The Actual Width of the World Wide Web

Just over a quarter-century ago, long before mobile, social, or even Google, the very first search engine came to fruition in the form of a university archive called: Archie Query Forum. Now, fast-forward twenty-plus years, and "Google it" has become a household phrase...depending however, on what household you live in. The "households" that don't Google are not limited to non-web users. In 2016 you would think that everyone is connected to the Web. Well, according to Internet Live Stats, the number of people online compared to the total world population is still only about 40%, or 3.3 billion. Despite this, these numbers have been increasing exponentially in the 21st century, considering that in 1995 only 1% of the world was connected to the Web.  Said another way, within the total internet population these non-Google users still exist. So who are they? What are they doing?

Just Google It

"Oh! I don't know...why don't you just Yandex it?!" This particular phrase is probably something most of us are not too familiar with hearing, but for 67 million web users it is the norm. While 67 million is only a small percentage of the 3.3 billion people online (roughly 2-3 percent), the usage trend shows continuous growth year over year that is anticipated to continue. In the wake of an ever-changing World Wide Web, another emerging trend is the increasingly slowed growth rate of Google searches conducted each year. This trend can be attributed to not only other search engines like Yandex that serve non-American populations, but the differences in types of Internet users as compared to 10 years ago. While young Snapchatters who grew up in the midst of the evolving Web may prefer to Google search, the later-adopting Baby Boomers may very well be using Yahoo search.

Yan...dex, You Say?

At a glance you would think that Google is the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of the Internet, but as aforementioned, while some of us are "Googling it", others are "Yandexing it", "Binging it", "Baiduing it", and so on. Although Google may lead the way in the race of search engines, depending what source you reference, NetMarketShare claims they control about 71%, while DMR Stats cites a 75% share  of the world search engine queries. So who are all of the other players that comprise the remaining 25-29 percent? The answer is found in the same NetMarketShare infographic, showing Bing holds 12%, Baidu holds over 7%, and Yahoo also holds 7% (most of which comes from Japan where Yahoo is the preferred search engine).

The Web Break-Down

Globally, quite a few other competitors are making good old Google sweat a bit. Tell me, are you feeling lucky? (My poor attempt at a Google joke...) Internationally, people are Yandexing, Baiduing, Yahooing, and the list goes on and on. This JimmyData infographic illustrates search engine market share distributions across several countries. An interesting fact to highlight is that in Japan, Yahoo is the leading search engine, not Google.

Web Surfers Choose Their Own Wave

 Different ethnic and world cultures consume media and respond to messages differently based on their preferences. The same can be said about search engine utilization. As the globe continues to shrink in the wake of the World Wide Web, these cultural nuances are something international brands should consider when trying to capture global audiences. Up until now there has been little attention paid to this increasing trend of the "other" search networks. In other words, now is the time to do it. Even as the wizards over at Google work to improve the quality of the search engine product and the algorithms used to produce page results, a huge demand is created for competitors to step-up to the plate and develop solutions that appeal to the inherent human need for options, choices and preferences. One search engine that comes to mind is, a search engine dedicated to serving users who strongly care about protecting their privacy, meaning that they do not collect cookie data on their users. While this may be true, they still have paid search ads and in the near future some brands may see high value in targeting the ad-blocked and web-private audience.

More Than One Language

Looking at this through a multicultural lens offers even greater implications for brands to consider the premise of the multicultural search landscape. In the U.S., a variety of ethnicities migrate here from other countries and cultures, bringing with them their localized web browsing habits. Chinese-Americans' searches will likely use a combination of Chinese and English search terms depending on what their level of comfort is with translation. This same fact is the reason a first generation Chinese millennial living in the U.S. would choose to utilize both Baidu and Google, depending on what they are searching.

The Cold, Hard Truth

In conclusion, the truth is that there is very little data on the Internet related to global search trends and user preferences. If the Internet has taught us one thing it is that being more visible on the Web is always to the benefit of the marketer. So if your brand has not been running search campaigns across more networks than just Google, now is the time to start. The insights that can be derived from a test campaign alone can reveal hugely important details related to the search habits of your target audience. Even if the outcome of a Yahoo paid search campaign reaffirms that a strictly Google campaign is the way to reach your brand's target audience, there is only one way to find out - test it.


This article was co-authored by Oliver Walsh, Digital Account Manager @GravityMediaLLC