Google's 'biggest search competitor' is Amazon, says former boss

14/10/2014

Google considers Amazon as its biggest search competitor, ahead of traditional rivals like Yahoo and Bing, as people looking to buy something are more likely to search on the online retailer’s website.

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Speaking to an audience in Berlin on Monday Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that Amazon is more focused on commerce, “but, at their roots, they are answering users questions and searches, just as we are.”

Schmidt, who now serves as chairman of Google's board of directors, said Amazon is his company's No. 1 rival when it comes to search, thanks to Amazon's active e-commerce site.

"Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo," he said during a visit to a Native Instruments, software and hardware company in Berlin. "But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don't think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon."

Schmidt noted that people are looking for a different kind of answers on Amazon's site through the slew of reviews and product pages, but it's still about getting information.

Google is the most popular site on the Internet, receiving about 233.1 million unique visitors for all its sites, according to ComScore's media report for the month of August. Amazon ranks sixth on the list, attracting roughly 172 million unique visitors.

However, even though Google holds the dominant position of accounting for more than 90% of the online search market, Schmidt said he was still weary of the "next Google".

"Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it," he added.

A sleeping giant in online advertising

Amazon has been in the news recently for moves beyond its core e-commerce business. The company has often been referred to as a “sleeping giant” in the ad industry due to its vast amounts of under-used consumer data. The online retailer’s insights into the shopping habits of its almost 250m active users could make it a potent tool for marketers if it does expand the platform to a wider scope.

Amazon is currently working on its own online ad platform, as the online retailer looks to utilise its massive amounts of user data to serve ads relevant to their buying habits, in a bid to challenge Google’s dominance in the display sector.

The ‘Amazon Sponsored Links’ service will initially replace Google’s AdWords ads that appear on the online retailers pages.

However, in time, Amazon plans to expand these ads to external websites, in a bid to rival Google’s DoubleClick ad network.

The platform will service both desktop and mobile advertising, and Amazon is already working with potential ad partners, with tests running later this year.

Amazon is also developing an ad exchange platform that will let ad agencies buy in bulk for thousands of advertisers.

In August, Amazon bought live-streaming gaming network Twitch Interactive for about $970m (£603m), marking the biggest acquisition its 20-year history. Google was earlier reported to be in talks to buy Twitch.

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