You exercise your rights to make a lot of choices online every day. You choose which news website you want to visit to catch up on what’s going on the world, you decide what email provider you want to
use, and you select your favorite search engine to find information of all kinds. But that last choice might not be as free as you think it is. One of the biggest trends in the fierce competition between Google, Bing, and Yahoo!’s search engines is one that flies under the radar of most users. Depending on the device and operating system that you use, you may be bullied—or maybe “forcefully nudged” is a more accurate term—into using one search engine rather than the other choices. Here’s how Microsoft and Google, in particular, are using the powerful tool of defaults to give their search engines the edge.
Defaults Tend to Stick
Microsoft (which owns the Bing search engine) and Google (which, obviously, owns the Google search engine) know something important about human nature. It’s the principle that any given person is more likely to continue with a particular method of doing things instead of going to the trouble of changing it, as long as the old method is sufficient to satisfy his needs. The adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a folksy way of saying it. Even if a new method promises real advantages, a person is still fairly likely to continue doing things the way he is used to doing them, hanging onto comfort and familiarity instead of trading them for something objectively better.
That’s why the default settings on a phone, mobile device, or computer’s operating system are so important. In the vast majority of cases, the purchaser of a new device will use whatever search engine is installed as the default, never even trying to switch to a different option. Thus, if Microsoft’s new Surface laptop computer catches on in a big way, most of those new Surface owners will automatically become Bing users rather than Google users, because Bing is installed as the default search engine on the laptop’s operating system. On Apple devices, however, Google is installed as the default search engine. While it is possible to change the default search engine on your device, the process for doing so is usually complicated enough to discourage most users.
Does It Matter?
Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have been competing vigorously for search engine users for many years, and the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices made that competition even fiercer, as people spent more time than ever before browsing the Internet and searching for information. But for the average individual user, does it really matter which search engine is on his or her device? A person who is tech-savvy enough to have a strong preference for one of the three big search engines (or one of the many up-and-coming smaller alternatives) will be willing to expend the time and effort necessary to change the defaults on his device and use the engine he prefers. The typical user, however, won’t be bothered by having Bing execute his keyword searches instead of Google (or the other way around) and may not even notice which search engine his device is using.
What It Means for Website Owners
Thinking about the issue from the perspective of website owners, it becomes clear that the topic of default search engines has an unmistakable message: Don’t focus your Internet marketing efforts on one search engine and ignore the others! Investing all of your pay-per-click budget in Google AdWords, for instance, will leave your ads absent from most of the Microsoft devices that run Bing as the default search engine. And you need your SEO consultant to pay attention to algorithm updates on all three major search engines so that he can keep your web pages near the top of the rankings on all devices.
Comprehensive search engine optimization means addressing all aspects of your website, as they pertain to all the search engines, on all types of devices. That’s a tall order, but here at PalmettoSoft we’re up to the task. Please email us today and find out how we can help your website perform better.