Everyone wants to get to the top of Google search, but it's importance is edging nearer and nearer to a potential slide into obscurity unless it can reinvent itself.
Remember the early days of the internet? Alta Vista, anyone? The World Wide Web was a much simpler place, with websites that left a lot to be desired by today's standards. Imagery was kept to a minimum due to the slowness of most users connections, and text was king.
This is the world for which Google was designed, and indeed took over. It edged out competitors like Alta Vista and Yahoo to become the world's number one search engine, and it has held onto that crown until this day. Getting websites to the top of Google's search results became a career for some people, and it could make the difference between lots of visitors or barely any at all. But, the world has been changing, and some user demographics are beginning to abandon Google.
And I still cannot find what I'm looking for...
You see, Google has a problem. In today's world of dynamic content websites and services, it often cannot find the information that people are searching for. I've been noticing this myself, with lots of the same sites appearing, or at least some very limited, repetitive results, along with lots of sponsored links. I've often wondered, why, given the millions, perhaps billions, of websites that must exist around the world, Google seems to return such limited search results now. It makes for a frustrating experience.
For a few years now, YouTube, also owned by Google, has been referred to as the 'second search engine'. And yes, YouTube is used by great swathes of people as one of the main places they go to search for information on a subject. Given Google's own penchant for placing importance on video search results whether you want them or not, YouTube could arguably be seen as being more important than Google Search in some regards.
However, the modern web and its users are placing less importance on the search behemoth. Increasing frustration over limited or bias search results has meant turning to other sources of information. One of those is Reddit, a gigantic community of users covering pretty much any obscure topic matter you care to mention.
Reddit is highly moderated, and content comes in for scrutiny from group owners so it doesn't have the toxicity of places like Twitter. In order to start a group yourself you need a certain number of Karma points, and you can only earn these by being a positive, helpful community member. Reddit, unlike many places on the internet, doesn't welcome company shills. However, it does contain a vast amount of content on all types of topics, and it is this that is turning it into a not so obvious rival to Google.
Indeed, Reddit's communities are Google searchable, and lots of people are discovering that appending "Reddit" to their Google searches often gets them the information they were after in the first place.
Have a think about how much importance you now place on Google? Is it becoming more, or less? For example, if you're searching for general products, do you go to Google first or Amazon? I thought about this myself, and for a great many things I will use Amazon as a first port of call rather than do a Google search.
TikTok isn't just for entertainment
However, there is another service that is quickly becoming the go-to search engine for Generation Z, and that's TikTok. Now, to an older generation, one login to TikTok is like being set on fire and given a one way ticket to hell. To old fuddy duddies, TikTok is one big cacophony of sound, an endless stream of short, vacuous content that could bring about the end of person-to-person communication and social skills forever...
But that would be to vastly simplify and gloss over the real power of TikTok. It is, simply, a very powerful search engine. Even Google has noticed, with its own figures showing that over 40% of younger people will use the app to search for a local restaurant or advice on how to do something rather than use Google Search or Google Maps.
It's easy to see why. A search for local restaurants brings with it attention grabbing visuals and sounds, and you can really see and get a sense for what the place is about. Don't go thinking that this is only for big places like London or New York, though. You can search for businesses in pretty much every town and even village, and you can often find great looking videos. It's a bit like video advertising on demand.
It's also a useful information source. Want to know how to bleed a radiator or fillet a fish? Do a TikTok search and you can find short, sharp, no nonsense videos showing you how, without the slow, drawn out style you often get on YouTube. Who hasn't found a how-to video on YouTube and found themselves muttering under their breath to 'just get on with it'?!
TikTok's very nature means that the videos have to be to the point and visually interesting, so you can get the information you need quickly. It's this aspect that gives a feeling of search relevance, and it's why the younger generation are using it more and more.
TikTok isn't free from issues. There's concern about the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories and how easily it can be disseminated. It has been banned in countries such as India, and in the US it is prohibited from being installed on government devices. But its ascent is a stark reminder that even the largest and most successful technology companies can be made irrelevant if they don't keep up with the times and how people are using the internet. Even Google Maps is under threat, with younger users increasingly going to Snap Maps, part of Snap Chat, to find local businesses.
It was always inevitable that as the internet expanded, particularly as smartphones took over, people would find a wider variety of ways to discover information and content. The trouble with Google Search is that it was designed for a world that doesn't really exist anymore, and whilst it does still remain the primary search engine on the planet, it's crown is very much under threat. And that's not necessarily a bad thing at all.