You probably haven’t thought twice about the fact that your iPhone’s Safari browser uses Google as its default search engine. It would be understandable too because Google has 88% share of the US market when it comes to search engines and it’s hard to think of browsing the internet these days without Google. It just makes sense to use them at first glance.
But then consider the fact that Apple’s Safari has 57% share of the US mobile browser market. Everything else Apple does keeps you in their ecosystem because it all connects – apps, mail, watches, etc. So why doesn’t Apple have its own search engine too?
It turns out Google reportedly pays Apple billions of dollars to stay the default search engine in iOS. That’s a lot of money to pass up and seems like Apple would be foolish to attempt going head to head with the search giant.
However in recent months after mounting antitrust allegations against Google and the possibility that they might have to stop paying Apple for the rights to being the default, Apple seems to be acting on the idea that they should probably have their own search engine.
1. Earlier this year, Apple posted job openings for Search Engineers that focused on AI, machine learning, and natural language processing.
2. Apple recently updated their About page for Applebot that explains how the bot traffic would be recognized, what rules they follow when it comes to crawling, and even what ranking factors they would consider for search results – more on that in a bit.
3. We posted last month about how we were seeing huge increases in Applebot activity to our clients’ websites which seems to confirm they are working on indexing more web pages.
4. Apple launched iOS 14 earlier this year which included Spotlight Search that circumvents Google when a user is looking for certain types of files or readily available information.
If Apple has their own search engine in the near future, that means webmasters and app developers could market directly in Apple and shift some of their budget away from Google. This is sure to be a huge hit to Google since more than half of all search traffic to Google currently comes from Apple devices according to a Department of Justice investigation.
That’s a lot of traffic (eyeballs) Apple can take back and put back into its own ecosystem. This in turn means advertisers will want to pay to be in front of those eyeballs and Apple can recuperate the loss of Google’s billions.
For digital marketers and SEOs, it could be a bit of a Wild West for a while as we navigate the landscape and try to take advantage of a new world with new rankings.
Pulled directly from Apple’s site, they quote the following items as factors they may take into consideration when ranking search results:
These should look familiar to a lot of SEOs because they are essentially the same as top ranking factors for Google. The difference though would be all of the data Apple has on users that they can access and factor into signals like User Engagement. The nuances of this compared to Google will be interesting to learn and harness for future optimizations.
It seems likely that Apple is developing its own search engine and the effects on traffic could be huge almost overnight when it launches. Marketers should be aware of how their sites perform on Apple devices, how they look on Safari, and what steps they need to take next to ensure their site is ready.
Welcome to the Wild West.