Question – when is a search engine not a search engine? Answer – when it’s an answer engine. It is important to understand the difference. Understand what potential customers are looking for and decide on your tactics accordingly.

Are prospects looking for a quick answer to a question, or do they want to learn and/or compare? Look at Google today. If you want celebrity gossip, latest (fake?) news, directions, or to ask a quick question it’s ok.

Alternatively, if you want to research or learn more about a topic then the user experience is poor. In one of my other lives, I do a lot of research into various topics and use search engines as a starting point. Personally, if I want more than a basic level of detail, I don’t use Google.

Why does this matter to me you ask? If you are in e-commerce or any sort of click/buy operation it doesn’t. However, if you are an accountant, tradesman, Chiropractor, IFA or in any business where customers are likely to perform some research before engaging, it could be an issue.

Today Google is the dominant search engine (roughly 88% worldwide market share), but there is nothing to suggest that will always be the case. Will they lose that dominant position? Who knows, but there is a significant benefit in being ahead of the game if it comes to pass.

One day your potential customers could go to their first choice of search engine (Google) but get frustrated they cannot find what they need. They may have heard about Duckduckgo give them a try and never go back. A prospect may stumble on Bing, be pleasantly surprised by what they find and use them as their default starting point if they need detail on a topic.

What if you have put all your efforts into Google and you are nowhere to be seen on the alternatives? What then? If it is at all possible you should own the relationship with prospects and not be reliant on some third-party tool (Google, Facebook or a raft of others).

Failing that it is best not to rely on a single tool. You can’t control their business practices. Google may have taken a strategic decision to position itself as an answer engine and that’s fine but be aware of the implications for your business.

I may be wrong. In two years, someone may read this post and think what an idiot (or worse). One day if people don’t find what they want on Google, they will leave. When that day comes, be ready. Try to be there before the crowds.

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