Nielsen yesterday released a study it conducted on the popularity of the top 10 search engines for July. As expected, Google sat atop the list, commanding more than 60 percent of the market after enjoying 16 percent year-over-year growth. Trailing behind, Yahoo and Microsoft captured 17.4 percent and 11.9 percent of the market, respectively. More importantly, both companies lost ground to Google--Yahoo witnessed an 11 percent decline, while Microsoft suffered through a 10 percent decline.
And although countless tech pundits will chime in and discuss exactly why Google has been able to run roughshod over its competition, few will point out one basic fact that is too often overlooked: Google search is designed to get rid of you as quickly as possible.
Surely, some will attribute Google's success to its better search results or Yahoo's management troubles or Microsoft's poor offering, but it goes far beyond that. Search isn't simply about relevant results or the competition. Instead, search is all about getting you to your destination as quickly as possible.
And so far, it's quite apparent that only Google understands that basic premise.
Search engines are nothing more than middlemen that are designed to get your thought to your destination. In other words, if you're looking for places to live in Naples, Fla., you get to Google, ask it for places to live in Naples, and hope that one of the results will give you what you want. But if you don't, you're forced to keep searching until you find what you're looking for. And as anyone who queries search engines on a daily basis knows, nothing is more frustrating.
But Google, unlike Yahoo and Microsoft, has made it a key point in its business model to ensure that you get off the Google search result pages as soon as possible. Its competitors, on the other hand, fail to fully understand that premise.
A quick jaunt to Yahoo's search page tells you everything you need to know about the company's ideas about search: it wants you to stay on Yahoo's pages and look around. But Google doesn't feel that way. It's of the opinion that the less time you spend using Google search results, the more often you'll go back instead of using a competitor's service.
Think about that for a second. Doesn't that run directly against everything we know about the Web? Practically every site is designed to keep you there. How many times have you tried to click links in a blog post, only to find that it links you back to another section of the same site? It happens all the time.
Basically, more Web sites try to keep you from going elsewhere for fear that you will never come back. But Google doesn't worry about that.
Google wants you to leave and feels like it has done its job when you do. Now, part of that equation revolves around the quality of search results and the service's usability, but we can't downplay the fact that letting you go is a key to the company's success.
Google was the first company to embrace the idea that letting users go can actually turn into a business model. And so far, it's really the only company that still believes it. But maybe site owners can learn something from Google. Instead of worrying about where you go and making sure you don't stray too far, site owners need to be willing to let you go and be confident enough to stand on the quality of their content to keep you coming back.
It may sound counterintuitive, but if Google has shown us anything, getting rid of you in the search space works extremely well.