“Did you hear the news? More people perform product searches on Amazon than Google now.”
This buzz started a couple of years ago, and since then, it’s picked up. Seems like every month or two we see a new headline about the latest data. Sometimes the headline says that Google took back the lead or that Amazon has been slowing. But the question of who is ahead is clearly of interest to a lot of people.
After hearing this “fact” about Amazon being more dominant than Google a few times, we decided to go digging. And guess what? It’s BS… Probably.
It’s interesting how these headlines have captivated the attention of so many in the ecommerce and advertising industries. It makes sense. If you’re an independent Magento merchant but everyone is moving to Amazon, then maybe you need to rethink your strategy.
The problem is, these headlines are universally based on really poor surveys from companies nobody has heard of outside a particular niche. They’re click bait.
We went on a quest to find the best data available on this topic, and we were thwarted. There simply is no good data available to answer this question.
Bogus Industry Reports
Go ahead and do a search for “Does Amazon Get More Product Searches Than Google?” There are quite a few links to various headlines making claims on the topic. Click into them. They’ll reference studies from this company or that. Try to actually find a real report that dives into the data. Try to find the data. Nobody links to it.
If you follow the links as far as you can go, you’ll find a few purported “reports” that are nothing more than Powerpoint slide decks with a few slides that have graphs or simplistic charts on them. No information on the underlying data. No information about where it came from, other than “a survey”. In one case, the survey was of people who had bought from Amazon in the past so many months. Uhhhh… That does not give me confidence. Of course that survey found that over 60% of people start their product searches on Amazon!
What about the survey question? Supposedly, these surveys were about where people start their product searches. But what exactly is a product search? How that question is worded, and how respondents interpret the meaning really matters here. Is the survey a question about their last purchase? Or an open-ended question about where they start their searches that only gives them a choice of one or the other, when most of us probably search differently at different times and/or for different types of products. Or did it ask about the percent of time they did one versus the other?
What about when I go look up product review videos on YouTube? Does that count as a product search, or not? But more importantly, how do survey participants interpret things like this? What is a product search? Is it when I know exactly what I want to buy and am checking prices, or does it include earlier research?
Who was surveyed? How were they selected for the survey? This all matters… a great deal.
So far, we’ve been unable to find any reputable source for data around this question. It is certainly not a fact that Amazon gets more product searches than Google. Perhaps it’s true. Nobody really knows, though.
All of the reporting on this “fact” are little more than click bait. We want to know the answer. So people who think they can profit off of it are engaged in trying to sell us an answer. But there simply appears to be no good data that can answer the question.
And perhaps it’s not a valid question in the first place. We can’t really even define what it means to “perform a product search”. There’s a vast range of human behavior, and a whole range of behavior that could be clearly in one definition or another… and a whole lot that is in a grey area. There is no obvious clear boundary between what is a product search and what isn’t. We see that all the time in the data on ad accounts we manage. A lot of searches you might not think are product searches nevertheless convert. Most searches that are clearly product searches actually don’t convert. Ultimately, what does it matter?
Google is here to stay. They’re utterly dominant when people are searching for product information, from initial research to viewing YouTube videos to finding ecommerce merchants and purchasing products. And as they continue to integrate all sorts of features into their various platforms, they’re really building a vast distributed ecommerce system that serves products as search results to people all across the globe.
Amazon’s strategy is different. But they’re here to stay, and truly dominant as well.
Anyone trying to convince you that either is a bit more dominant is just trying to sell you something. Don’t give it a second thought. Neither platform is going anywhere.