Have you ever typed a song lyric into Spotify (cuz you can’t remember the name of the song) and Spotify just can’t find it?
Annoyances aside, search is a critical function of Spotify’s service, so you’d think that a $21 billion company would do better. Then again, plenty of Spotify’s top-tier peers (like Pinterest, Twitter, Yelp, and even Apple) have comparatively weak-sauce search engines—and none of these companies has a shortage of resources or talent.
By contrast: Google does search so well that Googling is synonymous with searching. They couldn’t dominate 90-plus percent of market share without some kind of Secret Sauce™.
Which begs the question: what’s in Google’s Secret Sauce? Why is search so hard, and why can’t anyone really compete with Google?
Google’s in-search-mountable advantage boils down to four things:
Algorithm. To oversimplify things, using a simple search engine is like using Ctrl+F in a massive document. The algorithm is looking for your exact combination of letters, (plus some common misspellings) but it has no idea what any of it means. By contrast, using Google’s advanced algorithm is like asking a question in a room full of people. The algorithm still pays attention to your search terms, but it can return meaningful results based on context (knowing the difference between ‘playing squash’ and ‘eating squash’), personalization, popularity, machine learning and more.
Focus. Yahoo’s Search was just one product—whereas Google’s search engine was their only product until well after crossing the billion-dollar mark. This strategy hardened Google’s search expertise, but it also focused 100% of Google’s resources and labor into making the best search engine even better. Which brings us to something coders call…
Iteration. Google grew on two virtuous cycles. First: their singular focus on search translated to full-time, full-speed evolution in both infrastructure (more data centers) and product (honing Google Search).
The other virtuous cycle is in the technology itself: search engines naturally improve themselves over time. The longer it’s been running, the better it works—and so we arrive at Google’s coup de grace.
. The length of Google’s history multiplies every other advantage
—especially because the world got hooked on using it. Google had a great search engine in the first place, but the engine itself has had 20 years to mature and evolve. For anyone (thinking of) starting the race now, Google is already past the finish line.
theCLIKK’s Take: While Google is the undisputed king of search, getting rankings in weaker search engines can be much easier. If it makes sense for your business, try learning SEO for search engines like Pinterest, podcast SEO for Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify, or SEO for Amazon.