Google Search Monopoly Is Ending, SES Keynote Says
"The Google monopoly that people have feared is over," he said.
Sullivan, the editor of Search Engine Watch newsletter, said the search wars involving Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, AOL would lead to a more diverse and healthy search market for consumers and marketers.
"I hope nobody wins," he said of the much-debated fight for search supremacy. "I like it because I like a diversity of search voices."
Yahoo has raised its search voice in the past two weeks. It replaced Google's search technology with its own Feb. 18 and introduced a paid inclusion program March 1 that lets marketers submit Web pages to its index. Search results are based on relevancy, whether a listing paid to be included or was retrieved via Yahoo's crawling technology.
Though Yahoo said inclusion listings make up less than 1 percent of its search index of billions of Web pages, Sullivan said the lack of upfront disclosure on the results page of which listings paid for inclusion could hurt Yahoo's credibility with searchers.
"Some people want to know," he said, suggesting Yahoo put a mark next to paid inclusion listings.
Yahoo hopes its paid inclusion listings, in addition to free submissions from non-commercial sources like the Library of Congress, build its search index to rival Google's index of more than 6 billion Web pages, images and messages.
Sullivan warned, however, that a bigger index and strong brand do not guarantee success: "You have to be backed up by relevance."
Google still maintains a healthy lead in the search market, accounting for 51.3 percent of searches through its own site and AOL, according to comScore Media Metrix data from December. Yahoo accounted for 42.5 percent of searches on its own property and MSN. Sullivan said the market would fragment further when Microsoft develops its own algorithmic search technology in the next two years and AOL continues to differentiate its search.
"Four voices is better than two," Sullivan said.
Brian Morrissey covers search marketing for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest search marketing news subscribe to our free e-mail weekly newsletter Search Engine Marketing by visiting http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/newslettersub.cgi .