How Amazon Is Changing the Search Engine Game

How Amazon Is Changing the Search Engine Game

Amazon and Google have a lot in common. They are both dominant in their flagship sectors through innovation and a penchant for taking risks. When they make changes in the market, many other businesses feel that shift. Competitors think of them as monopolies and loyal customers as top-notch service providers. If asked to name their competitors, you would probably name Apple as Google’s and eBay as Amazon’s. Thanks in part to the growth of Amazon Search, however, the two now compete with each other as well.

Since 2018, several marketing publications covered the news that Amazon surpassed Google in product searches. This makes sense, especially to people who have an Amazon Prime membership. If you already know you want to shop on Amazon, why search for the item anywhere else? You go directly to the source. For some, the idea that querying specific items on Amazon constitutes a search may only just be dawning on them.

What does this mean for customers? How much of a threat has Amazon Search really become to the Search Engine King? Is there anything you can do to take better advantage of Amazon SEO?

 

The Threat

A recent study on Amazon’s growth and dominance in the search engine market showed several interesting findings. First off, Amazon beat Google at its own game in product searches from as early as 2015 and maintained this through at least half of 2018.

Google’s growth declined during that time from 54% to 46%, while Amazon’s growth increased from 46% to 54%. The study did not consider data more recent than the second quarter of 2018. However, researchers keeping an eye on the market confirm that Amazon’s dominance in product searches continues.

Amazon ads make frequent appearances offsite while you browse the internet. You are most likely to see them after going window-shopping on the site. Yet these account for a minor portion of website traffic. Amazon Search brings in 90% of the total product views on the website. The remaining 10% come from a mix of product aggregators, merchandising and offsite display ads.

Experts say that Amazon’s search engine growth may slow now that it reached 80% in many different niches in retail. Companies with much smaller shares may see increased growth. This threatens not only Amazon’s newfound dominance but Google’s longstanding one.

 

The Competition

Both Google and Amazon provide free responses to search queries. They also allow companies to compete via pay-per-click ads for a chance to advertise products and services next to these organic results. This may help smaller or new companies to reach customers, increase website traffic and boost sales.

Forbes notes that when it comes to ad revenue, Google AdWords is the main option businesses turn to. Even so, it’s not the only one, especially not for e-commerce businesses that sell their products on Amazon.

Amazon Search offers several different options for companies that may want to improve visibility through ads:

  • Sponsored products that appear on product pages and in search results
  • Sponsored brands that appear in search results
  • Sponsored display to create off-site ads

Google offers a much more sophisticated platform with better options for customizing ads. Still, Amazon ads bring a few things to the table that Google does not. For starters, when consumers use Google search, they may not be looking to buy anything. When searching on Amazon, customers are at least window-shopping. This may lead to higher conversion rates since they are already in the mood for spending.

Because buyers may already be in a spending mood, ads that show up on Amazon Search go for the hard sell. They take customers directly to the page to make a purchase. Companies advertising via AdWords may choose not to do this to avoid scaring potential customers away with an early sell. Instead, they market their general business or content in hopes of roping in customers later on. This may lead to a longer sales and marketing process.

Finally, Google does a great job of tracking how well your ads perform. Amazon does an even better job. Amazon can attribute specific sales to an ad, thereby proving its efficiency. Google is often able to do this too but may require a lot more work to pull it off. Some of that work gets pushed off to marketers. Amazon makes it automatic.

Search Engine Land reported that Amazon now accounts for 13% of the search advertising market in America. Researchers also estimate that only Amazon has any real expectations of increasing its market share in the next few years. In fact, the current Amazon growth level in this sector reached the double digits. By the end of the year, Amazon Search should bring in 30% more ad revenue than in 2018.

The Pushback

If you thought Google would take the blow from Amazon without retaliating, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2018, Google created an online platform for retail shopping known as Shopping Actions. It allows customers to search for and buy products just like they would via Amazon Search or any other e-commerce platform.

Retailers sign up to use the Shopping Actions service. When companies list their products, it becomes available on Google Express, Google Search and the Assistant app. Customers who sign up for the universal cart service then get to shop from multiple retailers in a centralized location.

Here are some of the top sellers Google reportedly partnered with to list their products on the platform:

  • Home Depot
  • Ulta Beauty
  • Walmart
  • Costco
  • Target

Instead of a pay-per-click model used by ads on Amazon Search, Google uses a pay-per-sale setup. While many shoppers may be hearing about it for the first time, Google is already reaping the rewards, as are its partners. The partners claimed to see customers add 30% more items to their shopping baskets than before.

The main benefit for customers is that it’s easier to shop around for the best price. Moving between platforms to do so may now become a thing of the past. Customers tend to shop around more for big-ticket items, such as furniture, appliances and gadgets. This may make Shopping Actions a more attractive product search option in this premium niche in the years to come.

 

The Potential Effects

If Google and Amazon Search continue to battle it out, what effects may this have for consumers? In most cases, when two monopolies go to war, customers benefit. Monopolies often become complacent as they feel no strong push to make real improvements. When the threat of losing their dominance comes knocking, that quickly changes.

It’s also worth noting that when companies start to compete in one area, that competition may spread to other product offerings as well.  Over the next few years, customers may begin to see better product and service offerings from both companies. Google’s Shopping Actions is just a start.

Google has since also reportedly made plans to improve its YouTube TV platform and grow its share of the smart speaker market via Google Home. This may either drive prices downward for customers, lead to greater innovation or a mix of both. In 2017, Google and Amazon discounted the price on their smart speakers so much that onlookers believe they probably suffered losses from the sales. More instances of this may follow.

There are some downsides to competition that customers may experience as well. For instance, Retail Dive pointed out that YouTube is no longer a part of the Amazon Video series. It also claims that Amazon Search has shown a bias against including the Google Home speakers in its results.

 

The Bottom Line

Amazon’s dominance in product queries proves that smaller companies in a specific sector do not need to tackle the giant head-on to score a winning point. In fact, every reputable product website has a search bar.

What Amazon did to set itself apart and bring in more searches is to build on its brand and offerings. This, in turn, brought in loyal customers. Knowing without a doubt where they planned to spend their money, using a more general search engine to find products wasn’t worth the hassle.

That said, all estimates point to Google retaining its overall dominance in the search engine market. Also, if Shopping Actions takes off, it may one day reclaim its dominance in product searches as well.

 

Contact Us

Do you have an e-commerce business that could benefit from Amazon Search functions? Or are you now concerned that Amazon-specific searches may undermine the efforts you put into optimizing your website for better search engine rankings? Whichever position you’re in, we can help with your Amazon SEO objectives. For more information, give us a call at 1-877-679-5049.

Mike Marsh
[email protected]

Mike has been in the online marketing industry since 2012. He has extensive experience with SEO, email marketing and linkbuilding campaigns for in-house and agency teams around the country. You can connect with him right here: Linkedin