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Apple Steps Up Development Efforts of its Search Engine

In what is perceived as a move in direct competition with Google, Apple has stepped up efforts to develop its own search engine. While the news of development may not feel like ‘news’ to some, efforts are ramping up following the recent spotlight of the multi-billion dollar deal Google has with Apple to be the default search engine for iOS devices.

Google has been under scrutiny internationally for several years and is now facing legal battles in the US over anti-trust and monopolization of the search market, diminishing the possibility for competition to grow. These legal battles forced Google and Apple to halt renewal discussions of their partnership which could result in a significant impact on revenue streams for both companies.

The development of Applebot

Apple’s crawlers were detected by eagle-eyed SEOs as far back as 2014, with Apple confirming the existence of Applebot in 2015. Despite seemingly not making much movement outwardly, Apple went on to hire Google’s John Giannandrea, who was believed to be focusing on the artificial intelligence capabilities of Siri, while providing his wealth of experience after overseeing Google search for eight years. With speculation from former Google executives Bill Coughran and Sridhar Ramaswamy that Apple is uniquely positioned to enter as a competitor to Google, many feel that Apple’s efforts and focus areas still point to improving Siri’s capabilities as their primary goal, as opposed to creating a true competitor to Google.

Privacy as a consideration

Privacy is one of the main impact elements that would suggest Apple is well positioned to compete and eat into Google’s market share. Google has long been regarded as less than perfect with its history of using personal data, while Apple has heavily pushed their privacy features in recent marketing campaigns across its iOS products. Apple is also well positioned against Google as it is not reliant on advertising spend/income for its revenue – but of course does not have the same access to personalized data with which to target users.

Much like Duck Duck Go, a relatively small but mighty – and growing – search engine whose focus is very much on privacy, Apple insists ‘privacy is a fundamental human right’ and ‘one of our core values’. Given the various changes across the globe and in the US regarding privacy, this could prove a significant selling point for an Apple search engine.

So, what next?

Considering the relative market share Apple has, as well as its own various legal battles when it comes to monopolization of the phone market, Apple would also be wary that they may face similar issues of perceived monopolization if they were to delve into the business of search.  

While the prospect of Apple as a search engine would certainly shake up Google’s relative monopolization, the basic principles of optimizing for human behavior and intent will not change. While Apple’s ranking factors may be slightly different, it’s incredibly unlikely that they will differ vastly from what consumers accustomed to experiencing. It’s highly likely though that consumers will appreciate the lack of ads among their results.

Brands already focusing on optimizing their organic presence for customer intent will likely only see benefits from the addition of an Apple search engine. However, brands too heavily reliant on paid traffic may see some performance declines if Apple is successful in eating into Google’s dominance of the search industry. Those reliant on Paid ads today should assess how their organic performance against paid efforts and act.