How Google beat Yahoo in Search Engine Wars

By Simon Nguyen 

Google and Yahoo have dominated the search engine business for almost a decade now. The long-standing foes used to be neck and neck in term of web search market share. However, Google has seen its fortune rising spectacularly at the expense of Yahoo. According to StatCounter, Google currently commands more than 83% of all U.S. web searches compared to only 7.4% for Yahoo. The big G has indeed become the default search engine of the current age. The term “googling” is now part of every day’s language.

Considering the fact Yahoo is the older company and had a huge head start over Google in name recognition and technology, the dramatic rise of its bitter rival leaves supporters of Yahoo bewildered and in search of answers. What is the secret behind Google’s enormous success?

The success of Google is as a result of two critical factors: innovation and simplicity. The company’s business strategy is not one of the status quo. Google always seeks to improve upon its technology and to expand the scope of its business. Over the years, Google has experimented with many different things—Google Maps, Blog Search, Google Street to name a few. Not all of the company’s experimental projects become huge hits, but all of them add to the user’s experience leading him or her closer than ever to the knowledge she seeks.

Case in point, users can now utilize Google Search as a web calculator. One can enter a simple calculation into the search box and Google will compute the result. Furthermore, most of the premium features are available free of charge. This is an ingenious business decision and a tremendous PR move. Honestly, who wouldn’t want free stuff?

To Yahoo’s credit, the company has worked very hard to improve its search engine’s technologies. It even partnered with Microsoft’s Bing to produce better search results. Unfortunately, Yahoo always seems to be one or two steps behind its rival. It is almost as though Yahoo is simply reacting to Google, instead of having a clear strategic path.

The second factor behind Google’s search engine success is the simplicity of its user interface. There is a stark contrast between the design of Yahoo’s homepage and that of Google’s homepage. The Yahoo’s homepage is inundated with contents—images, links, news stories and ads. The Google’s homepage, on the other hand, is simplistic at its core merely featuring the company’s logo and a search box. This is another smart decision by the company. People visit the page to conduct web searches; other distractions are more annoying rather than helpful. I can’t tell you how much I wish Yahoo would scrap the distracting design of its homepage and switch to a simpler design.

Google’s minimalist design is extended to the web pages of the company’s other web products and services. Simplicity in design seems to be Google’s general philosophy. The search engine giant has won more fans than not with this first-rate business approach.

Can Yahoo ever get back into the saddle and be competitive again in the search engine business? The answer is a resounding yes. But to do so, Yahoo will have to transform itself from a follower into a leader. Instead of simply reacting to what Google does, Yahoo needs to be more assertive and takes the lead in innovation. Perhaps a full merger or collaboration with Microsoft or some other tech giants should be considered. Lastly, the company needs to develop a clear identity. No company can flourish without a clear sense of what its goals and objectives are. Will the real Yahoo stand up?

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