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Hey Google, Yelp, DoorDash, and Amazon are the vertical search players in town

Episode Overview

Google is not the only search player in town. With competition from ecommerce sites, Amazon, Yelp, and apps like DoorDash growing in popularity, vertical search players are redefining and redistributing Google’s dominance. In this fifth podcast in Searchmetrics’ Non-Google Search Month series, SEO strategist Jordan Koene covers the changing verticalized landscape of search and looks to the future of IoT where your refrigerator could be ordering your next carton of eggs.

You’ll learn:

  • Has Google struggled to single-handily control the entire search experience and what product did they try to build 8 – 10 years ago?
  • How do the apps on our phone shape our search experience?
  • What is the role of YouTube in video search?
  • How does Yelp provide a better local experience?
  • Could Google’s Hotel Finder usurp and Airbnb?


Episode Transcript

Ben:                             Welcome to Non-Google Search Month on the Voices of Search podcast series. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro. And this month we’re turning the spotlight onto how you can optimize your SEO efforts for some of the most important search engines that don’t start with the letter G. And this week we’re kicking off Non-Google Search Month by publishing an episode every day discussing the history, status and optimization strategies of Google’s biggest competitors.

Ben:                           Joining us for Non-Google Search Month this week is Jordan Koene, who’s a world-renowned SEO strategist and the CEO here at Searchmetrics. So far, we’ve discussed the history of search outside of Google, how to prioritize and optimize your local non Google search engines, how to think about some of the more regionalized search engines. And today we’re going to talk about the verticalization of search for topics like video, eCommerce and local search engines. But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics.

Ben:                           We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with the consultation that reviews how your website content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to

Ben:                            Okay on with the show. Here’s the last conversation of Non-Google Search Week with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategists and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. Jordan, happy Friday and welcome to the end of the road for Non-Google Search Week.

Jordan:                         I see the finish line and I’m ready to cross.

Ben:                          Alright. Well let’s talk about some of the ways that search has changed in the last few years and specifically the rise of more verticalized search. There are some major players in the search industry that actually don’t classify themselves as search engines. Specifically Amazon and eCommerce, YouTube for video. And let’s throw in Yelp for local search. Talk to me about how you think about the verticalization of search.

Jordan:                        Yeah, this is a great place to start and I think that ultimately what we really have here is, what we really have here is kind of, the growth and maturity of text based search in difference experiences and the customization is required to make great experiences in vertical search. Most notably, I think one of the most commonly discussed search engines is a YouTube, right? I mean YouTube is a video based search experience. There’s tons of other examples. Others that really have to customize the experience to enable a true visual experience. So ultimately there’s YouTube in the video category, there’s the local one around Yelp. There’s eCommerce and Amazon. There’s a lot of hot button topics when it comes to vertical search. But I think that fundamentally we can boil this all down to one element, which is how do you create rewarding experiences that Google cannot do at a macro level? And you can do, and these experiences can do, excuse me, in a very specific and pristine way for that vertical.

Ben:                           It’s funny because I thought that the rise of verticalization was really centered around mobile and the rise of the App store. Where when someone goes on to their computer, and I guess there were desktop Apps before, but now the experience, the first experience you’re presented when you pick up a device, the most commonly picked up device is choosing an App, number one, right? It is not, here’s the web page that you decided is going to be presented, which for most people would be Google, right? So, it’s not the home of your browser, it’s what Apps you have on your phone as the default that are in front of you. And that’s what’s causing the verticalization.

Jordan:                        Yeah. And I think that App certainly helped to drive this further. Right? So, in particular with Yelp the App based experience is so rich that it forced users to become more accustomed to having a vertical search experience. Same goes for YouTube.

Jordan:                       But ultimately, I think that Apps or no Apps and mobile or no mobile, this was going to happen one way or another because it’s literally impossible for Google by themselves to control all of search for every single experience. One of the most notable products that Google tried to build maybe eight or ten years ago was the creation of kind of, a custom search engine that you could integrate and embed into your sites. And that was kind of Google’s way of trying to combat this problem. But the realization is that Google, by themselves, even with the support of someone who bought their custom search experience, really couldn’t break down the fact that these big companies were creating rich experiences that people were falling in love with and wanted to use consistently.

Ben:                           I think it’s less about the search, right? It’s not that Amazon can necessarily build a better search algorithm for products or that Yelp is going to show better local listings. It’s really the auxiliary services that come around when you find something that you’re searching for. They do a good enough job presenting you with the right product or with the right listing. But even if Google can do that slightly better, it’s kind of the same reason why Google passed Yahoo, is they did a better job at search and then had all these auxiliary services as well. Right? Yelp does a better job of not only showing you what the listing is, but then providing you with user generated content to help you evaluate whether that’s a place that you want to go. Or providing you with the contact information or the link to the map. A little bit of more of a visual experience.

Jordan:                        That’s absolutely right. It’s not that Google by themselves is completely forgetting about this. Right? So I think one of the big changes that we’re seeing right now in the industry and that we should definitely go back to how these vertical search experiences work and why our listeners should be connected to it, but Google is trying to change the game by embedding vertical search experiences into the I mean you search for a hotel nowadays, you’re going to get a hotel finder. That hotel finder is going to allow you to refine by the star level, the ratings, the price point.

Jordan:                         All of the things that you can do on, you can now do in the hotel finder that Google provides you and that’s a no brainer because Google can make ad dollars out of that and you never leave Google. You don’t have to go to anymore. Now the reality is the too little too late in some of these verticals for Google to now control the search experience and end. And I think in some cases it would be very hard for Google. Local being one of them, video being another one. I think those are places, just it would take a long time, a lot of muscle, a lot of energy for Google to really.

Ben:                           The truth is Google does own video search for the most part, but it was through acquisition, right? They bought YouTube and I’m sure that there is some data sharing between the YouTube property and Google that helps Google refine and understand when they should be passing traffic from Google to YouTube and when they should be presenting the video’s still on Google. I think the ones that stick out to me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in more detail about the competition between Google and Amazon and whether SEO should be focused on optimizing their Amazon listings or whether they should be focusing on optimizing their product pages to show up in Google.

Jordan:                       Yeah. That’s a very interesting topic and I think that still to this day right now, they’re two different distinct strategies that serve very different purposes. So, think of it from a more traditional marketing funnel. If you look at how Google allows you to generate exposure and awareness to your products, that is in a nutshell, how important having good rankings to your products is in Google. It is your biggest awareness channel, whether you’re selling a product that everybody else sells or it’s a unique product that only you offer, Google is your largest awareness channel. Hands down. Amazon’s more about cutthroat competition, right? This is now you’re down funnel here, you’re at the buying decision per point, right? So once someone goes into Amazon and they’re doing a really specific search, they pretty much made a decision that they’re going to buy this because they went to Amazon already, right?

Jordan:                         Amazon is not a browsing experience. I mean, it really isn’t. Amazon is never structurally built themselves to be a casual browsing experience. They have some of these elements on the site, but it’s taken them a long time to get to that place. And so, it’s pretty far-fetched to think that you’d be up funnel awareness focused if you’re trying to generate good rankings in Amazon. So I think that you serve very different customer needs and thus you have very different strategies for that and that should be reflected then, not only on the content and the way that you serve on your site, but then ultimately, even in business decisions, how you price your product. How do you price your product on Amazon versus how you price your product on your website? Or what are some of the attachments or value ads that you might provide when someone buys something from Google versus someone buying something from Amazon? These are core business decisions that you have to make.

Ben:                           So, I’m going to brush over video because Google, as a Google anchor Alphabet, as an owner of the product, right? They sort of have a stake in the video search game, they own the second largest search engine in the world, which is YouTube. Let’s talk a little bit about local and how do you think about the difference between optimizing listings for your pages to show up as local listings for Google or spending time optimizing for Yelp and the myriad of other local search engines. This seems like it’s a more dis-aggregated industry where there’s lots of places that you need to be listed.

Jordan:                        Yeah. So it does become a little bit more challenging because the listing games and the local game is one where there’s a lot of time and energy that can be put into them. And depending on your category, your industry, there can be a myriad of results. And so ultimately, it comes down to understanding your business category and how much affinity there is to that vertical search experience and thus how much trickled down traffic can I generate from that.

Jordan:                      So for example, if you’re a restaurant, it’s a no brainer. You got to be in Yelp because you’re going to get traffic from Yelp. It’s just, there’s too much of an association, there’s too much affinity as I said earlier, between those two, that vertical search experience and then your site’s ability to generate and inquire traffic from it. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you completely disregard Google. But if I’m a restaurant owner, I would spend a lot of time on my Yelp profile and I would probably spend as much time on my Yelp profile and my Yelp experience as I do on my independent website. Maybe even a little bit more time on Yelp versus my independent website and probably even less time on YouTube.

Ben:                         So, Jordan, there’s another topic that we didn’t really talk about, which is the Internet of Things, IOT, right? There’s a whole set of other devices that are coming out that are essentially search enabled. Talk to me about how you think SEO should prioritize and what do they need to know about that classification of search engines?

Jordan:                        Right. I love how we’re going to going down the path here, right? Which is like broadly speaking, big search, Google, other search engines. Then we’re going down into these verticals and specific players within local video and other places. And then now here we are, this other enabled search, enabled being that it’s part of either another device, like an Alexa enabled device, like an Echo. Or other devices like your washing machine, your refrigerator, the works. Your car nowadays. And the reality is that it’s not just voice search, but device-based search experiences are going to change the game again and they’re going to change the way we do searches, the behaviors behind our searches, the way we interact in our refinement of searches and this is going to really be one of the critical steps that I believe we all need to be very mindful of.

Jordan:                        But again, it’s the last on the prioritization list, but one of my favorite examples is all these delivery service companies, right? Like the Door Dashes or the grocery delivery service for your local grocery store or Costco.

Ben:                          Shout out to Good Eggs. You’re my favorite.

Jordan:                       There we go. Good Eggs. These delivery service options, they are going to have to become relevant in the refrigerator space. I know that this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but you don’t know what you don’t know yet, which is that these refrigerators have sensors now. They have sensors, they have video, they have all this data they collect and so they can literally enable Good Eggs or any other delivery service to let you know when you’re out of eggs and have them deliver that day. And that is a remarkable feature that’s going to change the search game because what happens when you get tired of the same old brown eggs that you’ve been buying for the last year or two and you go to your refrigerator and you say, “Hey refrigerator, what are some of the other egg options that I can have?” And so the refrigerator is going to give you choices and it’s going to have to give you choices and that is going to be a part of our everyday life.

Jordan:                       And so, although that does not entirely here today, I do believe that, especially the smart technology companies who are pushing the boundary of how search drives their business, they’re thinking about this. And there will be market makers that acquire traffic and revenue from this channel. There are many that are already doing it and there will be more successful companies in the future.

Ben:                          You know what I’m hearing by going through this entire week is that we think about Google being this model, this monopoly of search, they own 90% of the web based, text based, search industry. And then when we break it down, we think about, okay, well they own 90% of that, but the biggest market in the world being China, they actually have almost zero market share. And there’s another search engine that’s international and then they lose 10% over here to just the second players, the Bings, the Yahoos of the world. And then when we think about expanding beyond just Google and we think about all the other places where people are searching, whether it’s eCommerce, local, video, your refrigerator, maybe this is one that’s a little farther down. Jordan, I know you love the smart IOT refrigerator analogy.

Jordan:                         I do. Yes, I do.

Ben:                           But Google really owns a much smaller percentage of the holistic search pie than what we say when, with talking about web-based search.

Ben:                           And so, over the rest of the month what we’re going to be doing is diving in a little deeper. Talking about some of the localized searches, some of the videos, some of the eCommerce players, to give you a sense of what some people that are spending their time optimizing for those platforms, how they think about the landscape and how they think about the competition between those channels and Google. So, Jordan, before we say goodbye and we wrap up the Non-Google Search Week, do you have any last words or anything else you want to say to the SEO’s?

Jordan:                        Well, the big challenge here is creativity, right? And as we look at some of these non-Google specific search engines and experiences, it really begs the question of how your business and your business model and the content and the content assets you have can be Applied and adapted into these new environments? So, there’s a tremendous amount of benefit when you find creative solutions that ultimately drive growth and success to your business through these non-Google related search experiences. And so, best of luck to all of you. And if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

Ben:                           Okay, and that wraps up this episode and the Non-Google Search Week on the voices of search podcasts. Thanks for listening to my conversations with Jordan the lead SEO strategists and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes or you can contact him on Twitter where his handle is jtkoene. If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shap. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast App and we’ll be back in your feed next week.

Ben:                           Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for this week, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Searchmetrics. Previously, Jordan was the Head of SEO and Content Development at eBay. During his time at eBay, Jordan focused on utilizing eBay content to improve user experience and natural search traffic.

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