Apple’s Rumored Search Engine and the Impact of the Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit
February 23, 2021
A new search engine is on the horizon. According to multiple news sources, Apple is looking to develop their own search engine. Most speculate this is directly due to an antitrust lawsuit that involves Google. There has been evidence that Apple has already begun stepping up efforts to develop their own search technology in order to try and capture market share and provide their own default search engine on Apple devices, a position currently held by Google.
Background on the Anti-Trust Lawsuit and How it Impacts Apple
Google currently has a global market share of 87% and is effectively dominating the search engine space. Google is being scrutinized because there have been numerous accusations of tactics it has used to shut out competitors, such as pre-installing its browser as the default across various devices, most notably their Android phones, Google Nest, YouTube, Maps, Apple devices and many others.
The antitrust lawsuit accuses Google of violating section 2 of the Sherman Act, which makes monopolies illegal in the United States.
According to the DOJ complaint, “Google estimates that in 2019 almost 50 percent of its search traffic originated on Apple devices,” which could lead to a considerable dip in market share for Google if Apple were to move forward. This is particularly true for mobile and tablet devices where Apple dominates the space with iPhones and iPads. With the benefits of this shift clearly defined, there have already been signs of changes on Apple’s end.
How the Google Lawsuit Affects the Search Landscape
Perhaps the most obvious shift, if Google were to lose the lawsuit, would be that it would further diversify search engine market share. With Apple’s Safari coming in as the most popular mobile browser in the United States, the development of an Apple search engine would create a chance for Apple to build a completely independent digital experience for its users. This venture into a new opportunity of information distribution for Apple would be enormous as it earns the ability to integrate search more seamlessly into its browsers and devices and might open the opportunity to create new functionalities that would advance the tech world.
Apple’s own search engine would also potentially open another revenue stream for the tech giant via paid advertising. With the ability to provide users with their own search environment, user generated revenue would shift from coming from Google Ads to coming from Apple’s search engine ads. According to statista.com, iPhone users make up about 45% of smartphone users in the US. Assuming Apple makes their new search engine the default and users don’t manually switch back to Google, that is a significant shift in search engine use and Ad inventory.
Applebot: Another Sign of Apple’s Plans
There will be (and has already been) increased activity from Applebot, Apple’s website crawler, which products like Siri and Spotlight suggestions already use. The Applebot support page was also updated, which included adding directions on how to verify traffic from Applebot, as well as expanded sections on Apple’s user agent and robots.txt rules, all very strong signals that their search engine is right around the corner.
Organic Search Ranking Factors
Apple has also added a section on how it will eventually rank organic web search results and the factors webmasters will have to take into consideration if they would like to ensure that their content gets distributed through their search engine. These elements include:
- Aggregated user engagement with search results
- Relevancy and matching of search terms to webpage topics and content
- Number and quality of links from other pages on the web
- User location-based signals (approximate data)
- Webpage design characteristics
As expected, many of Apple’s organic ranking factors that it defined are currently similar to Google’s, such as the importance of relevancy and quality of content. And like Google, Apple is not specifying the priority of each factor.
What Does This Mean for SEO and for Brands?
Due to Google’s 87% share of market influence, SEO professionals have traditionally prioritized Google over other engines, such as Bing. However, Apple having their own search engine will likely mean a new focus on optimizing for Apple’s search engine, particularly for mobile and tablet searches.
If Apple’s search engine does come to fruition, it will be important to optimize and track website performance across all search engines and understand the best practices each engine has set in order to perform well. This will also be important for voice search initiatives, as Siri is a popular search assistant for Apple that currently utilizes Google search. SEO professionals may also have some good news to look forward to, as Apple may be more transparent with ranking factors compared to Google which could allow brands to better prioritize SEO recommendations.
From an SEO perspective, the launch of a new search engine will likely mean limited adjustments to search strategy and tactics but time will tell with the launch of this search engine whether or not specialized “Apple Specific Search Optimization Tactics” will be created.
The addition of another search engine would expand our ability to absorb data as we will diligently work to understand how this new search engine interacts with our client’s digital properties. We will quickly find ways to generate new opportunities to connect with the Apple search audience to support them through their journey to discovery through organic search.
CMI/Compas is committed to evolving SEO and SEM & Emerging Media strategies and will adjust as needed. Our SEO team strategies are built on a foundation of respecting traditional best practices in our three main pillars: Content, Technical and Digital Authority, but we will eagerly include any elements that Apple might value in order to keep our clients on the cutting edge.
Please reach out to your CMI/Compas SEO & SEM and Emerging Media leads if you have any questions about this update.