difficult to quantify, qualitatively, it is believed that consumers’ increased dependence on mobile and apps is negatively impacting GOOGLE’s core search engine.
Earlier this month, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch downgraded Google stock from “buy” to “neutral,” citing “search maturity, lack of product catalysts, and margin pressure to investments in competitive and long-duration businesses like cloud computing and retail delivery.”
“Google fields some 3.3 billion search queries each day. In June this year, people were searching Facebook 1 billion times a day, mostly to find other people. ‘There are a lot of questions that only Facebook can answer,’ Mark Zuckerberg boasted in an earnings call earlier this year.”
So who is bombarding Google and with what?
> First, it is being attacked in search by pretty much everyone. Apple, Amazon, and other, smaller contenders are also prodding at Google’s armour. None of them alone can topple a company that takes one in every three dollars (paywall) spent on internet advertising. But their combined power is putting bigger and bigger dents in Google’s defences.
How is the above happening?
Facebook’s emphasis is on content and connections.
Amazon thinks it can corner product searches (paywall).
Twitter already receives well in excess of 1.5 billion searches every day.
Apple’s latest operating system for desktop computers, Yosemite, uses Microsoft’s Bing to power its new search function, which allows users to scour the web from within their desktop.
> Second, the company has yet to figure out a way to transfer its money-making prowess to mobile, where ads are cheaper and where users tend to prefer apps over browser-based searches. Because every query that a consumer conducts through Amazon, eBay, Yelp, Bing and others is a query that does not run through Google.
Online, ad blockers are rising in popularity.
Amazon’s new Fire Phone is a physical search engine disguised as a smartphone.
Facebook is building the infrastructure to allow app-developers to link to things within other apps, which could form the basis of a useful search engine for the mobile web, which remains chaotic.
Finally, Google is facing tremendous regulatory pressures, particularly in the European Union.
Google is not in imminent danger. There remains great opportunity in video advertising on YouTube and in making money from apps on Google Play.
It will also not stop growing in vast amounts of cash from search, even if the speed at which it does so will slow down. “And according to data compiled by Factset, 84% of analysts recommend buying Google stock right now, versus only 69% this time last year. Then again, Google’s stock price has fallen short of (admittedly traditionally optimistic) analyst expectations for the past two years—and the gap is only getting wider.”
I love Google. It is a fascinating company, “involved in all sorts ground breaking activities, including its much maligned wearable technology (Google Glass), to acquisitions of drones and home thermostat companies and its push to deliver wireless internet in unconnected regions in emerging markets.”
But its core business of search advertising remains quite boring and it is showing some signs of weakness.
Just as Microsoft went from being a leader to a laggard in the internet era, so Google may find it hard to adapt to the rapidly shifting ways in which people interact with their devices….