He doesn’t use Google to search anymore

Back in February we reported Google Trends data showing search volumes declining for numerous common categories. In the past four years, searches for movie reviews, financial services, florists, digital cameras, cancer treatment and sexy lingerie are all down about 50 percent. Now Alex Campbell, a strategy consultant at DTDigital / OgilvyInteractive in Melbourne, posits that consumers are migrating to social media instead of search engines to find what they need online. He lists three factors:

1. “Social networks have dramatically expanded my network of contacts” who “share similar interests,” Alex says, so he trusts their recommendations more than those from Google.

2. SEO experts have killed their own game. “The SEO industry has transformed from ‘help Google index my site better’ to ‘how can I beat Google’s relevance algorithms to show people results they don’t want’.” The natural result is many common searches turn up companies that are not the most relevant, but have gamed their way to the top of the listings.

3. “The flow of information has changed,” Alex suggests. “In times past, I was always seeking out information through Google search. Now the vast majority of the information I am interested in comes to me, rather than me having to go out and find it.” As people become skilled in setting up human networks among experts with ideas they like, they build their own information feeds that often supplant Google.

The movie review test

Here’s a test. Want to know if “District 9” is a good movie? Here’s what Google returns; and here is what Search.Twitter.com gives you. Which results provide a better feel for the film?

Alex is not predicting the death of Google, and neither are we. Search engine marketing, especially paid search, remains a powerful tool for marketers to share wares with the customers searching for them. We believe, though, that Google requires ever more careful management of paid search campaigns due to rising competition and diminished consumer interest. With only 24 hours in a day, it is obvious that Google will reset at a lower search volume … because people seeking information via human networks spend less time asking computer algorithms for help.

3 thoughts on “He doesn’t use Google to search anymore

  1. That’s very interesting Ben. It would never dawn on me to use Google– or any search engire– to determine if District 9 was a good movie. At most, I’d go to Rotten Tomatoes to read a review by someone I trusted or Yahoo Movies to see what the overall letter grade from critics and users was.

    But that’s it.

    I have no idea what movies my Twitter buddies actually like– yourself included– and there are a handful of real world friends whose opinions I trust.

    What I would use Google (or more likely Yahoo, whose movie timetable is better designed) for is to find out where the movie is playing (though that’s generally through MyYahoo or iGoogle)

    So what I find interesting is that as a heavy user, I’ve identified various sites where I go for expert opinion on subjective matters: TripAdvisor for travel, CNET for electronics, etc. The idea of turning to my random SM network seems counterintuitive,,, to me.

    I wonder how many people use the web my way versus the way Alex Campbell does, turning to a network for results. It would make for a fascinating research project to try and identify common traits among both types of users.

  2. Alan, you raise a good second point. Many consumers are now comfortable finding information on the web from trusted sources — say, a movie review site — and so don’t need to start at Google as the portal for getting online. That’s a different dynamic than turning to social media circles, but has the same end result: Less volume for Google as we use other resources to find what we need.

    The web is like a big mountain, and the more we hike through the woods and get familiar with the terrain, the less we need a map.

    I expect this trend to accelerate as mobile becomes a dominant doorway online, filled with numerous apps other than Google. And that’s a third, entirely other story 😉

  3. Google saw this problem long time ago, that’s why they come up with the Google AD network concept that allow them to still placing ads in other domains other than google domains, usually pages like yelp, and other specialized sites show ads from google on a regular basis. they made the move long time ago and is working great for them. Remember that more than 80% of the people don’t search, they just browse the web…

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