Does Google Have a Monopoly? Does AI Search Make a Difference?

July 9, 2024

I read “2024 Zero-Click Search Study: For Every 1,000 EU Google Searches, Only 374 Clicks Go to the Open Web. In the US, It’s 360.” The write up begins with caveats — many caveats. But I think I am not into the search engine optimization and online advertising mindset. As a dinobaby, I find the pursuit of clicks in a game controlled by one outfit of little interest.


Is it possible that what looks like a nice family vacation place is a digital roach motel? Of course not! Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

Let’s answer the two questions the information in the report from the admirably named SparkToro presents. In my take on the article, the charts, the buzzy jargon, the answer to the question, “Does Google Have a Monopoly?” the answer is, “Wow, do they.”

The second question I posed is, “Does AI Search Make a Difference in Google Traffic?’ the answer is, “A snowball’s chance in hell is better.”

The report and analysis takes me to close enough for horse shoes factoids. But that’s okay because the lack of detailed, reliable data is part of the way online operates. No one really knows if the clicks from a mobile device are generated by a nepo baby with money to burn or a bank of 1,000 mobile devices mindlessly clicking on Web destinations. Factoids about online activity are, at best, fuzzy. I think SEO experts should wear T shirts and hats with this slogan, “Heisenberg rocks. I am uncertain.

I urge you to read and study the SparkToro analysis. (I love that name. An electric bull!)

The article points out that Google gets a lot of clicks. Here’s a passage which knits together several facts from the study:

Google gets 1/3 of the clicks. Imagine a burger joint selling 33 percent of the burgers worldwide. Could they get more? Yep. How much more:

Equally concerning, especially for those worried about Google’s monopoly power to self-preference their own properties in the results, is that almost 30% of all clicks go to platforms Google owns. YouTube, Google Images, Google Maps, Google Flights, Google Hotels, the Google App Store, and dozens more means that Google gets even more monetization and sector-dominating power from their search engine. Most interesting to web publishers, entrepreneurs, creators, and (hopefully) regulators is the final number: for every 1,000 searches on Google in the United States, 360 clicks make it to a non-Google-owned, non-Google-ad-paying property. Nearly 2/3rds of all searches stay inside the Google ecosystem after making a query.

The write up also presents information which suggests that the European Union’s regulations don’t make much difference in the click flow. Sorry, EU. You need another approach, perhaps?

In the US, users of Google have a tough time escaping what might be colorfully named the  “digital roach motel.”

Search behavior in both regions is quite similar with the exception of paid ads (EU mobile searchers are almost 50% more likely to click a Google paid search ad) and clicks to Google properties (where US searchers are considerably more likely to find themselves back in Google’s ecosystem after a query).

The write up presented by SparkToro (Is it like the energizer bunny?) answers a question many investors and venture firms with stakes in smart software are asking: “Is Google losing search traffic? The answer is, “Nope. Not a chance.”

According to Datos’ panel, Google’s in no risk of losing market share, total searches, or searches per searcher. On all of these metrics they are, in fact, stronger than ever. In both the US and EU, searches per searcher are rising and, in the Spring of 2024, were at historic highs. That data doesn’t fit well with the narrative that Google’s cost themselves credibility or that Internet users are giving up on Google and seeking out alternatives. … Google continues to send less and less of its ever-growing search pie to the open web…. After a decline in 2022 and early 2023, Google’s back to referring a historically high amount of its search clicks to its own properties.

AI search has not been the game changer for which some hoped.

Net net: I find it interesting that data about what appears to be a monopoly is so darned sketchy after more than two decades of operation. For Web search start ups, it may be time to rethink some of those assertions in those PowerPoint decks.

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2024


Got something to say?

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta