Is Google’s biggest threat Russian?

(This article was originally published in the Belfast Telegraph on 21 May 2010. It’s been modified slightly for this blog.)

Google seems to have a global stranglehold on the internet search market. With market shares ranging from 60% to 95%, depending on what country you’re in, Google is the preferred search engine for users from Warsaw to Hawaii.

But there are some big gaps in Google’s global dominance. Take Russia for example. A Russian company called Yandex has monopolised the Russian internet landscape for years with its own Russian-language only web portal, yandex.ru.

On May 19th Yandex launched an international version of its search engine on yandex.com. Search engine professionals around the world fell on it like sharks, trying to find faults with it. We search engine optimisers love to complain, and we were fully expecting Yandex’s foray in to Google’s territory to be buggy and flawed.

We were wrong. As it turns out the yandex.com search engine is good. Really good. The results Yandex provides are amazingly relevant, accurate, and spam-free. It easily beats Bing, Microsoft’s attempt to undermine Google’s dominance, and might even be better than Google.

Google initially came to dominance because its results were more accurate and cleaner than those of its rivals at the time. Serious internet users quickly adopted Google as their preferred search engine, and it spread virally from there.

But over the years Google has kept adding features and functionality to its engine, which have ended up cluttering and distorting their search results. Add to that the pervasive presence of ads on Google – 99% of Google’s revenue is from its advertising platforms – and you end up with a search engine that perhaps has lost a lot of its appeal.

Yandex seems primed to fill Google’s shoes as the new favourite search engine for serious internet surfers. Its results are clean and accurate and lack the clutter that has come to characterise Google.

It will take much more than just a strong search engine to overthrow Google. But I for one welcome the added choice and hope that Yandex, as well as Bing, can nibble at Google’s market share. Competition is good for everyone.

Hype, SEO

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