Google has led the way in search since its appearance on the market, replacing such well-loved engines as Altavista as well as the meta search engines - Dogpile etc. Microsoft created Bing in a long delayed response to Google as a 'decision engine', and there are computational knowledge engines (Wolfram Alpha), as well as new and novel engines such as DuckDuckGo.
Until recently, none of these engines appeared to threaten Google's position as the world's best search engine because Google did one thing better than any other - relevance. However, the latest inclusions of social results and the seeming preference given to Google properties before, for example, original content rather than a discussion about said content, has caused an upset. Whilst the social results can be switched off, many users find the fact that an 'opt out' is required an additional niggle to the already heated discussions about Google properties listing above seemingly more relevant non-Google properties. In addition, Google's removal of Boolean operators (which Bing permits) feels like an unnecessary dumbing down of the search process.
There are many pieces in the blogosphere detailing Google vs Bing vs other search engines, giving examples of where Google has failed to produce the relevant results, compared to the other engines. As Google have always said, the user is only one click away from using any other engine and it seems there are now many changing teh default search engine in their browser to Bing and other options. However, there is a percentage of Internet users who seem entirely unaware that there are other search engines, particularly since many began to use the Net after "Google it" became the replacement term for "search the Internet".
For internet marketers, the process of SEO has always been a constantly shifting set of sands; however, this latest change to Google's search results may result in users, especially the more savvy folk, seeking alternatives to Google. For a marketer, this presents a further challenge, particularly if new search engines continue to appear which return to Google's initial USP - relevance - which Bing appears to be achieving after a shaky start.
It is unlikely, in the short term at least, that Google's dominance of the market will plunge dramatically. But for those who are seeking to shop or conduct research, the prevalence of social and Google results above independent sources may be irksome enough to prompt a move away from Google to other search resources. And for those whose product set and content is not specifically enhanced by social results or is directly hampered by social SERPs above theirs which lead to less relevant content, it may be time to consider paying less budget and less attention to high Google SERPs.
After all, if your target audience include those who are dissatisfied with Google and who will only hear of you elsewhere, then you will need to increase your marketing efforts across those properties to capture their attention. Are you optimising specifically for other search engines or are you simply increasing social media marketing to stay/regain top SERPS on Google?
Let us know.