There has been much discussion around Google threatening to exit the Australian market due to the Australian Government’s proposed media bargaining code.
Although I believe this is extremely unlikely to occur, it’s made consumers and business owners alike look for alternatives to Google.
Microsoft’s Bing has stepped up to assure the government that it’s well-positioned to fill the void and like it or not, Google’s threat to leave has backfired, with the government digging their heels in. No matter the outcome, Google’s threat will leave a legacy for years to come.
Australia is one of the most Google-centric markets in the world. 94.4% of searches are handled by Google, with Bing a distant second at 3.6% and DuckDuckGo rounding out the top three at 0.85%.
All the articles I’ve read so far, have focused on the impact on consumers in the event that Google exits the domestic market. As primarily a DuckDuckGo (DDG) searcher myself, I believe the impact on consumers with the absence of Google will be minimal. Sure, Bing and DuckDuckGo’s algorithms aren’t as mature as Google, so the search results aren’t as focused. Searches are also not personalised using DuckDuckGo (this is by design by not storing your search history for privacy). Using these search engines might frustrate users, and searches may take longer to find the desired results, but after a short period of time, Google is likely to be forgotten as a search engine.
Where I anticipate the greatest impact of Google’s absence, is on Businesses. Whilst there will also be implications of losing paid platforms such as Google Ads and Shopping, I won’t delve into paid search as this article is focusing on organic/free search traffic.
Google Maps / Google My Business
One of the most powerful features of Google is its excellent Maps platform. It’s used for everything from navigation to local search and Google has done an excellent job of combining its maps platform with Google My Business which handles business information and reviews. Google My Business platform uses Proximity and relevance to find the business you are searching for easily and accurately. Below is an example:
From the review platform that demonstrates social proof, to opening hours, busy times etc. This is a very valuable source of information for businesses and consumers alike.
Businesses have spent much time and effort acquiring reviews and filling out Google My Business profile information, which is all likely to be lost if Google leaves.
What are the alternatives for businesses?
Bing Places for Business
Bing has cleverly added the functionality to import your Google My Business profile seamlessly. This allows you to replicate all the information from your Google My Business listing (except reviews):
Bing is importing reviews from other review platforms such as Zomato, Facebook, Foursquare, TrueLocal, Yelp etc. This is a good move, as many business owners have complained to me about fake reviews in Google My Business and the fact that Google is unwilling or unable to address complaints by business owner about inaccurate or fake reviews.
As per below, Bing’s local search isn’t as feature rich or polished as Google’s, but it gets the job done.
As mentioned earlier, the whole advantage of privacy based search engines like DuckDuckGo is that they don’t collect or store your personalised information or search history. In fact, there is no mechanism to sign into a DuckDuckGo account.
By default, precise location and search history is missing, so DDG relies on listing and review platforms having accurate data. Tripadvisor and Yelp listings are most often used. DDG also uses Apple mapping data, which has improved greatly, but isn’t at the same level of refinement as Google maps.
As per below, DuckDuckGo’s local search/business platform is simple and missing the advanced features that are important for Businesses for their interface with customers. “near me” searches that are synonymous with local business searches don’t work properly with DDG, without explicitly sharing your location. Albury is over 500km from Sydney!
The lack of refined features of Bing and DDG are more of an issue for businesses that have a physical presence, as social proof in the form of reviews and navigation to the location is important. The lack of Google maps will impact online businesses or those that serve customers at their location, just not as heavily as businesses with a physical presence.
What do I recommend?
No matter how unlikely Google’s exit is, ensure your Bing profile has been claimed and you have added your site to Bing Webmaster Tools. Ensure your website ranks in Bing and DuckDuckGo and not just Google.
Also, start claiming other complementary assets and reviews on other platforms that are relevant for your business, such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, Trustpilot etc. This will put you ahead of competitors if the scramble to replace Google services occurs.
In summary, Bing and DuckDuckGo are well placed to fill the vacuum in the Australian search market if the media bargaining code passes parliament as-is and Google follows through and exits the market. Bing’s more advanced ecosystem, especially for businesses puts it as the leading contender.