For the past 15 years or so, the search engine hierarchy has been pretty clear: Google is the dominating force in the search world, with all other platforms solidly behind.
Bing came onto the scene a little late but has grown steadily to reach a search market share of more than 20 percent, chipping away at Google’s still-dominant 66-percent position.
What’s interesting is that for the past few years, Bing has also powered Google’s next most popular rival, Yahoo. Though serving users with a Yahoo-branded skin and platform, the real “guts” of the engine were offered by Bing.
Now, Yahoo has signed a new partnership with Google, reuniting two of the once-fiercest competitors in the search world and pointing toward the future of search engine relations.
Details Of The Deal
The Yahoo-Google deal apparently arose after the terms of its deal with Bing were renegotiated back in March. Under the new deal terms, Yahoo had the right to seek search ad provisions from other companies.
Now, Yahoo has a similar non-exclusive deal in place with Google, which will provide search results and ads as Yahoo sees fit. In exchange, Google will provide Yahoo with an undisclosed percentage of all revenue generated from those displayed ads.
Operating through the end of 2018, the deal will allow Yahoo to have full control over which queries it sends to Google and which ones it sends to Bing. This way, Yahoo can theoretically get the best of both worlds, leveraging its platform to route queries to one or the other in a bid to give the best results and most lucrative ads to its users.
Why Search Results Are Mattering Less
Send a few different queries through Yahoo, and I’d wager you’d be hard-pressed to tell whether your results came from Bing’s search algorithms or Google’s. Similarly, send a query through both Google and Bing and compare the results. You might see a few key differences depending on the query you use, but for the most part, you won’t be able to tell a difference.
Google’s at the top of the search engine leaderboard, but that’s not because it can do things no other search engine can. In fact, over the years, Bing has nearly been able to catch up to Google in terms of features and operating ability; it even has its own version of the Knowledge Graph.
Even other forms of search, like those offered by digital assistants Cortana and Siri, are relying on the same types of factors and same structured data that Google is — meaning the results you see, agnostic of any platform, are more or less the same.
The Yahoo-Google partnership is probably a sign that Google recognizes this inevitable shift in search engine technology. It doesn’t especially feel threatened by Yahoo or Bing and doesn’t feel that it’s giving away something exclusive and special by lending its search results and ad space to Yahoo.
Though its brand will likely allow Google to remain the undisputed search champion for several more years, in terms of functionality, we’re definitely heading toward an era where search results can be considered mostly platform-agnostic. Search engine optimization is no longer synonymous with “Google optimization.”
What does that mean for your SEO strategy?
If you’re following best practices for on-site optimization, ongoing content creation and off-site relationship-building, there isn’t much you have to change. In terms of apps and digital assistants, most modern search platforms rely on the same indicators and structures to inform their results.
Platform agnosticism actually has more of a bearing on your analytics. It’s no longer enough to find out where you rank in Google and be done with the process. It’s valuable to pay attention to where you’re ranking everywhere and know that your inbound searchers won’t be limited to only one platform.
A Simpler And More Complex Search World
With fewer competing, less distinguishable search platforms, search will simultaneously become simpler and more complex.
It will become more complex because more varied, sophisticated algorithms will be responsible for conjuring up results for user queries. Those algorithms could even have complex relationships among themselves, such as how Bing can power Cortana, and of course, how Yahoo can leverage both Bing and Google for its results.
But it will also become simpler, because you’ll only need to worry about one set of best practices to rank for nearly all of those complex institutions.
Effects On Paid Advertising
It’s also worth noting that this partnership could have a significant impact on the world of paid search advertising. Though no new AdWords features have been explicitly released, there’s an implication that one of your paid Google advertisements could actually show up in a Yahoo search.
Can that make a difference for your ad? Should it make a difference to you? It’s too early to say, but Yahoo-using demographics are undoubtedly different from Google-using demographics, and it will be interesting to see how Google approaches that problem. Advertising costs, too, could be directly affected by the fact that Google and Bing are now competing for similar spaces outside their own.
The Yahoo-Google alliance isn’t dramatically changing SEO as a catalyst, but it is a good example of how the SEO world is becoming more platform-agnostic. If you’re currently only paying attention to Google rankings and performance, it’s time to widen your horizons and discover how you’re faring on other platforms.