In normal times, the news that Google is threatening to pack up its search offering and head back home would send shock waves through the marketing and business communities.
But these are not normal times.
A year of marketing through COVID-19, and all the flexibility and resilience that has been required, has made us all a little harder to rattle.
That said, what should we expect if Google flicks the switch on its worst-case scenario and stops making Google Search available in Australia?
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Firstly, marketers and businesses use Google for a lot more than just search ads or search engine optimisation.
There has been no comment on the future of the many other valuable Google services, and given the revenue and customer bases involved, I’d see it as likely that the non-search specific opportunities for marketing and advertising within Google would remain either in their entirety or in some significant form.
Let’s consider the worst-case scenario where Google.com.au ceases to be available.
The most important thing to remember is this will not be the end of search in Australia.
While it would almost certainly make marketing more unpredictable and complex for a time, there would be plenty of opportunities for smart marketers to jump ahead of the competition.
Google’s exit would likely do nothing to decrease the number of searches performed daily in Australia. All that will change is that Google will no longer serve these requests.
In fact, given the differing sophistication of the other search engines, there remains a distinct possibility that more, rather than fewer, searches will be required to find the right result.
Which search engine would win?
Where will the estimated 94% of the search market Google controls in Australia end up?
Will it be the next-most-popular search engine in Australia: Bing? Or will one of the smaller players be the big winner? Perhaps Yahoo, DuckDuckGo or Ecosia?
A reasonable guess is that the remaining players will all gain market share and we will end up with a more competitive search market than we’ve had since the early-2000s.
It would also be reasonable to assume that Bing would be the biggest winner as it has the deepest pockets and the largest share of the market outside of Google currently.
There would also be the question of how the remaining search engines would respond to the legislation triggering this discussion.
Impact on Search Ads
If you’ve invested time and money into Google Ads (and who hasn’t) you shouldn’t panic.
You can currently import your Google Ads campaigns directly into Microsoft Advertising and appear on Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and more.
Impact on SEO
This one is trickier. While most search engines favour similar signals when it comes to their algorithms, it’s commonly accepted that Google has the most powerful engine overall.
What this means is that much of the work you might have done to rank well within Google will not have been wasted.
However, depending on which search engines you favour in the future, additional work may need to be done to make your results as attractive as possible.
Advertisers follow audiences
Your job as a marketer is to find your audience.
Whatever happens with Google in the Australian marketplace your audience will still be there. They’ll simply be in different places.
Finding them might be a little harder at first which means that those marketers who think through the challenge quickly and intelligently will have an advantage.
As with all challenges, the question you need to ask yourself is, where is the opportunity?