When Apple is looking for search engineers, updating information about its web crawler (Applebot) and even offering users an alternative to Google’s search results, it might mean that a new Apple search engine is on its way.
Google’s dominance in the mobile search market is undisputed: as of July 2020, Google’s global market share is 95%. One of the reasons is that Google is the default search engine in all iPhone devices. Google apparently has been paying Apple billions of dollars over the years for this advantage. But, according to some well-founded evidence, it seems like Apple is maybe building a search engine that will compete with Google.
Is Apple working on a Search Engine?
First, Apple has recently published many job listings for search engineers, for Siri, maps, search ads and more.
Second, the Spotlight search on Apple devices has been updated in iOS14. Now, instead of sending users to Google’s search results in the browser, Spotlight search can already bypass Google and display direct links to the relevant web pages.
Moreover, Apple has also updated the support page of Applebot (Apple’s web crawler), and added information about search results rankings, meta-robots tags such as noindex and nofollow, rendering issues, and other technical SEO aspects.
In addition, Google is currently facing several antitrust lawsuits in both Europe and the US. The European Union has already forced Google to allow Android users to choose a search engine when setting up a new device, but nobody except DuckDuckGo is optimistic about changing the users’ search preferences. Still, these may be the last days of Google being a default search engine on iPhone.
So, how will Apple search engine look like?
Based on Apple’s information, its ranking algorithm has learned a thing or two from Google, and it uses the following factors:
Aggregated user engagement with search results
Relevancy and matching of search terms to webpage topics and content
Number and quality of links from other pages on the web
User location based signals (approximate data)
Webpage design characteristics
Despite the similarity in the ranking factors, it is safe to assume that Apple’s search engine will look and behave differently than Google.
- At the beginning at least, there won’t be any search ads
- Apple prefers apps while Google favors web applications
- More personalized search results
- More privacy, at least until they will start to sell ads.
Apple’s Search Engine and SEO
Theoretically, Apple’s search engine could succeed where others (Bing, DuckDuckGo) have failed and become a major competitor of Google. In the US, Apple’s smartphones market share is currently 46% (and 26% in Europe), and Safari already has more users than Chrome. Apple’s users tend to be a captive audience, and a personalized search engine could increase this tendency. If this plan will come true, SEO (which currently focuses almost exclusively on Google) will be required to adapt itself to match Apple’s ranking algorithm.